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Cara's Journey: In Sickness & In Health

It's been a VERY LONG JOURNEY for Cara Melle-one I wonder will ever come to a happy conclusion. Cara's been sick for SEVEN MONTHS. When we cure one issue, another problem pops up. We've squeezed everyone's pockets to shake loose every last penny. This little kitten has cost my rescue group thousands of dollars in Vet care. This is not about the money, but it is an illustration of how far we've travelled to find a way to get Cara HEALTHY.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara knows she's at the Vet. Been there, done that, one too many times now.

There've been a few times when we thought we had Cara's problems licked. At first, it was a terrible URI that permanently effected her brother and sister. They both have scar tissue in their tear ducts which slows draining of their tears and causes them to have one or both eyes weep. They won't suffer much as a result of this, but it's a reminder to us of what they went through, too.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Those big eyes just cut right through my heart.

Cara, however, was hit the hardest. She had two esophageal strictures from being burned by Doxycycline when she was just a little kitten. It was avoidable had we known the antibiotic was so acidic. It could have been caused by her genetics, too. We'll never really know for sure. Either way, it caused her tremendous suffering, for a very long time. Her growth was stunted and she remains underweight.

We treated her strictures twice and medicated her every six hours for weeks. We gave her “novel protein” diet to make sure she didn't also have a food allergy (turns out she did not). We gave her the best food, the most love and tender care, but it was not enough.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara's resemblance to her mother, Mazie is very clear. Mazie still waits for her forever home, but was very glad to see Cara again.

Cara continued to vomit-PROJECTILE vomit. If you've never seen that before, imagine a hose being turned on inside little Cara. The spigot flies open and a torrent of fluid comes out. It's shocking. Disturbing. Horrifying. It leaves Cara limp. She rarely ever plays. She sits hunched over, uncomfortable, licking at her mouth, her tummy grumbling.

On Friday Cara returned to see Dr. K. Our last three weeks of feeding her a special diet showed us she had no food allergies, but she was still vomiting. A repeat of her blood work revealed her White Blood Count was still shockingly high at 29,500. Dr. K needed to do a third endoscopy to find out what was going on. The results surprised all of us.

While Cara's strictures were healed, her stomach lining, which was once fine and normal, was now “grossly” full of Helicobacter. To understand how common this is, here's a portion of an article by Bob Sherding in 2001

“Various surveys have found a high prevalence of Helicobacter approaching 100% in most shelter and colony cats and 30 to 100% in pet cats. The spiral organisms identified most often in these surveys are the large Helicobacter-like organisms, e.g., H. felis and H. heilmannii. Because of the high prevalence of infection in animals without clinical signs, the clinical significance of gastric Helicobacter-like organisms (GHLO) in cats is uncertain. Helicobacter organisms may be an incidental finding in clinically normal animals, but when they are associated with clinical signs (chronic intermittent vomiting) and gastric mucosal inflammation (lymphocytic gastritis), it is possible that they should be considered potential pathogens and treated.”

The treatment remains the same-even today: Amoxicillin and Biaxin™

But that's not all Cara is dealing with. She also has Leukocytosis-which is a high White Blood Cell Count. Because her Neutrophils are also high, it means she probably has a nasty bacterial infection. Last month, Cara had a high Eosinophil count, which could have meant she was having an allergic reaction to her food or medication. That indicator is back to normal, so it leads us to believe that Cara has a “Mother” of an infection.

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What causes this? Another mystery. Helicobacter is common. It making us or our cats sick, is not so common. What caused Cara to have such an overwhelming infection leaves us all scratching our heads. All we can do is treat her and hope it resolves. She may get better or she may get this on and off for years to come.

The saddest thing to consider is that this infection can be a precursor to Adenocarcinoma or Lymphoma. Adenocarcinoma is always malignant. My cat, Bob, has lymphoma. It can be treated, but there is no cure. To think that Cara, at such a fragile age, could face this one day is unbelievable and completely cruel. I hope it is not so. Today it's too soon to tell.

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Cara's endoscopy. Tough to see here, but her stomach lining is a mess.

And then there was Cara's pancreas to consider. Either it was inflamed and getting worse, or it had been and was resolving. They ran a PLI test to determine how badly her pancreas has been effected. This is in a EIGHT month old KITTEN. To have such problems is disturbing, gut-wrenching and heartbreaking.

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Cara's pancreas shows white highlights. This means it's inflamed and irritated. Is it getting worse or is it getting better?

Who will adopt a kitten with such health history? Who would I even TRUST to give this kitten a home? We have a long way to go before we can even worry about that. Right now there's much to be done, but the fear sits in the back of my head. I don't know that Cara will ever be on Petfinder looking for a forever home.

Sam was able to drive with me down to Norwalk to pick Cara up after her procedure so I could hold her on my lap the entire drive home. She was very weak and withdrawn. Although she had a nice reunion with her Mother, Mazie and sister, Polly, Cara wanted to be alone, to rest. She ate well for me the first night, then the next day, back at her foster home with Aunt Connie, she stopped eating. Her coat was rough. Her left eye was now weeping from the URI. She hid under the sofa where no one could get at her.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. After endoscopy, Cara is wiped out and sick with a URI.

We had to give her antibiotics, so after some coaching, were able to get her to come out so we could treat her. It took two long days, but Cara started to turn the corner just a bit. She began to eat some food and came out from under the sofa. Her eye stopped running, but she was still very worn out.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara looks out the window into the darkness. She didn't want to visit with us. She just wanted to be alone to rest and try to recover from the procedure.

This morning Cara projectile vomited again, so I called Dr. K. to let her know. She said the infection was so bad that she wasn't surprised there was more vomiting. She said to stay the course, keep giving her the meds and give it a week. By Saturday, maybe she'll show signs of feeling better. We can only hope.

I have no idea what is to become of Cara. Once her meds are done in two weeks, we'll re-evaluate the situation. If Cara is responding well, then what? I don't know. Will Cara get something else? We she relapse? Will she even live to be an adult?

Cara looks right into my soul with those big owly eyes. She's so much like her Mother that way. I only wish she was just as healthy and ready to be adopted. For now, all we can do is keep our commitment to her, in sickness and in health, for better or worse.

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If you'd like to read more about Helicobacter, how common it is, how it may be transmitted and its' effect on humans, you can read this article on DVM360, as well as on Wikipedia

Bad News: Endoscopy Number Three Tomorrow

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What a nightmare. I had Cara's blood work repeated on Tuesday after three weeks of diet change and a short course of antibiotics. I'd hoped to see her White Blood Count come down to normal levels. It was not. It was 29,500-high normal is 19,000. Cara also showed elevated Nuetrophils (26,500 and high normal is 12,500) and 295 bands (300 is high normal). From the Cat Spay of Sante Fe this article describes in better detail what these values mean: “Band neutrophils are the youngest form of the neutrophil, and indicate that the bone marrow is trying to produce and release cells as quickly as possible. A few bands can be present in a normal patient, but an overload of bands always means that there is an active infection. ” This all adds up to something is wrong and Cara has a festering, lingering, S.O.B. infection of some sort.

Dr Larry and Dr Diane (Cara's Specialist) agreed that this is indicative of an abscess-probably in her esophagus. The only way to be certain is to look. The only way to look is to knock Cara out and use a scope on her. The cost is going to kick us in the shins, but I'm not going to do another fundrasier. I've already bugged you guys too many times and many of you have helped out. Cara doesn't look sick or pitiful, but she's harboring quite a serious problem. She gained 8 ounces over the past month, which is remarkable, but puts her at 2-3 pounds under what she should weigh for her age. She's grown a bit, but I have to wonder how she will be stunted from months of being debilitated. She continues to projectile vomit once a week. I may have to make a deal with the devil to get her the treatment she needs, but I'm not complaining.

We need ANSERS and we need them NOW and we need to “FIX” this girl for once and for all! Cara needs a warm and loving home, not to have to spend her life being run back and forth to Vets.

P.S. and will someone please tell me why cats always have to have expensive Vet care done on Holiday weekends?

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A Day with Little Cara

After a long chat with Cara's Internist, instead of going straight to a third endoscopy, we're giving Cara yet another round of Clavamox to treat her high White Blood Cell Count for about 10 days. Cara's also on a special diet, which I pushed back on, (you know how fussy I am about diet)! But after looking at the ingredients and realizing it was only for three weeks, I decided it was all right. Well, feeding her the special diet was ok. That it cost $52 for one case, well, I was not too happy with that!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Little cutie in the tunnel.

Cara's been back home with me and her Mama, Mazie and siblings Polly and Chester after staying with her foster mom for two weeks. Everyone got along well. Mazie licked Cara's face as a way to welcome her back. Cara is still half the size of her family, but I can see that Cara has grown some, too.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara with Mama-Mazie.

Cara still has that big, sad-eyed look and she still shakes her head and licks at her mouth. After being here for a day or so, she vomited again and was a bit lethargic. The next day she was brighter and ate well. She's still not vibrant, in the way her siblings are, but she's starting to explore more of her surroundings now that she can leave her foster room and meet my cats.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. What a face!

Cara doesn't go too far. She'll stay upstairs and nap or sniff around my bedroom. I think the stairs are tough for her because she's still so small. She can't race down the steps the way Polly is accustomed to doing and I think seeing my HUGE cats makes her a bit shy.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

I've noticed she's starting to purr more frequently. I think the clavamox might be helping her. In some respects, she is stable, but she is clearly still struggling with something. The constant head shaking and mouth licking must mean she's feeling queasy or her tummy is acting up.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

When it's all said and done, I know in two more weeks, when Cara has completed eating the special diet, we'll have to re-visit getting her spayed and doing endoscopy and biopsy at the same time OR they may say we can't spay her for the time being and just focus on doing further examinations of her digestive tract.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara and Mama.

In a few days it will mark SIX MONTHS since this family first arrived. Six months and they are ALL still here. I try not to beat myself up about how many cats I could have helped if I could have gotten this family out of her faster. I'm devoted to the cats that are in my care. They are all getting to a point where they can be adopted. It would be great to see them get out of here. The price I've had to pay is that my own cats are angry and frustrated having newcomers running around and every day we find a new, horrifying place where one of them has decided to pee.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

We may have more SSSCATS than anyone else in the world. There are Feliway diffusers everywhere. Some of my cats are making friends with the fosters, but even those cats we've caught marking. I know the best solution is to get the fosters OUT and give my own cats a break-especially with Bob having cancer. I think more quiet time would be good for him, too.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

While I wonder when we'll finally get Cara's health issues sorted out and find her a home, something lovely happened. One of the fosters MAY be getting adopted in a few days. I don't want to jinx it, but it's looking very good. I wish I had more adopters like this family. If they go through with the adoption, I'll let you know just how wonderful they are in more detail.

For now, I'll just enjoy the company of the fosters and their crazy antics with a roll of paper towels and odor neutralizer in hand.

We're still trying to raise enough funds to cover Cara's endoscopy in a few weeks. She looks bright and well, but she, like most cats, is very good at masking illness. She weighs just over 4 1/2 pounds. The normal weight for a cat her age is 6 to 8 pounds.

We'll Never Really Know for Sure-Part One

As I drove to the Vet to pick up some ungodly expensive cat food for Cara, all of a sudden, I got this really bad “feeling.” It was a dark sense of dread, like I knew something very bad was going to happen. I tried to focus on the feeling. Would it further guide me? I felt like I needed to drive home on the backroads instead of taking the highway. I felt like it was a very big, but I didn't get a sense of exactly what it was.

Am I flakey? I don't think so. Sometimes I just get a gut feeling about something and I try to just go with it. Usually it does make sense some time later, OR I find a way to make it make sense. I get that, but I believe there's more going on in our minds, that we have more capability than scientists can prove with a test or wires tapped to someone's head.

Haven't you ever just got a feeling about someone or something that turned out to be correct?

I got home safely. Driving the backroad reminded me that a new Ice Cream shop, called Ice Cream Heaven, just opened. That certainly wasn't bad news!

At 1pm, we packed Bob into his carrier to take him for his 11th (!) chemotherapy treatment. The drive to Wappingers Falls, NY takes about an hour. It was bloody awful hot and humid. I was determined to sit in the back seat and keep Bob company, but it was very uncomfortable in the car. I reflected on that sense of dread I had, but I was too hot to think deeply.

Sam was driving. He kept spacing out. I had to remind him not to exit, then later, TO exit the highway. He was hot and tired and had driven one too many trips to New York City to see his Mother the past eight weeks since her suicide attempt and his “auto-pilot” kept making him want to head south, instead of west.

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©2011 Guy Peifer, For the Poughkeepsie Journal

As we were finally getting off the highway, I noticed a helicopter flying very low. No sooner than we got off the ramp, I saw the road was blocked in both directions. The helicopter was a rescue chopper that was heading to the scene of a very serious car crash. There were all sorts of emergency vehicles blocking the road. Maybe that was what gave me the sense of doom I had earlier?

We were late getting Bob to his chemo. All I could think about was the poor people whose lives were changed forever.

As always, we have to wait about two hours for Bob to get his chemo so we left for our favorite hangout, Panera Bread, to get some lunch. I knew that the weather was going to pick up due to the incredible heat wave we were suffering under. I looked at the weather radar and sure enough there was a line of very strong storms headed towards us and one small rogue cell about to dump some rain.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson

It poured. You could barely see it rained so hard. It was time to go get Bob. We debated going outside, but we figured it would let up soon. Two seconds after we got into the car, it started to hail, hard. Sam's car was getting pelted. It was so hot outside the hail melted quickly. I did my part and used my brand new NOAA Official Weather Spotter card to call the National Weather Service to report the hail. A very nice lady told me to call back if the hail was larger than a pea. As she said that, we saw hail that was about quarter sized hit the ground. As I told her it was getting larger, she laughed and agreed with me, saying she could hear it hitting the car. I ran out and got a quick photo, which left me drenched, but my heart was pounding with excitement.

The Vet called. The storm took out some of their equipment and they were re-booting the systems. They needed us to kill another hour. We decided to play tornado chaser. The sky looked very foreboding. The weather radar showed a distinct hook in the shape of the storm.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson

Was THIS my bad feeling coming to life?

We drove around watching the sky churn. I noticed that the radar indicated the storm was moving to Connecticut and was going to hit our house square on. I wanted to get Bob and go home. I was really feeling anxious and rightly so. A funnel cloud was spotted very close to where we were driving and my nephew, Ryan called me to say that the power just went out and the weather picked up. Ryan lives 2 miles from my house. I suddenly wished he had a key so he could go check on the cats.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Some times Bob looks out the car window and HISSES at the traffic going past!

We weren't able to pick up Bob until nearly 6pm. The GOOD NEWS was that he had GAINED 5 ounces in four weeks. On a person, that would have been about a 5 POUND weight gain. This was the first weight Bob's gained since he was diagnosed with small t-cell lymphoma in January! We were delighted.

The storm passed as we left New York and headed home. I still felt that sense of dread. We couldn't get home fast enough, but traffic was slow. Why they call it “Rush Hour” is beyond me. No one ever rushes anywhere. It should be called “Slow, Frustrating & Annoying HOURS.”

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob—back seat driving yet again.

As we got into town, every so often I'd see a big tree limb snapped off, lying in someone's yard. There was a lot of debris on the road, but nothing too serious. I looked at the homes in our neighborhood. Their lights were on, so that was a good sign. As we pulled into the driveway, we quickly realized a big tree had fallen, just missing the house. If Sam had left his car outside the garage, which is does most days, it would have been smashed. My side of the garage was blocked so I could not get my car out.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Missed us by “this” much!

We got Bob inside and started to check around the house. I went out on the deck and surveyed the property. No more fallen trees, but the flowers in my planters were stomped on. We focused on getting the cats fed, then we had to see what we could do about the tree.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson

I began chopping off as many branches as I could, but we don't have a working chain saw. I guess buying one 20 years ago and having it still be in the box, never used, is not going to help us. I chopped and Sam cleared. It rained on us, but I hoped we wouldn't get hit by lightning. I just wanted to get done. It was almost 9pm. We were both soaked, sweaty and wiped out.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Freshly denuded tree. Now if we could just cut those long branches down.

The temperature had dropped over twenty degrees, but even in the 70's it was still too humid. We dragged ourselves inside to shower and take a break. I sent out emails to friends who had working chainsaws, to see if anyone could help. By then I was ready to fall over.

We have a joke about many TV shows that are documentary-ish in nature. Often, at the end of the show, the narrator says; "We'll never really know for sure...” regarding how the story ends.

And I say, we'll never really know for sure if I had ESP yesterday or if what happened was just coincidence. All I do know is we found something out about Bob last night, in addition to the happy news he gained weight, there was something more troubling on the horizon. The results of his blood test were very sobering, indeed.

I think I'm getting that bad feeling again and I know, for sure, how this is going to end.

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Today's Cat Behavior Quiz: What Would You Do?

Every day I see MANY pleas concerning cats and dogs in need of rescue. Like most folks who do this, I have to draw the line at where I can be of help. I may not have a shelter or huge home foster network, but I jump at the chance to help with cat behavior problems. Helping others, helps me learn more and knowing that cats can keep their homes, if I gave them the correct advice, is thrilling and deeply rewarding.

Over the past two weeks, I've been in touch with a local rescuer regarding this situation:

If anyone has had this experience, any input in correcting it would be v appreciated.

A friend of a friend has 2 cats. 2 males, neutered, littermates, had since kittenhood, 4 years old now, utd, indoor only, no declaw., etc. They have always been fine with each other - no behavioral problems and now, out of no where, they are hissing and spitting at each other relentlessly.

I asked all the usual ?'s - illness, any family new members, any change in household, change in litter box habits, any cats outside hanging around, etc., and all the answers were no.

I told my friend to get them to a vet and she felt the woman would, but she the owner was looking for a resolution that would not require lots of money or time on her part and seemed very impatient and mentioned that she would not tolerate this and would consider euth. Aren't people just wonderful !!!

Any ideas .... pls send them my way.

How would YOU answer this question? Tomorrow I'll post my suggestions, along with an update on what happened. Did the cats get euthanized? Did my suggestions work? Did the cats need to be put on medications?

I want you to hone your understanding of cat behavior. Please let me know what you'd do by leaving a comment, below. If you're not already signed up to be a Member of CiCH, then know I have to approve your post before it goes live. It may take a few hours before I see it, but don't let that stop you from writing up what you'd do. If you're right, you get bragging rights and the knowledge that you have the chops to help other cats! If I'm really impressed, I may dig out something I have laying around to send you as a prize, but in truth, the prize is knowing you can help others.

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Foster Cat Journal: The Never Ending Battle

Mazie went from having a strangely, rather shockingly elevated white blood count (53,000-when high normal is 19,000) and a high fever (105+°F) last week, to a NASTY upper respiratory infection. Her WBC went down to almost normal after hospitalizing her and giving her IV antibiotics. Her temperature went back down as of a few days ago, but she came home with the sniffle and each day Mazie seems more seriously afflicted.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Mazie, mid-sneeze.

Mazie IS eating, though much quieter than usual. She's found a place on the corner of the bed where the angle of the wall creates a comfy, almost hiding place. I put some towels and a pillow there for her. She's been taking it easy for a day.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Runny eyes and a spot of ringworm that's healing. Sweet...NOT!

I called the Vet and was given a message to get the kittens OUT of the room. That incubation is 7-10 days and that they should be in another room for that period of time. The problem is: I HAVE NO ROOM to put them into and we still don't have any foster homes.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Mazie has to constantly lick her face because her nose runs.

I begged a favor from a good friend. She's going to take Cara and Chester and maybe Polly, tonight. I hate to separate the cats, but it must be done. I think Polly could stay behind because she sneezes all the time and has watery eyes, but is really not in bad shape at all. I wonder if what Mazie has is something else, entirely and if so, then Polly should go, too. Mazie will have a quiet week, but I'll make sure to spend time with her. My biggest fear is transmitting what Mazie has to my other cats, especially BOB DOLE.

Bob could die from a cold. I've been furiously washing hands, not touching Mazie, changing clothes. I don't know if it will be enough. I just heard Nora, one of our other cats, sneezing. I am very worried.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. My how Cara has grown, yet she is still tiny compared to her siblings.

Little Miss Cara is STILL tiny. One of the cats vomited, but I don't know if it was her. Having her live away for a week will help me find out if she's still getting sick. I see her do her "I feel queasy" mouthing where she licks at her mouth and twists her head a bit. Her appetite is good and she's bright and fairly playful. I think she's very close to being considered ready to be adopted-after she gets spayed, of course.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Polly. Our little girl has grown up.

Polly needs to see the Eye Specialist. I'll have to do a fundraiser for that. Her left eye is still cloudy. She may have some blindness from being sick, so young. She's grown into a beautiful young lady. Even with all that she's suffered, she's very sweet and LOVES to escape from the foster room, run down the stairs with her tail held high and visit the other cats. If she wasn't rapid-fire sneezing so often, I wouldn't mind her being out, but she can't go near my cats until she is all better-IF she ever gets better!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. That's “Mr. Handsom” to you!

Then there's the most Handsome Young Cat in the world-Chester Cheesetoes. He still has a runny eye, but it's very subtle. All the cats are getting a big dose of Lysine to help boost their immune system. Other than his eye, Chester is awesome. He loves to get onto a high perch and watch things going on, below OR run after the laser pointer like a crazy-cat. He is so soft and sweet and stunning. He's grown into a very big boy.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Polly and Chester boldy go where I don't like them to go!

The cats have been here too long. Kitten Season is in full swing and I haven't saved one Mama or kitten. It's driving me crazy. I must get these cats well and adopted. I'm also so attached to each one of them, that it will be very hard to say goodbye-much harder than usual. The only comfort I can take in all of this is to remind myself that I've felt this way before and over time the pain softens. Over more time, I get to a place where I need a minute to remember their name. That's when I know it's okay to let them go. I have to make room for more. So many need help. Whether or not I cry about the ones I have makes no difference. I need to do this. I need to rescue more cats.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Who loves Cara? Who doesn't?

But more than anything else...I NEED THESE CATS TO GET BETTER!

The Vet bill for Mazie came in a just over $700.00. It's a heartbreaking amount of money for us to come up with and thankfully, many of you have used our ChipIn to help out. We still need about $200.00 to get to our total, so if you can offer a dollar or two, we appreciate it VERY much! Thank you for helping Mazie!

(You can use the ChipIn for Maze on the right sidebar if you wish to donate. Your donation IS tax deductible.)

The Sort of Sweetest Slumber

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob Dole (left) and NICKY (right) “share” the electric blanket.

Bob is hanging in there. After four months of chemo, somehow he's still with us. Each day with him is a blessing, even if I only seem to interact with him when it's time for a snack or a pill. He sleeps a lot, so I try not to bother him too much. I know he's resting and comfortable. I check on him all the time. He still purrs and whines, depending on his mood and appetite.

I set up an electric blanket over an old chair, which became a big hit with the cats. I'm not sure if Nicky, our huge 24 lb cat, is willing to share or just puts up with Bob if he wants to warm himself on the blanket, too. Looking at this photo, you'd think Bob was very tiny. He's average size. Nicky, however, is enormous-freakishly so. More to snuggle with-that's for sure. In a way, it's like he's looking out for Bob and helping him feel better.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. NICKY planning his next move.

I'll leave out the part of the story where I tell you that Nicky ran over my FACE this morning; his own brand of shocking wakeup call. I don't want to ruin your opinion of him as being a NICE cat, looking out for Bob, instead of being a pain in the rear end, thoughtlessly crushing Sam's man bits before he makes a beeline for my head.

It's okay. We can pretend Nicky's a good boy for awhile longer, but tonight I'm wearing a football helmet to bed and I heard a rumor that Sam's going to wear a cup.

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Cara's in Trouble.

This morning I brought Cara in to see Dr. Larry. Thankfully, they were able to fit her into the schedule for today without an appointment, but it meant I had to leave her there and they'd do x-rays and an exam at some point during the day. I got home and sat in the foster room with Mazie, Chester and Polly. They've been in that room for FOUR MONTHS. Only Mazie can be adopted and no one has been interested in her. Polly STILL has a URI and Chester is dealing with that spot of ringworm on his head. I know that being in a small room, even if it does have one huge window that overlooks the yard and another smaller window that gives them a view of the sky and tree tops, is not enough. Since they can't really catch anything from my cats and vice versa, I let them out into my bedroom once in awhile. There's more room to run around, but they really need a huge space to stretch their legs. I suppose if being bored or not having a lot of space was their biggest problem, I'd be lucky.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. What's next for this poor cat? I'm afraid to find out.

Dr Larry called me early this afternoon. Cara's x-rays did not show any obvious foreign object, but he wanted to do a blood panel to make sure she didn't also have an infection. I wanted to push back and say, no, not to spend the money since Cara seems fine, but I agreed. He told me to meet him at 4pm and by then he'd have the results and I could take Cara home.

Things were busy at Maple Ridge today, so I grabbed a People magazine and looked at it while I waited for Dr. Larry in exam room number 2. I noticed photos of celebrities in their bathing suit, walking on the beach at some exclusive resort. I didn't even know who half the people were. Then, it dawned on me. Why does it matter that I need to see these photos at all? If there were photos of my neighbors walking on the beach, I would be just as uninterested. They're on vacation? So what! What are they doing that's unusual, interesting, important? Maybe People should be renamed; “Photos of people on the beach with really nice bodies, wearing huge sunglasses, but otherwise not really doing anything.” I swear they use the same photo each week, they just photoshop the latest celebrity A-lister face over the body they used the week before.

I was just about to read about why Catherine Zeta-Jones is disclosing she has Bipolar Disorder II and why there is a “II” and what that means? Is it a sequel to Bipolar Disorder I? Maybe it's fancy movie star version of Bipolar disorder? Dr. Larry entered the exam room before I could sort it all out. He sighed. Then he said something about me having too much on my plate. I had a feeling he was about to add more to it and I was right.

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Cara's x-ray. The arrow points to some of the particulate I noticed in her stomach. Her filled up intestines can be seen at the bottom and top of her body, on the left side.

Cara's blood work showed her White Blood Cell Count was VERY HIGH. High-normal is about 20,000. Cara's is 35,000. She's got a raging infection. Her stomach is swollen full of gas. Her intestines are full of stool-almost packed solid. I looked at the x-rays and asked about something I saw in her stomach-some small particulate. Dr. Larry waved it off saying it was the cat food I feed...you know the RAW food with the BONES in it. I balked. Cara does not get raw. She gets canned. So of course it has to be the canned food. It's CANNED FOOD! There aren't BONES in it. Then it hit me. It was the cat litter. It confirmed what I had been suspicious of all along—that Cara has been eating the corn based cat litter. Perhaps the high WBC count is due to her eating out of the litter pan?

It's tough to say what's going on exactly. Dr Larry wanted to have an ultrasound done. The Vet who performs them had a cancellation. It's for tomorrow at 8:30AM. Larry felt we might be able to see if there's still a piece of yarn toy acting as a filter between her stomach and her intestines or if there's any damage to her stomach from eating the toy or ingesting the litter. It would give us some info, but potentially not enough.

Cara may need exploratory surgery or another endoscopy. Dr. Kittral, who's been performing all Cara's endoscopies needs to be included in our decisions. Sadly, she doesn't start her work week until TOMORROW. Dr. Larry wanted to put Cara on antibiotics, which, of course, raised a huge alarm bell in me. We can't give her oral meds or we risk causing her strictures to return. We compromised and Larry gave her an injection that will only last until tomorrow. By then, hopefully we will have more answers and be able to figure out a game plan for Cara.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh Cara! You poor baby!

I tried to be brave, but I felt a bit weak in the knees. Cara could be in a very dangerous situation. With her esophagus compromised already and her stomach lining possibly being damaged, we can't try to clear the stool out of her without risking her rupturing somewhere. Anything invasive that needs to be done, has to be carefully considered. Any medications given must be carefully scrutinized. She's been on too many antibiotics. She's been through so much already. I just don't know how we're going to get her over this next hurdle.

This Vet bill, even with a discount, is going to be bad. It could be the beginning of VERY BAD, I don't know how bad just yet. I'm going to open up yet another fundraiser for Cara. Her last two Vet bills came to $1500.00 and with the loan I got, we were able to pay everything off in full, but now we're back to loose change in our pockets to pay for the next Vet bills. I'm guessing that between today and tomorrow it will be $600.00 and counting. I can't give up on Cara even if the timing is the worst, ever. I thought we were over the hump, but now we've been pushed back down the hill like a feline version of Sisyphus.

I also have a lot of guilt about this situation. The past two weeks I just haven't been home much with frequent trips to NYC to care for Sam's mother. I couldn't feed the cats as regularly as usual and I fear that Cara resorted to eating the litter out of desperation and perhaps now has developed a taste for it. I really LIKE the litter and the other cats are fine with it, but I have to stop using it around Cara.

As for Cara; we've just GOT to get her well; for once and for all.

I realize we've had to ask for help more often than I ever imagined to get Cara well. I'm blessed with having devoted and compassionate friends of this Blog. My hope is that not one person has to donate more than $5. If we can all ChipIn, we'll hit our goal in a heartbeat. If you can share this request with your friends, I would appreciate it very much. Your donation IS tax deductible, as the funds go to a Kitten Associates, Inc. foster kitten (Cara).

Foster Cat Journal: Cara Struggles with New Problems

I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. I just saw Cara PROJECTILE vomit. I've never seen so much fluid come out of such a small animal, so quickly, in my LIFE. The vomit was mostly water. She'd eaten a good 5 hours before she vomited, so this indicates she was able to digest her food, but why so much water? Clearly something was wrong with her when I sat down to have some play time with the foster kitties around midnight.

Cara licked her mouth—a lot. This is a strong indicator of nausea. I knew she hadn't eaten recently, so I couldn't figure out what was going on. I got her a bowl of fresh water, not really knowing what else to do. I have had some fears she's been eating her corn based cat litter and perhaps that was the culprit? I spread some chunky Yesterday's News over the corn litter to put a “protective coating” over the corn until I could change out the entire pan.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor Cara. She's been through so much already.

Meanwhile, Cara was troubled and uncomfortable. I lifted her up to listen to her belly. Was it rumbling? Was her breathing ok? Her heart was racing. I put her down, then moved her inside her cat carrier because if she was going to get sick, she could do it there instead of on the bed (which is why I've had to do a lot of laundry lately.). The past two weeks I've been finding these enormous watery vomits in the foster room. Due to the volume of fluid, I thought it was Mazie or possibly Polly or Chester. They're still twice Cara's size. Certainly it was not her.

Between everything else going on in my life, I just wasn't able to give Cara the close attention I normally can provide. I've had to spend much less time with the fosters.

The biggest reason it's been difficult to be more attentive to the foster cats is Sam's mother. She's having surgery today. I was told to stay home and keep things going here. It's partially due to the reality of having relationship problems with Sam, and possibly moreso that the folks at the hospital don't even know what time or what HOSPITAL she's having the surgery done. After being in the Psych Ward for TWO WEEKS, with little information provided, we only know she's had her meds adjusted for the pain in her hip and now her Orthopedist says, at 82, she's still a good candidate for a hip replacement. So...after her attempting to take her life over the pain she was in and the fear of having to have surgery to repair her hip, now she is fine with the notion of having her hip replaced, which I believe is far simpler and less painful than the corrective surgery she had five years ago. It's rather ironic she's at this place after where she started off, but she's alive and hopefully her surgery will go well and she'll be on to a new, happier chapter of her senior years.

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I'm writing this at 12:30 AM, so as soon as Dr Larry's office opens at 8 AM, I'm going to call to see if they can fit Cara in for an x-ray and an exam. Last week in one of the vomits, I found a length of a knitted curlycue cat toy that was attached to a plastic wand. I caught Polly gnawing on it and figured she had also been the culprit who threw up a piece of it. I made it tough for the cats to get at the toy. I was stupid. I should have thrown it out. I saw Polly chew it again a few days later, so that's when I finally did throw it away.

The problem is-it may not have been Polly eating the toy. In Cara's vomit, there was a 2 INCH long piece of that darn toy! Cara HAD eaten it. Was there MORE in her stomach? If I had saved the remaining cat toy, I would have been able to make a guesstimate, but with that gone, my only choice is to get her x-rayed to see if there's more inside her.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. 2 inches long. I measured it!

Cara's energy has been off and on, but mostly normal. She eats well. Her eyes are bright, yet...after days of wondering who was vomiting, I had to do something to figure out which cat was sick. I crated Cara for two days until she vomited in her crate, proving to me it was her all along. I made an appointment for her to see Dr. Kittral, her Internist, right away. The soonest we can get in is on Wednesday. I know I can't wait that long, so we'll start with x-rays in a few more hours and I've left a message for Dr K for when she starts her week on Tuesday, so she knows what's going on.

I'm terribly worried that after ALL the effort, the two endoscopies, the medications every 6 hours...has it all been UNDONE because Cara ate a cat toy? Are we back to square one? I'm terrified of what this is going to cost, but I'm going to take it one day at a time. We'll do the x-ray and hope for the best. Maybe Cara just popped out the only foreign object inside her? Maybe pigs will fly out of my butt, too?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Polly (left), Cara (center) and Mama-Mazie (right) settle down on the electric blanket for a nap.

I have to admit, this cat is driving me nuts. She's so sweet and so dear, but I just can't keep up with all her problems! I keep thinking we're over the hump and she's on the road to being 100% healthy, but she just isn't getting there any time soon! Maybe her Internist will adopt her and make my life a lot easier and her's a lot better? Yeah, right...like that's gonna happen.

I'll update this post as soon as I can get Cara to Dr. Larry...

Turning 50 & Life Turning Upside Down

WARNING: THIS POST DISCUSSES A POTENTIALLY UPSETTING TOPIC. PLEASE READ WITH CAUTION. YOU'RE “SAFE” UNTIL THE SECTION AFTER THE UPDATES ON THE FOSTER CATS, NEAR THE END OF THE POST.

I'm very sorry to not have been tending to my Blog over the last week and a half. Every day that passes that I don't write, bothers me a bit more.

Initially, my plans were to talk about the lovely birthday party-a SURPRISE party, that Sam held for me, now over a week ago. He really pulled the wool over my eyes. I had no idea until the very last second-when I hoped, against hope, that maybe even though he had a bad cold, even though he said there could be no birthday this year, even though most of my friends said they were busy that weekend, it would happen.

It was Connie's doing, too. She called me around noon on my birthday, to say her cat, Big O was very sick and could I come over and help her give him a bath? Oh yes and “Happy Birthday.” Big O was covered with poo! She sounded so sad, I realized it didn't matter if it was my birthday, so I got changed, grabbed some things to help with the bath and told Sam I was off. He knew I was hungry so he said he'd come with me and we could go eat afterwards.

Connie lives a mile away. As I started to pull up her driveway, I realized that Sam had asked me to “kill” a half hour before we went to lunch, then Connie called me, it was too much of a coincidence. Maybe something was going on at her house? Surely not. No. I was going to break up with Sam. I was really mad at him. He'd hardly talked to me for weeks. He didn't even notice when I got my hair done (like a porn star-that's what my stylist called it)-and it wasn't just because he didn't give me a birthday party. The near-silent treatment was killing me!

Then I noticed two cars in the driveway, but certainly it couldn't be cars I knew. It must be a...then I saw it...a “Happy 50th Birthday” banner over Connie's front door. There stood Marcia, Super-Deb and Connie, all waving and shouting Happy Birthday and here I am in a t-shirt with a glow-in-the-dark Cheshire Cat on it and crappy pants. Thank God I had a change of clothes with me! I looked over at Sam and was torn between slapping him and kissing him. I never had anyone throw me a surprise party in my life. It was really nice.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

No sooner than we walked in the door, I realized there was no sick cat, so I got changed, then we all left for lunch. As I pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, I saw my dear nephew, Ryan and my sister, Anne! Another suprise, yay! This was going to be a nice day after all.

But then I walked into the dining room at the restaurant. There sat Mary. My other sister. I didn't see anyone else for a moment. My mouth fell open. Mary had LIED to me, first saying she was coming to take me to lunch and there was no way I'd be alone on my birthday, then she begged off saying her cat was sick not 6 hours later. She had been in Baltimore for a book show (Mary is a Writer and Graphic Designer)! Then I realized she must have driven up from there. What a shock!..and there sat her partner, Shelly...and my friends Irene and Jennifer I.! I love those babes! I was literally speechless and it took all my reserve not to burst into happy tears.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Nephew Ryan shoots the flames while his mom, Anne watches.

We ate at a Hibachi style restaurant and had TWO chefs taking turns either trying to set fire to the place or tossing food bits at our faces (since most of us couldn't hope to catch the food in our mouth). Everyone was happy and getting along well. I never wanted it to end. I had a nice lunch and lots of lovely gifts. I missed my Mother and Father so much, but they were there, too, in spirit (and later that day, I discovered my Mother had sent me a message, too. More on that, in another post).

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The cake on the left is what I ordered for myself, thinking there would be no celebration of any sort. I cut out the frown and turned it upside down later that day.

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I have a lot to tell you about the cats-especially Bob. The short version is, to me, he seems to have turned a corner and is doing better. He seems to have gained weight. Tomorrow he gets Chemo #9. I'll find out if he gained any weight then. A surprise blessing is that some of his fur is growing back ever so slowly. It's just peach fuzz on his head, but I can see the subtle stripe of his tabby pattern in the fur.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob and the gang on the electric blanket

I took him to a Dermatologist and she confirmed he as a terrible case of ringworm and that only he can really fend it off and with cancer and a bad immune system, the odds aren't great. We give him baths and add a special lotion afterwards. He's lost half of his coat, but I think, just maybe it's slowed down. He seems comfortable and he seems a lot more like his old self.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

The kittens are still struggling with URI's and this and that. Cara has grown some, but one of the kittens has been vomiting. I don't know if it's Cara. We're closer to the day we can call her healed, but we're not there yet. The kittens are as big as their Mom, now. I think Chester will be even bigger. He is the most darling cat in the world. He really is sweet.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara and Chester, bigger and better every day.

MacGruber is still here, too. Got a tiny dot of ringworm on his paw, so he seems to stay here another month and another month...he's a bit like gum stuck on the shoe...but very cute gum.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Okay. I'm suppose to adopt this cat out! Really?

I'm bringing Noelle to Connecticut next week, along with Amelia, another Henry Co. Cat we rescued last year. It's time for them to get their forever homes. I need to write more about that soon.

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The main reason I need to write is I need to tell you what happened and why I haven't been able to write more than this post-we had a family tragedy and I'm struggling to cope with it.

A few days ago, Sam and I were to visit his Mother in Manhattan. We were going to have a belated birthday party for me and Sam's adult daughter, Kate, whose birthday is two days before mine. The day before we left, Sam told me his mother was having trouble walking. The pain from her hip, which she broke six years ago and has long since healed, was back. We worried that if she couldn't stand for a long period of time, that we needed to come up with ways for her to fix meals that didn't require much effort. The plan was to finally buy her a microwave whether she liked it or not. Get her some wholesome meals she could just pop into the microwave and eat without standing over a stove or getting up and down to check on a pot on a burner. We put a lot of time into planning how we'd manage to get all this stuff into her apartment, since we'd have to double park to get the car unloaded. Parking is a bear on the upper West side on a weekend.

We thought we had it all worked out. We got a bit of a late start, but we got everything done. Sam called his Mom to tell her we wold be there soon. She didn't sound right. She said she might need to go to the ER. Sam pressed her as to why. All she said was, “You'll find out when you get here.”

This was not something his Mother would say. She has always been the most polite and kind person I have ever known. She was raised in the south and that sweetness never faded away even though she's lived in Manhattan most of her life. What was going on?

Sam drove as fast as he could to NYC. We had an hour to go. I texted his daughter. She called her Grandmother and found out that she was asked to get there soon. Clearly something was terribly wrong. Had Sam's 82 year old mother re-broken her hip? Why didn't she call 9-1-1? Why was she waiting?

When we got to the apartment building, I got a txt. Kate was there. I said we would be right up. I stayed with the car, as Sam ran up to her apartment. A neighbor came out and signaled to me to follow him up the block to take his parking spot. As I was about to try to park the car, I saw Sam in my rearview mirror. I got out of the car. Something was wrong-really wrong.

“It's bad up there. It's a mess...you need to be calm about this, but get up there now. I'll park the car.”

“What happened?”

“She slit her wrists. Prepare yourself. She's alive, but it's a mess. Just get up there.

No one had called 9-1-1. I think everyone was in shock. As much as I wanted to help, I had a bad flashback and my heart started racing. Years ago, my Father took his own life. I didn't want to go through this again, but I went upstairs and walked into the apartment filled with dread and absolute fear.

Poor Kate was kneeling on the floor, next to the sofa. She wasn't saying a word. I could see Sam's Mother's white hair on the arm of the sofa. She must be laying down. I walked over to her and tried to be calm. It was very gorey, but she was conscious. I asked her what she did and she told me that the pain was so bad in her hip that she just couldn't take it any more. That she felt so bad she couldn't do anything any more and didn't want to get in the way. I asked to see her wrists. I saw that the blood was congealing. This was good, but she injured both wrists and up her arms. I talked to her for a few minutes. Everyone was calm, almost matter-of-fact. As if nothing terrible had happened at all. It was surreal.

I told her that we all loved her and it would be so terrible if she left us without letting us even say goodbye...that we didn't know she was hurting so much and that we wished she could have told us so we could help her.

Then I did something weird. I'd bought her a hyacinth. It was in bloom and so fragrant. I held it up to her nose and asked her to smell it. She smiled as she smelled the sweet flowers, even though her skin was as pale as a sheet and her robe was crimson. I reminded her that it was finally spring. That even on our worst day, another day will follow and maybe that day we will smell the sweetness of a flower or see the sunny sky and it will remind us to try to get to the next moment, and the next after that. To not give up.

I calmly told her she needed some help and that I was going to get that for her. She said it was ok, if I really thought she needed help I could do that (as if anyone could to STOP me from calling for help!!!) I left the room and called 9-1-1. In less than 5 minutes, 5 NYPD officers were at the door. A few minutes later, the EMS arrived. I had to stay away from them so I could completely fall apart and cry. I felt so bad for Sam and Kate and his Mom. I worried about Kate, who found her Grandmother just moments before we arrived. I was in a bad place, myself. I couldn't believe it. It was not about me, it was about his Mother and getting her help. I pulled myself together and did whatever I could to help until she was ready to be taken to the hospital.

It was about 10 hours before we could get his Mother admitted. We waited in one room after another. She barely was tended to at all. We had to fight and make a fuss for every little thing. No one was “supposed” to make a decision or do what was needed. I never so much “passing the buck” in my life.

She's stable now. She had to be admitted into the Psych ward, though she is the last person on this Earth I would ever think belongs there. I don't know for sure, but I think she just wanted the pain to stop so badly that maybe this was the only way anyone would really hear her? If that's the case there's a big disconnect that needs to be fixed. Between her Doctor putting her off for almost a week, to even our relationship with her. We all need to learn to stop being polite and start getting “real” with each other.

Since Sunday, my life, Sam's life and Kate's have been turned upside down. There is so much to do, so much to try to figure out. Will Sam's mom ever be able to live alone again? How can we get her help? Who can pay for these things? And who is going to clean up the apartment?

The last question, I answered. I cleaned it up. I didn't want Sam or Kate to have to do that. Even though I've known her for almost 20 years, I was still the person most removed from this situation, so I got to work. I just did what I needed to do. I started to clean away more than just the accident scene. I started to clean everything. I wanted to put life back into that apartment. I wanted the space to feel happy again. In a way, it was like cleaning my Mother's house after she died. It was so nice, freshly painted, re-carpeted, sparkling, even. It made me sad she never go to see it. I hope that Sam's Mother gets to see this. Her home, which was dark and sad, will be clean, fresh and even have lots of color and comfortable places to sit. Perhaps the gloom, washed away, will give his Mother something she's needed in addition to being free of pain, maybe it will give her some joy, some delight in her day to day life?

Perhaps this is the start of her new life? Perhaps it's a new start for all of us?

I don't have the answers. I can tell you I had a breakdown the night after I cleaned things up. I couldn't stop crying. Other than my little birthday lunch, it's been one bad thing after another for more than a year. Every time I feel down, I look to the positive. I get myself back up. You guys lift me back up, heck you catapult me back up! But with all of those blessings, that love and generous support, sadly there is a darkness that remains in my heart. The same thing that drove Sam's mother to do what she did, the same thing that drove my Father to do what he did...it's there, waiting. I am terrified one day I will lose this battle to stay in the sunshine, but I am equally determined to not give up and to help Sam's mother do the same.

One of my friends said something to me once in jest; “Life. It's not for everyone.” He couldn't have been more right.

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