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The Unexpected Turn. For Freya. Part 6.

Freya’s asleep in the little pink cage that sits on the printer stand next to my desk. The sun has long since set and after a few hours of racing around the living room, followed by a snack, Freya’s too tired to do more than soak up the warmth from the heated bed and purr herself to sleep.

It’s been barely 48 hours since Freya and I returned from our 350 mile round trip to Boston to meet Dr. Pavletic at MSPCA Angell Animal Medical Center. Nothing happened the way I expected or feared. After all the tears and anxiety in the days leading up to the trip, I assumed this was “IT”—possibly the last days of her life before very risky surgery to correct her recto-vaginal fistula. I’d played out every scenario I could think of including that Dr. Pavletic would put it off, but since he’d reviewed Freya’s 5 sets of radiographs (1 for every other week I’ve had her), blood work and exam notes from our local surgeon, Dr. Potanas, I thought if we were going all the way to Boston the decision being made was IF she was a good candidate at all, not that she was still to small to have it done in the first place.

Up CLose R Olson 475
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Silly girl after returning home from Boston.


I woke up at 5 AM the day of the trip because I wanted to feed Freya a few hours before we had to leave. That way she’d not get sick while in the car-at least that was the idea. I didn’t sleep well that night, if at all. I know I dreamt so that means I slept but I also felt like an athlete, ready to jump out of bed at any second and start a race. I was on the alert, positive there was NO WAY I was going to miss the 11 AM appointment even though it meant blasting through rush hour in both Waterbury, CT and Hartford, CT on the way to Boston. With so many variables with traffic I opted to give the normally 3 hour or so drive 4 hours. It would allow me to pit stop if needed, too. With a kitten leaking stool I had no idea how messy it was going to get for Freya, my car or even myself as I struggled to keep her clean.

Freya’s pink cage was on the passenger seat of my car. I had it rigged up so it wouldn’t tip over. A 30 lb container of ice melt was just the right size to place on the floor so the cage could rest on it where it left the edge of the seat. The cage was familiar to Freya so I hoped it would help keep her comfortable for the long drive.

©2014 Robin AF Olson. My wish for Freya.

As much as my heart was in my throat and as much as I was terrified to leave, I put my car into first gear and headed out the driveway a few minutes after 7 AM.

After the first hour and first traffic jam was passed, I stopped the car at a rest area to clean Freya up. She wasn’t too bad, but needed her towel refreshed. She'd waxed and waned between being completely miserable and silent to meowing at me and playing with a toy I had dangling into her cage. I was able to slip a few fingers between the bars as I drove along, to stroke her face while she looked up at me with such sadness. I talked to her about why we were driving so far away and how important this was to her future. She grunted back in reply, another uncomfortable contraction raced through her. She was trying to move stool, but I knew it wouldn’t result in much. I thought about how this surgery couldn’t happen soon enough. I’d see her x-rays over the months and they continued to show a continual build-up of stool inside her. I wished I could give her that relief. In some way this trip was my only way to do that—IF Dr. Pavletic would do the surgery.

About 30 minutes before we arrived at MSPCA-Angell, Freya began to grunt and whine in earnest. Stool was coming out in tiny drips but she was laying in an ever more disturbing position. The traffic in Boston was terrible. There was nothing I could do until we got to Angell. Poor Freya just laid there and groaned.

Angell Sign R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. At last.

We reached Angell by 10:30 AM, but it took me a long while to get Freya out of the car, then load up all her towels, paper towels, medical records and the like before I could get her into the bathroom to wash her off. She was in one of her “wet phases” where she pushes and pushes until she’s moved enough liquidy stool to feel comfortable again. I kept having to return to the bathroom to rinse her off, careful not to get stool all over myself in the process. She continued to move stool but this was very watery so it bled through the towels.

My friend Laurie, who adopted two kitties from us, met me at Angell since she lives a few miles away. She helped me attempt to keep Freya calm and clean but it wasn’t possible to do much since Freya kept pushing. She was so tired she eventually fell asleep for a short time in my arms as I tried not to show how panicked I felt that it was almost time to get the answers we'd all been waiting so long for.

Sleepy Girl R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Wiped out from the trip and from feeling dreadful, Freya rests while we wait for Dr. Pavletic to arrive.

It was almost 11:30 AM before Dr. Pavletic finally entered the cats only waiting area to escort Freya and me into his exam room.

This should have been the big, heart-pounding zenith of our story, but the air came out of it fairly quickly. Dr. Pavletic did a quick exam of Freya as his Vet Tech, Michelle tapped notes into a laptop. He excused himself to go look at Freya’s radiographs while I was left to look at poor Freya who was completely filthy from a giant, wet “blow out.”

Exam Time R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. A very good girl considering how "probing" the exam was.

Michelle helped me get Freya cleaned up and returned to her cat carrier. Here I thought she was going to have a long exam, we’d go over her history, he’d ask lots of questions, but he came back into the room and asked me if I had questions (I did). He already seemed to have a game plan in mind—of course. He's been a surgeon for 30 years. This may be rote for him, but I could barely ask my first question: “Is Freya a candidate for surgery?”

He answered by telling me what the surgery would entail. It all depended on factors we couldn’t know about until the surgery was started. He felt that it was possible Freya did have a rectum just on the other side of her skin, just above the opening of her vagina, as in all cats. If that was the case he could pull it out and attach it to her, but then it gets tough because he’d have to go INSIDE her colon to FIND the beginning of the fistula (the abnormal connection between her rectum and her vagina). If the opening wasn’t too far inside her he could stitch it closed. Then he’d dilate her vagina and find the end of the fistula and stitch that closed.

The stitches might not hold, they might tear, they might allow stool into her abdomen and she could die from sepsis.

He also told me that odds were that Freya would always be incontinent but she might be able to at least pass stool. He mentioned that many people would not consider her adoptable and that euthanization would be an option at that point.

I stopped him from going further and told him that without ANY doubt we wanted Freya to live. Where or how she passed stool-we didn’t really care. If she was happy and having fun we’d deal with the rest. He seemed maybe not relieved by my words but willing to drop it and move forward.

Look at me at ANgell Ro Lson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Freya uses her cuteness to intensify her spell over me.

There were more risks listed and a possible second and third surgery to be done depending on how things worked out. It would happen either separately or possibly two procedures during the same session. One surgery after the fistula repair could be to put a “twist” into her colon to help her have the muscle strength to push stool out and another surgery to possibly remove the megacolon she might develop from having her colon stretched so much over all this time.

But then the bomb dropped-he very matter-of-factly said he wanted to wait two months and see if she was big enough then. I couldn’t understand why I’d come all this way to have it delayed. Couldn’t he have made the call after seeing all her records?

He said he’d done the surgery a few times and one cat was continent and 3 or 4 were not. He never talked about any of them dying and by then I was too blank to think because I had made a hotel reservation and I had to sort out how I was going to get out of paying for it now that it was too late to cancel it. I admit to feeling a bit irked because I had planned on taking a day OFF to just go to a museum and eat a nice meal while Freya was resting before her surgery the next day. I was exhausted and I wanted to rest. I wanted a day off, but now there was no reason to stay in Boston at all.

Playtime R Olson copy
©2014 Robin AF Olson. As it should be-not a care in the world.

Freya needed her Platelet test re-done so they took her from me and I walked out to the waiting room with Dr. Pavletic. I made a few jokes which he appreciated. He said his job was very tough and laughter was one of the few ways to manage the stress. I agreed with him and told him there was plenty more where that came from. I wished I could have connected better with him, but we really didn’t have the time. I told him I was very grateful and honored to meet him and that I’d keep him posted on Freya’s status until we met again.

He told me he realized this is a careful balance. We need Freya to get bigger, but we can’t let her keep filing up with stool to the point where it becomes emergency surgery. “We don’t want her to come here in crisis,” to which I quickly agreed.

At that moment I re-dedicated myself to finding a better diet for Freya now that I had time. As I waited for Freya's return I called the hotel, scared they'd still charge me the full rate for my room. As soon as I mentioned I'd need to return to Boston in January Ryan, the front desk guy, easily changed my reservation to the new dates. I was free to go back to Sandy Hook after only being in Boston for two hours.

Biting the Box R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Not the best snack.

I also had time to research if we could do a 3-D model of her anatomy. Dr. Pavletic was all for doing that, but the trick is HOW to do it. We’d have to do a very expensive CT Scan first and that would also require Freya to be very lightly and briefly sedated. After that we’d take the data and it would have to be translated into a file format that the 3-D printer could read, but IS there software that does it? I guess I’ll find out. No one has modeled soft tissue like this before, but we’re talking about Freya so we must find a way.

Unbearable Cuteness R olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Cross-eyed, bowlegged, rectum or not, what's not to love.

As for myself, on the very long drive home, I thought a lot about how this was going to effect my life. Freya takes up one of my two foster rooms. It will really impair my ability to move cats to CT from Georgia. I need to do a better job getting our foster kittens (who are HUGE NOW) adopted. I have to work harder somehow and be more effective. I can’t give up on Freya because I didn’t factor her being her for months on end. I love her and she brings me great joy between all the tears and fear about her future. She doesn’t know she has multiple birth defects. She just knows love and joy and sadly a great deal of discomfort from time to time, but with any luck, we’ll try again in January and maybe this time will be her time.

Until then I'm going to love her like crazy.

©2014 Robin AF Olson. Sweetness from the Sweetess.


Please. For Freya.

Freya’s asleep in the little pink cage that sits on the printer stand next to my desk. It’s her temporary home during each afternoon so we can be together while I work and so she can enjoy the sunshine that often bathes my office.

In the cage R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Freya in her pink cage.

I can’t believe that Freya’s surgery may happen a week from today. I’ve already booked my hotel and tomorrow I’m getting my car checked out so the drive to Boston, to MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Hospital, will be as safe as possible.

It’s been a long journey of more than 8 weeks since I first offered to foster Freya “just for a few days.” Those early days were very hard on me. The amount of care she required basically caused me to shut down Kitten Associates because I could only just do the basics for all our other cats, then grab a nap when there was time. Feedings were every few hours because she was so young and she needed loving care so I had an air mattress in her room and spent many hours just holding her while we both rested in the early hours before dawn.

Freya and Spencer Meet R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Freya thinks Spencer is her mother.

These days things are much easier and Freya has a schedule of cleanings, feedings and play time that isn’t as taxing on me. Freya still needs to be bathed many times a day due to her birth defect (a recto-vaginal fistula-you can read more about her early days with me Here) but she’s used to it now and lays across my hand as I rinse off her back end and legs. She’s doesn’t seem to mind and in fact she licks my fingers when I clean off certain areas. She even purrs during cleaning, but sadly some times she cries out, too. Passing stool through her “lady place” has to be painful, if not for the most part impossible. It’s all she’s got until surgery next week.

On Friday we take her final radiographs and do blood work. We don’t know if she has any other abnormalities and the blood work is a vital part of her surgical pre-screening.

Freya intense r olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Not sure what direction Freya is looking in but she's ready to pounce on something.

A few days ago we also did radiographs after I discovered that Freya had far looser stool than normal and had been vomiting. I rushed her over to Newtown Veterinary Specialists where Dr. Potanas examined her. We assumed it to be a virus of some sort and the hope was that she would clear it fast enough so it wouldn’t make her surgery impossible. Since it had been weeks since her last radiographs it was important to rule out that she was so FULL of stool it was causing the vomiting.

Lickey R Olson
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Silly monkey.

I feared the worst. Freya can’t have any of her core vaccinations until well after her surgery and she’s been around all my cats. Though she does not share a litter pan or food dish she does jump on my cats from time to time. They could carry a disease that they have no symptoms for. I realized I was an idiot for letting her near them but in my own defense there is a very fine line here. Freya NEEDS socialization with other cats to learn not to bite or be too aggressive. She can’t learn that from me and there have been times when she was too rough already. With a bop on the nose or a growl from my cats, Freya can learn, but at what price?

Super silly pants R Olson copy
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Yes, Freya also sports black and pink "jellybeans."

With surgery day approaching we REALLY lucked out – knock wood –Freya cleared her virus in a day. I can’t let her near my cats any longer. If she does well and the surgery is a success, then if she’s up to it maybe we can get back to being with cats again. I really hate doing this to her. She needs other cats and she already loves chasing Fluff Daddy around the house (and vice versa). I have to balance being careful with making sure every day is a happy one for her.

Freya has gained 1 pound, 10 ounces since she arrived weighing 1 pound, 2 ounces. She’ll be a bit over 12 weeks old, which was our goal for doing the surgery. The problem I face is there are so many unknowns that won’t be revealed until we’re in Boston that it’s hard to know what to think or what to be worried about. Maybe that’s a blessing?

01FREYA 11 7 14 RT
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Last set of radiographs. This surgery can't come soon enough. Look at that BIG mass of stool inside her.

We’re to see Dr. Michael Pavletic on Monday, Nov 10 at 11 AM. That’s when I will find out IF he feels Freya is a candidate for surgery and if so, WHEN the surgery will take place. It’s likely it will happen on Nov 11 (11/11!). But…he could say no..he could say he can’t help her…he could say he wants to wait longer. I have no idea. I’ve also thrown a wrench into the works by suggesting something that is pretty much bleeding edge technology.

What if we used 3-D printing to help Freya?

For those of you who don’t know what 3-D printing is, it’s basically taking a flat, 2-D object and creating a product in 3-D that is printed out using small strands of hot melted plastic (or other materials like FOOD-yes FOOD can now be printed). This allows designers to create pretty much anything from a car to a cart for a handicapped dog that fits that dog perfectly because it’s based on a scan of the actual dog. They are creating more and more things using 3-D printing even valves for human heart repair!

1FREYA 11 7 14 RT
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Freya also has deformities in her spine, back legs and is cross-eyed.

The idea is: make a 3-D model of Freya’s anatomy so Dr. Pavletic can better plan out the surgery OR maybe there’s a way to fabricate a mold that is the perfect shape of the thing Freya doesn’t have-a rectum. Maybe that mold could be made out of other material that would work in place of the real thing? I just don’t know, but I did reach out and found some help.

There are two master fabricators at UPenn who have worked with Vets before and have the 3-D printing equipment we need. I’ve asked them for assistance and they are eager to help. I’ve reached out to Dr. P. and though he doesn't need a model (but would like one if I can swing it), I want him to understand that anything I can do to help make this surgery a success I’m going to do, even if it’s nutty, cutting edge technology or bordering on absurd. It doesn’t hurt to ask, right? So what if Freya has a robo-anus? She needs to survive this surgery and live a good life. I don’t care how it happens.

I love all my foster cats and kittens as my own, but after the past few months of cats dying and emergency vet runs we need a WIN. I love the heck out of this kitten. We need good news. We need a happy conclusion for Freya. Her light is SO bright. She’s SO vivacious. I can’t think that this could be the last week of her life, but there are odds that it could be or that the second or third surgery she may need will end her life. It's going to be a long road.

Blue eyes R Olson475
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Her eyes are so radiant, it's tough to capture their true color.

So, 3-D printed body parts, trips to Boston, revered surgeons..may it all come together beautifully and perfectly all For Freya. And frankly, if I can just maintain a reasonable level of calm going through this I would really be grateful.

©2014 Robin AF Olson. Freya being Freya.

-----time passes-------

It’s Sunday. Tomorrow is THE day-the day I drive to Boston with Freya. Time’s up. Blood work has been done. It showed an abnormality with her blood platelets, which can result in a high risk of bleeding during surgery. I’m told that the test can easily have a bad result if it’s not done right. We will re-do the test and hope for better results once we arrive in Boston.

Although there's a team ready and interested to do the 3-D model we just don’t have time to pull it off. It’s NEVER been done of soft tissue before and we’d have to get a CT Scan (expensive among other things) and there’s software needed to translate the CT Scan into data the 3-D printer can use. I don’t know IF there IS software that can do this yet.

Freya and Dr P goofing off copy
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Dr. Potanas, Freya's surgeon here in Newtown who has been overseeing her care and will take over once we get back from Boston.

I’ve already started packing the car. I have Freya’s pink crate on the front seat so I can keep an eye on her during our trip. I’m trying to get everything ready but as always there are bumps in the road. I smelled some nasty burning chemical smell coming off my car last night so now I’m wondering if I have a leak and if my car is going to break down. I’m at the point where I feel like whatever happens I will get to Boston tomorrow even if it means renting a car. Part of me can’t wait to get going and part of me is so busted up about it I fear a total meltdown once I finally meet Dr. Pavletic.

With spencer on the bed R olson copy
©2014 Robin AF Olson. On our last day together before the surgery, with Sam sick in bed, Freya got to help him feel better as she got some tips from Spencer on how best to do that.

You can’t quantify love, though I think everyone tries. They might say they love their foster kitten, but not like they love their own cat. Maybe there are “flavors” of love that we reserve for certain situations, I don’t know. All I know is I’m sitting here thinking about Freya. Her pink crate is gone from my office. It feels cold and empty here even though the same sunlight still shines into the windows. I have come to love Freya with all that I have and all that I am. I want her to LIVE and LIVE happily and well and it’s breaking my heart to know there’s a very strong chance it won’t go that way.

Please help me find the strength to do this-to be there for Freya-to not fall apart no matter what happens. Please let Dr. Pavletic have a really really good few days where he feels great and is happy and can help our little kitten. Please, Freya, know you are so loved, not just by me and Sam, but by the world who has come to know you, too. Let that love keep you strong and may that light inside you continue to shine brightly as you face the biggest challenge of your young life.

Please. We need a WIN. We need a really really big WIN.



Visit Freya's Facebook page and leave her a message of love & support. Maybe it's crazy but we're hoping for 1111 loving & supportive comments (in honor of her surgery on 11/11) and with your help we can do it!

Pawcircle for Freya with Mouse R Olson400
©2014 Robin AF Olson.

The Loss that May Break the Internet. Farewell Big Daddy.

I just got word that after a 7-month battle with nasal lymphoma that Big Daddy had to be humanely euthanized this afternoon. His daddy, Warren worked tirelessly to find a way to keep this gentle giant alive, but in the end the cancer made it impossible for Big Daddy to have any quality of life. It had spread and was far worse than anyone realized. Though they sought out help from Vet-oncologists and made sure that no matter what, Big Daddy had everything he needed to live the best life he could, it would never be as long as any of us would have wanted.

BigDaddyPortrait W Mahoney
©2014 William Mahone. The face that launched 10,000 friends on Facebook…Big Daddy.

Big Daddy's story is truly unique and in many ways breathtaking. From an injured stray cat who was assumed to be feral, Big Daddy sauntered into Warren's trap and the rest is history (some of it you can read in a selection of my previous posts HERE, HERE and HERE).


What hooked all of us from day one was that face. Big Daddy always had this forlorn expression-mixed with a combination of curiosity and surprise. When we expected him to be aggressive, he was mild-mannered. When he had to go to the vet or ride in the car he never complained. He never was foul-tempered even after getting painful radiation treatments. He tolerated chemotherapy, too, all with grace and dignity. He liked nothing more than to sleep with Warren and relax by the fire or hang out with his other kitty buddies.


Though I have never had the pleasure of meeting Big Daddy, I've been in the background helping Warren learn about feline nutrition and how it would help Big Daddy's prognosis. I also helped raise funds and shared funds from my own rescue. I was there for the late-night calls and tried to help Warren manage the excrutiating emotional ups and downs of Big Daddy's many close calls.

As time passes we'll learn more details about why Big Daddy was so happy and seemingly fine barely 24 hours ago and what trigged a massive seizure that though he recovered from, it uncovered something else, something so dire there was nothing more that could be done for him other than to allow him to have seizure after seizure. It was no way to live.

Warren promised him a long time ago that he would not let him suffer and he kept that promise today.

Big Daddy and Warren
©2014 Warren Royal. BFFs Warren with Big Daddy.



When I die I hope I come back as Warren's cat. His devotion, compassion and love for Big Daddy should be something honored and revered. He is the epitome of a Cat Daddy. If everyone was like Warren this world would be a far better place.


I know Warren, his family, his co-workers at Royal Bobbles, all the friends and families who loved Big Daddy from near and far are all heartbroken today-including myself. Big Daddy lived big, loved big and sadly died after a big battle that no one could win.


We love you Big Daddy. We will never forget you. Fly free.


Fear is the number one reason people don’t adopt pets from shelters. Some shelters aren’t in the best shape, with rundown quarters for the animals in their care while others are more like cheerful playhouses for cats and dogs. But even though the environment might be pleasant, having so many adoption options can be overwhelming as the fear of “What if I feel like I have to adopt them all?” or “What if I feel like I have to adopt a pet because it looks so sad?” arises keeping people away.


There are many complex emotions that can be stirred up visiting shelters. It’s not only a terrible shame that this obstacle exists, but the result means that millions of perfectly adoptable animals are being euthanized solely due to lack of shelter space. The adopters are out there, now we just have to get them IN to the shelters to meet these amazing creatures.


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©2010 Henry Co Animal Control. Kitten Associates opened in 2010 and this litter of kittens was our first rescue. They were at high-risk of being put to sleep solely due to lack of adopters and limited space. Each one later found their forever homes.

While tremendous strides are being made to change perceptions, change ideas and move towards never killing otherwise adoptable animals, part of the change requires a leap of faith for some. Taking those first steps into a shelter can be daunting so here are some reasons how being willing to take those steps can literally save lives.

1. If you think you’re ready to adopt, go on and search for shelters in your area. You can usually visit the shelter’s website and see photos of the facility ahead of time. That way you won’t be afraid to walk in the door.

2. If the place is a bit shabby, that’s okay if the animals are getting properly cared for. You’ll know by talking with the staff and asking questions about what care the cats or dogs get. Some shelters don’t have huge operating budgets, but focus their funds on the animals and not the color of the walls.

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©2010 Henry Co Animal Control. Rocco was a senior kitty but that didn't stop us from rescuing him. His gentle and affectionate personality won us over and Rocco quickly found a loving home where he was doted on for the last years of his life. He passed away earlier this year surrounded by love.

3. Have an idea of what you’re looking for before you go. There are loads of web sites about every breed of cat or dog that will help you focus on what you think might be the best fit for your family. Knowing ahead of time that you’re looking for a friendly orange tabby or a feisty Jack Russell Terrier narrows down your search so you’re not overwhelmed. You can often see these pets listed online before you meet them in person which also takes out the fear of feeling obliged to adopt all the pets you see once you arrive at the shelter.

MacGruber PF Ad sm
We rescued this kitty and named him MacGruber. He ended up being one of the most sweet and friendly cats we've ever met. He lives in a loving home with another kitty we rescued and a third kitty the family found as a stray. Can you imagine what would have happened if we hadn't intervened? It's very likely he would have been euthanized.

4. Understand that seeing cats and dogs in cages is not ideal, but that it’s also not forever for that animal. A shelter should be just that-a place to house animals safely for a time period until that animal finds their new family. Unfortunately some animals are caged far too long, but from experience I can say that I have a cat who was in a cage for 2 years and she’s a very happy cat today. She was MORE friendly and sought out affection because of her confinement and I do believe she is also more grateful to have what she has with us. Though that may not be true of all animals confined for along period of time, don't feel you can't also consider them to be part of your family. Just be prepared that their adjustment to their new life may take more time and they may need some guidance or behavior training.

5. It’s not your obligation to adopt every pet you see. It’s your obligation to be responsible and only take on what you can easily provide for from today until the last day of that animal’s life. Don’t be selfish or impulsive. Adopting is for YEARS, not for now. Do your homework, prepare yourself, then ENJOY the experience of knowing you’re going to find your soulmate. Be prepared that it might not be the first time you go to the shelter. It might take a few trips over months, but in the end not only did you literally help save that animal’s life, you just made room so that another animal can be saved, too.


Mabel Cute Portrait Robin AF Olson copy
©2013 Robin AF Olson. This post is in honor of Mabel-Baby, who survived being in two kill-shelters, one of them for almost two years. She's my kitty now and she'll never see the inside of a cage again.

Take a deep breath. It just takes a bit of bravery, some planning and a willingness to open your heart to a cat or dog who may be a bit rough around the edges, but over time, in a loving home, you’ll be amazed at their transformation. It’s a great gift that one might not even realize is part of adopting a shelter pet, but indeed it is the most precious aspect of it.


This post is sponsored by BlogPaws. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about #AdoptaShelterPet, but Covered in Cat Hair only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. BlogPaws is not responsible for the content of this article.

Follow Your Heart. Maggie's Story.

Maggie Mae and her siblings were rescued last winter out of a dangerous situation in southern Georgia. Maggie was shy and skittish, but one couldn't help but want to cuddle and pet her because she was so beautiful.

Maggie and her sister, Junebug spent months in foster care hoping their forever home would find them, but they were no longer tiny kittens and as young adults their adaptability began to wane. I wondered what I could do to help Maggie find a home that would give her the chance to blossom. I knew that in time-maybe months or even years-Maggie would be all right but it had to be with the RIGHT family or Maggie could revert and become more feral.

All outside before trapping
©2014 Warren Royal. Maggie (grooming herself in back) with her siblings the day before being trapped. You can read their backstory HERE.


Kendra adopted two kittens from us a few years ago. A brother and sister, Bandit and Smokey, where two of our sweetest fosters. They joined three dogs, Kendra's son and husband where they all lived peacefully together. But something was missing. Kendra wanted one more cat. It would be her “dream cat” and because of that it had to be a kitten and it had to be long-haired and make her heart swoon. She takes the commitment of adopting pets very seriously so she asked me about our kitten, Julep.

Julep is in Georgia in foster care so I couldn't tell her too much other than she was very sweet. We volleyed emails back and forth about it, but Kendra wasn't sure. Then one day she asked seemingly out of the blue about Maggie. I'd posted that Maggie could not be around dogs because she came from a situation where feral dogs were picking off, one by one, the cats in the colony where she lived. I just assumed she would be terribly fearful of dogs so I didn't want her to be near them.

Bandit and Smokey happy
©2013 Kendra Friedman. Smokey and sister, Bandit (right).

Kendra shocked me by saying that she'd wanted Maggie for months, but never thought it could be possible because she had dogs. I told her my concerns, but I also knew that Kendra's dogs were very easy going and already lived with cats. A few days later Kendra met Maggie and the rest is history, but how things worked out shocked us all.

Kendra and Maggie
©2014 Robin AF Olson. Gotcha Day! Kendra & Maggie.

Maggie must have been waiting for her family to show us her true colors because within barely a few days of arriving in her new home, Maggie began to blossom. When Kendra expected fear, Maggie was completely relaxed. Maggie was fine being with the dogs and soon enough was making friends with Smokey. Bandit wasn't very happy about this newcomer, but Kendra didn't give up.

Barely two months after Maggie's adoption this email arrives in my in-box.

I often wonder why I write so much about Maggie, and take so many pictures. Here's what I think. When I adopted her, I knew Maggie was beautiful, soft, and shy. I hoped she could learn to feel comfortable and that one day, after much work, she might sit on my lap or play with the others. I thought I was going to give up on the one dream of three happy kittens playing together to fulfill the dream of righting a wrong for a cat who had gone through more than she should. I was good with that decision and happy to provide a great home for the rest of her life.

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©2014 Kendra Friedman. Loved no matter what. Oops.

I met her and she let me get close and she let me kiss her and I loved her right away. And I was willing to give up on a tiny kitten for her. And I picked her up and she shook, the whole crate shook, the whole way home, so I told her over and over "you don't have to be scared anymore. You don't have to search and wonder. I am your mommy and I will protect you and love you forever."

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©2014 Kendra Friedman. Dogs eating on the right and on the left, the cats (way up high on the cat tree).

And she came home and she was nervous, but not afraid. She was timid, but she was brave too. And then boom! I found myself with what I expected- beautiful, soft, sweet, but also funny and playful and ballsy! And she made friends with Smokey and they started to play! And she walked around the dogs and I was in awe.

Maggie and doggies
©2014 Kendra Friedman. What dogs?

And the last piece of it was Bandit, and I'm not gonna lie- I didn't think she was gonna come around. She would run up to Maggie and then hiss and growl and run away. And then- she stopped! And they became friends.

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©2014 Kendra Friedman. Maggie and her new sister, Bandit watching the world go by.

And now the three of them play like kittens and especially Maggie and Bandit love each other. They sleep in the same bed and Bandit licks Maggie and for hours, HOURS!, they chase each other all around the house like little monkeys.

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©2014 Kendra Friedman. Smokey and sister, Bandit (right).

Somehow, by choosing to do the right thing and not the selfish thing, I got exactly what I wanted. And more! I am so amazed by this and so in awe of Maggie's transformation that I just have to document it and comment on it constantly. Who is this girl and how did this happen? It must just be a miracle.

Thank you for my miracle.


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©2014 Kendra Friedman. Maggie makes new friends.

The thing is I didn't do anything. It was all Kendra's doing. She followed her heart and had faith in Maggie. Maggie had gotten a lot of love and support while with her foster families and I know that started her on the right path, but Kendra was the final piece of the puzzle. In all honesty, this reminds me to be more open-minded when choosing adopters for our foster cats and I hope it reminds all of you that when you're ready to add to your family to always consider adopting an adult. This story isn't about a miracle after all. It's about trusting your instincts and taking joy in the outcome.

Happy life, Maggie. Happy life, all.

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©2014 Kendra Friedman. Life is good.

Catification. The Review & Interview with Jackson Galaxy & Kate Benjamin

In May 2011 the first episode of My Cat From Hell aired on Animal Planet. That moment heralded a new age for cats. It created a paradigm shift from calling people “cat owners” to “cat guardians”— where behavior issues of cats no longer fell solely with the cat but more often with their human's misconceptions. What had been explored brilliantly in print years before by other cat behaviorists failed to reach the ever-growing audience of frustrated cat parents, who were giving up their cats to shelters in record numbers. Nothing made an impact on cat guardians the way a television program could-if it was done well.

Enter the eye-poppingly tattooed Jackson Galaxy. When he took the stage we were mesmerized. He was charismatic, a colorful peacock with a disarming understanding of how cats tick. He showed the world just how deeply misunderstood cats really were and it broke our hearts to realize how wrong we’d been to vilify our cats.

In each episode we witnessed one cat after another emerge from of the confines of their chrysalis into a beautiful, confident creature. It touched anyone who shared their home with cats. We learned that if we were to truly love our cats then we must understand their needs. This is the season of the Cat and a new book, Catification is just what they’ve been waiting for us to read.


Catification: Designing a Happy and Stylish Home for Your Cat (and You!)

teams up the savvy cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy with his My Cat From Hell design-darling Kate Benjamin, (who is also the guru of the deliciously cat-centric product mecca, to create the must-read book for every cat lover.

KateBenjamin PhotoCredit JohnBurchamPhotography DO NOT CROP

© John Burcham Photography. Used with permission from the author. Kate Benjamin in her studio.

Catification goes far beyond a simple well-designed full-color book of clever ways to enrich your cat’s environment. It’s also a concise guide to cat behavior. The reader will learn how to both identify what type of personality their cat has and how to create a space appropriate for that cat. Using clever, easy-to-remember terms Galaxy makes it simple for us to decode how our cat sees the world. Is she a Mojito or a Napoleon? Is another cat in the home a Wallflower? As we begin to answer these questions (there's even a worksheet starting on pg 38 to guide you) we learn how to create positive changes appropriate for any cat.

The most significant message in this book is that it’s important to see the world through a cat’s eyes to create a harmonious environment that the cat guardian would enjoy adding to their home. Through Galaxy’s skilled descriptions and Benjamin’s tasteful design choices we begin to see how empowering our cats through an enriched environment is the only way to go.

Catification is not about hanging shelves on the wall, and to fans of MCFH, building a “super highway” for your cat. It’s about helping your cat find their Mojo, a term Galaxy coined that refers to helping cats find their confidence in their space and being able to be their best selves. Do you really want your cat to be the cat that always hides under the bed?


©Kate Benjamin. Used with permission from the author. One of Kate's kitties enjoying her catio.

What was apparent right away from the clean and elegant design is that this book was going to be a breeze to read and understand regardless of whether you just adopted your first cat or if you’re like me and have more cats than you care to reveal in a blog post.

I was fortunate to be able to spend a few minutes with Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy (whose comments I’ve included, but paraphrased in some instances) and later with Kate Benjamin (who wrote direct replies to my questions and are shared verbatim) where we discussed where the term “Catification” came from along with a few other surprises. I asked each author many of the same questions for a point of comparison.


CICH: Where did the term “Catifcation” come from?

KB: Catification is the term that Jackson started using on his show when discussing aspects of cat behavior that have to do with environmental enrichment. As you know, Jackson’s expertise is in understanding what the cats need and mine is in understanding how to meet those needs in a way that pleases the cat guardians. Catification is where our worlds overlap. We now define Catification as “The art of designing your home to meet the needs of your cat without sacrificing your own sense of style.”

JG: “I made it up.” Galaxy chuckles. That said, the word, inspired by years of working the cat behavior clients, was what became the key term to developing the book project.

Galaxy doesn’t feel comfortable making generalizations about cats. His analogy that cats come “from the same cloud, but all are catflakes” rang true. They all have different needs and those needs change over the course of their life, making one of the underlying themes of Catfication to recognize each cat’s unique needs and partner that with a flexible and scalable environment.

Galaxy asked me if I recalled that Moen faucet commercial where the couple comes to the office of their designer and places an elegant faucet on his desk then says, “Build our home around this.” It’s the same sort of Designer/Client approach with cats, only this time you're the designer and your cats are the clients.

2. CICH: Describe the “ah ha” moment when you realized that cats needed more than a carpeted “kitty condo” or corrugated scratching pad to enhance their environment.

KB: A long time ago, even before I started writing about cat products, I began experimenting in my own home, building wall-climbing structures for my cats to expand their territory and keep them active. I think it was just a natural instinct for me to build things for my cats, maybe because of my background in interior design. I always felt that it was important to create in environment that is interesting for my cats but also attractive to me.

JG: Jackson Galaxy understood early on that cats needed more than just a cat bed by a sunny window to help them become the “best version of themselves they can be.” He admits for somewhat selfish reasons that he’s tired of hearing excuses about why some cat guardians can’t be more understanding of what their cats need. Case in point, when he has to give “homework” to one of his clients and the first request is to add a litter pan to a socially significant part of the home. “People would rather have their cat pee on their drapes than put a litter pan into their living room.”

That frustration gave birth to the idea of catification. It asked a simple question. How would he find a common ground that allowed for a litter pan to be placed wherever it was best for the cat while balancing the aesthetic and practical needs of the family? Galaxy wants to hold cat lovers “feet to the fire” he’s so passionate about this topic. He urges us to remove barriers that leave their cat unable to blossom and be their best cat-self.


Used with permission from the author. Example of a simple way to catify a space.

3. CICH: Why not just let cats go outside to get enrichment?

KB: I’m an advocate for keeping cats indoors simply because there are too many dangers for them outside. A lot of people think it’s unnatural to keep a cat inside, but with some simple changes to your home, cats can live full, rich lives indoors and you won’t have to worry about what they may encounter if they go outside.

JG: Whether cats are allowed outdoors is a hot-button topic. Galaxy plainly replied that “It’s your call, but you gotta know the risks because you don’t want to compromise.” In essence, though most people understand the inherent risks to cats living outdoors they simply make excuses to not make changes so their cat can be just as happy indoors as outdoors. One of the goals of Catification is to show everyone that “catifying” a space can be painless and there’s no reason not to do it since it doesn’t mean a costly change if someone is on a limited budget.

4. CICH:“Catification: Designing a Happy and Stylish Home for Your Cat (and You!)” contains a number of real-world examples of how to enrich your cat’s environment. How many people submitted their stories and photos to you, hoping to earn a place in your book and which one stood out the most to you and why.

KB: Jackson and I have received hundreds of submissions from cat guardians all around the world, and we love seeing every one of them! We chose examples for this book that we felt would inspire others to see the possibilities for their own homes, even if they don’t have a lot of money or advanced skills. Simple projects like the table leg scratcher from Lucio Castro in Brooklyn (page 168) stand out to me just because it is so functional and elegant. It shows that anyone cat do this and do it in a way that doesn’t look like a crazy cat lady!


Used with permission from the author. Page 168. Table leg scratcher.


Used with permission from the author. Page 168. Table leg scratcher in use.

5. CICH: Would you say one of the goals of your book is to change people’s perspective to better understand how their cat views the world? If so, are there any other goals you set for yourself and which one was the most important.

KB: Absolutely, Catification seeks to help cat guardians see the world through the eyes of their cat. We want people to understand that they are the interior designer and their cat is the client. The designer needs to know the client’s preferences and come up with a plan to accommodate those preferences. We also want to get cat guardians excited about the possibilities of Catification and what it can do for their cats. It’s really a lot of fun to come up with a plan, implement it, and then watch the cats as they explore and use their new feature. We hope people will be inspired to do more and more.

JG: Galaxy wants to empower cat guardians so they can embrace the possibility of deepening the bond they share with their cats. It’s extremely gratifying to make changes to a cat’s environment and see him/her come out of their shell for the first time. The love people have for their cats is never in question, but through catification those cats can experience a dramatic shift in their day to day life.

His hopes are that readers “get it.” That they don’t suffer from “paralysis by analysis.” In other words, they don’t get mired down by feeling like they have to create a perfect space then get overwhelmed by options. In truth, they should focus on building a flexible “skeleton” where their design can change over time because their cats needs will change over time, too.

6. CICH: You’ve curated examples of catification from around the world on your web site, but was there one that just blew you away because of its creative solution, regardless of cost or time spent in creating it?

KB: I think the most impressive examples of fully integrated Catification come from Japan, where architects have built entire houses with the cat features designed in from the beginning. The end result is a seamless and elegant environment that appears to work beautifully for both the resident cats and humans.

7. CICH: What would you do to your own home to make it a masterpiece of Catification or have you already achieved it?

KB: I don’t think that Catification is ever complete; it’s an ongoing process. I’ve added some great features to my home including a large enclosed catio with climbing shelves and perches (featured on page 228), but now that I’ve watched the cats use the space, I see where I can expand their superhighway and add other features. The same goes for inside, I’ve added pieces here and there, like the shelves over my desk featured on page 128, but now I have some bigger projects I’d like to tackle that connect everything together. Wait until you see what I have planned for the bedroom!


Used with permission from the author. Detail of Kate's office from page 128.

8. CICH: What would you suggest to people who have handicapped or senior cats and who want to catify their home but are concerned about their cats falling off shelves?

KB: Senior cats or cats with mobility issues do require special consideration. Definitely make sure that any surface they are climbing on has a non-slip covering, like a sisal rug remnant or rubber-backed floor mat, to give them better traction. Make sure that climbing shelves are nice and wide and you can even add a little railing on the edge. Ramps are very useful in households with senior cats or cats with mobility issues. We show you how to make a simple cat ramp on page 183 using just a board and some sisal rope. This ramp can be used to help cats climb up to places where they can no longer jump. The sisal rope gives them plenty of traction and serves double duty as a scratcher.


Used with permission from the author. Lovely, clear photography enhances the “how to” section of the book.

9. CICH (Only asked KB): How many cats do you have and how has catifying their space changed their inter-relationships or relationship with you?
KB: I live with my boyfriend and 11 cats in our 1,100 sq ft condo. The features we’ve added, like the catio and the climbing areas, really expand the space and give everyone a way to spread out so they’re not all fighting over the same spot. It’s interesting how some of them have their favorite spots, while others just want to be wherever we are. I can’t imagine living without cats, it would be very lonely and boring!

10. (Only asked JG): You combined homes when you married your wife Minoo. How did catification come in to play to help ease cat to cat and cat to dog introductions and did you do any planning before joining homes to how you’d set up cat superhighways?

JG: Galaxy related that it’s an ongoing process for everyone and that just because he’s the Cat Daddy doesn’t mean things are all “rainbows and unicorns.” He mentioned the recent loss of his cat, Chuppy and described him as being the “corrections officer” keeping the others in line. He wasn’t necessarily the “alpha cat,” but he made sure things ran smoothly. After his passing Galaxy describes the chaos that ensued and that he and Minoo are still adjusting and adding routes throughout their home and removing any dead ends near litter pans. Right now he doesn’t feel he has the luxury of imagining what it could be, but is focused on “building by necessity.”

I asked him about special needs and senior cats and how to catify for them. Galaxy hinted about there being more focus on that coming up in another project, but was hesitant to tell me more. He did offer that things like rails for shelves, or ramps that gently rise have to be factored in for some cats. Seniors need more horizontal catification, but he added his 23-yr old cat Velouria still wants to get on the table and he made sure there was a way for her to do that safely.



is 304 pages in paperback and other formats and is available NOW. You can find ordering options HERE. List price is about $12.90 depending on format.

You can catch Jackson and Kate in person on their Book Tour, too! There are still a few stops left.


ONE LUCKY PERSON will WIN A FREE COPY OF CATIFICATION (and MAYBE it will even be autographed if I can get it done when I see the authors in a few days). At least you’ll get a book. Open to residents of USA only. To enter simply LIKE our FACEBOOK PAGE, then LEAVE a comment HERE. One comment per person. Duplicates will be eliminated. Tell me WHY you need Catification and best, funniest, most clever, subject to my choice will win a copy of the book. DEADLINE IS OCTOBER 24, 2014 2:22PM EST.

Not a Moment too Soon. Saturday's Story.

One of my friends texted me Friday night. His wife found a cat wandering, thin, weak in the middle of the road. They are big animal lovers so it wasn't a surprise she ran to the cat's aide.

They hadn't seen the cat before, unlike many others who have come and gone through their yard this summer. They asked their friends and neighbors if anyone was missing their cat, meanwhile they were wondering what to do for her until they could find her family. I stepped in to offer help and guidance not realizing what that would mean until later.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. You can't really see it but she is VERY thin. You can easily feel all her bones, yet she still manages to purr for us.

I had planned to bring them some food and take photos of the kitty, but they told me she had a cough. I didn't want to chance it with her being sick so I offered to pay for the vet exam if they took her down the road to my vet, Dr. Larry's office. I didn't think it would be a big issue, but little did I know the kitty would be in far worse condition than I expected.


The kitty is a female. Betty, who runs the front desk at Dr. Larry's named her Saturday since we had to have a name for her records. We joked about what an odd choice it was for a name, but the laughs didn't last long. Once I got a good look at the cat my heart sank. She was thin, dirty. You could tell she felt cold from the effects of starving for who knows how long. My friends said she hadn't eaten over the night and only slept. She had a frailness about her I'd seen before in older cats that gave me pause.


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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Sweet Saturday.

We ended up doing blood work and it surprised us that she was in better shape than we feared. Clearly she had issues from being seriously dehydrated but most of her functions were ok and she did not have Feline Leukemia or FIV, which is great news. Dr. Larry's partner, Dr. Mary, did the exam. She thought the kitty might be 10 years old or possibly even older. Her teeth are a mess but intact. She had a crust over her nostrils which we assumed to be an upper respiratory tract infection and along with it an odd snort/cough. These were things we could treat so I started to feel more hopeful as my friend and his wife bantered about talking about how they could not keep this cat, but yet she matched their dogs (my joke) and was sweet and was a girl in an otherwise all male household (the wife's reason to keep her).

Dr. Mary felt maybe she could go after getting SubQ fluids but ideally she should be on an IV. We talked about what was best for the sweet old kitty and I said we should do what's right, not what is the cheapest solution so we opted to transfer Saturday over to Newtown Veterinary Specialists (where I feel I should have my own room I've been there so often over the past few months).


We got Saturday settled at NVS and I got the estimate for her treatment. It was $1700.00 for about 36 hours of care. Dr. Mary had said we didn't need that much time so I pushed back and asked for a revised estimate. Here I was with a cat I knew nothing about, an older cat when I run a mostly kitten rescue. I was in over my head and I knew it wouldn't take much to drain our accounts for a cat that wasn't really ours. She might have a family out there looking for her. She might have been cruelly dumped. I guess it didn't really matter because Saturday needed help and my rescue was the only one who could provide the funds to make that happen if we used what I'd set aside to finally fix our foster room to help her.


This estimate of a bit over $1000. will be low. It was for only one day of care and Saturday is going to need 2 at least.

Saturday's been at NVS for a full day. She's still not eating. Her blood work is about the same, though in some areas she is a bit better. The red flag in her case is the fact that she won't eat. The Vets fear there is an underlying problem, like a cancer in her sinuses or cancer elsewhere. We'd have to do a very expensive CT scan to find it and then we have to look at how do we pay for these things and in the end does it make any difference for Saturday?

If any of you have read my stories before you know I am not one to give up on a cat. Right now we're giving her more time to be on the IV and I hope and pray she will eat on her own. They don't think she has an upper respiratory tract infection and that the crust we saw yesterday was not related to that, but something worse.

All I know is I want to continue to provide for this sweet girl. It's not right that she was cold, alone and starving when she should have a warm, love-filled life.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. In good hands.

Ways you can help Saturday

Call NVS and make a donation directly to Saturday's Fund at 203-270-8387. Please note: you will need a PayPal account to donate. They can’t take credit cards over the phone for security reasons.

We get more of your donation if you donate directly using our PayPal address: or if you go through our DONATE page on our web site.

You can mail a check to Kitten Associates, P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354.

Just SHARE this with your friends who have kind hearts and love cats. That helps Saturday, too.

Your donation is Tax Deductible. K.A. is a non-profit rescue and our IRS EIN is 27-3 597692.

Any funds we don’t use for Saturday we will set aside for other kitties who need help.

Pray or send good thoughts to Saturday. She needs all of our love.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. She was so tired she fell asleep while we waited for her blood test results to come back.

You Are My Everything

Dear Friends of Covered in Cat Hair,

The past two months have been grueling, as you have seen from my blog posts. If it wasn’t Twinkle-Twinkle breaking her leg or Fernando ripping his eyelid in three places, it was the death of a colleague or the passing of beloved foster cat.

Calling All Angels. The Passing of Celeste.

It’s hard to hold your head up high as a cat rescuer when you feel like you completely failed and in that error, an animal died because of it. It’s one thing to make a mistake on your taxes—sure it sucks, you might pay a fine or owe more than you should, but it’s not life or death.

WINNER BEST CAUSE BLOG. Kitten Associates!


I'm completely shocked, honored and delighted to win the 2014 DogTime Media Pettie Award for Best Cause Blog! Thank you Dogtime Media and all our friends who voted for our little rescue Kitten Associates and who believe and support what we do.

We'd also like to Congratulate and Thank Ingrid King, who writes The Conscious Cat and Angie Holland Bailey, who writes Texts from Mittens, who also won in their categories. Part of their award is a $1000.00 donation to any rescue or shelter and they both chose Kitten Associates. This means that we will soon have $3000.00 in award donations we can put towards our rescue efforts.

More than any amount of money or trophy, this award means we're on the right track—that our efforts have meaning to all of you, even more than simply (though it is never really simple) saving lives. We work very hard at what we do and are devoted to the cats in our care. I love sharing stories of how rescue works and how although it's not always a happy ending, it is one filled with love.

Thank you to everyone who tirelessly voted for us. We can feel your love, big time!


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