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Foster Mom

From Meh to Meow: Polly

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©2010 Maria Sandoval and ©2011 Robin AF Olson.

Polly has come a long way since we rescued her last October. She was sickly and we were very fearful that she was going to die. Fortunately, Polly is plucky and had two great foster moms looking after her. Although Polly STILL has sneezing and watery eyes, overall she's doing well and has grown a lot. She loves to play and get into trouble with her brother, Chester and if you dare to lay down near her, she's the first one on your lap, chest or head. Her purr is very loud, so don't try to sleep next to her.

Seeing her all these months later, reminds me that this is the day I was hoping would come-when I could look at Polly and know she's going to be okay. The worst of what ails her is over for now. With any luck, only better days are ahead of her.

Urgent: Mazie is Very Sick


Mama-Mazie, our foster cat, is a sweet girl. Just barely older than her own kittens, Chester, Cara and Polly, she's been waiting for her forever family to find her for months. No one has asked after her. No one wants to adopt her. I couldn't understand why because she's a VERY sweet cat and loves to “talk” to me. Her eyes are sparkling green and full of life-that is until yesterday afternoon.

I'm still struggling with constant headaches after a car accident I was in last year. Yesterday I had to have Trigger Point Injections followed by Physical Therapy. Basically TPI means, stick LOTS of needles into your muscle to “tenderize” the meat (muscle). It's not so bad until they find a knot in the muscle. That feels like a hornet sting. The Doctor did A shots into my upper back and into my NECK. Unhappy camper, was I.

I raced home to attend an online web presentation about Public Relations for shelters. I sat down for about 5 minutes, then realized I needed to feed the foster cats. I got their food ready and ran upstairs. The second I walked in the door something was wrong. Mazie was resting on top of a pillow. She looked uncomfortable. I went over to her and petted her. Tried to lift her down to the floor to see if she could walk. She CRIED when I touched her.

The kittens were clamoring to be fed, so I got them fed, but Mazie didn't want to eat. Bad sign. She is ALWAYS ready to eat. She was also unusually quiet. It's not the end of the world if a cat misses a meal. I ran down stairs to take part in the presentation. Meanwhile I started to fret about Mazie...I had a flashback that she had very loose stool on Sunday. Was she brewing a virus?

I couldn't concentrate on the talk so I ran back upstairs. That's when I saw it.

The wall, the bed, the cat tree, the floor was covered in vomit. It looked like a crime scene. My first fear was that it was CARA, but I had no way to know who did it. Mazie had moved to the floor and was laying on a cat bed, looking miserable. She started to lick her mouth, got up and went to a corner of the room and vomited. It wasn't much. Looked like the stomach contents after everything else had already come out.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Looks like a crime scene!

I started to get really upset. I called Connie. Thankfully, she was on her way home from work and said she could stop by. I went back to Mazie. I petted her again, this time trying to feel for injury, but she didn't want to be touched. She hissed and cried. She was in a lot of pain.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Vomit, everywhere.

I thought about the morning. Mazie and the gang were playing in my bedroom. She did see Nora and hissed at her, but that wouldn't make her get so sick. She ran around the room chasing the laser pointer light. Maybe she twisted a leg, pulled a muscle? No...she could walk, but it was very slowly. She kept trying to get away from me, searching the room for a place to hide.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. What is making you so sick, Mazie?

I called the Vet. They were about to close. Now I faced taking Mazie to the ER Vet when we just don't have the funds to cover that sort of visit. Connie got to my house in record time. I was so glad to see her. We spoke about whether or not to take her to the ER. We knew they would charge a lot more for the same tests that Dr Larry would run, but if Mazie could get through the night it would be better on all of us.

I really felt like I was getting kicked when I'm down. I've always found a way to come up with whatever I need for the cats, but now I found myself just shaking my head. I had to chose to keep Mazie home. We'd have to make it to the morning. Maybe she'd even feel better by then?

I checked on Mazie every hour until midnight. She refused to eat or drink. She did pee and poop (though that was not completely normal). She did not seem to be in pain in the litter pan, so that was good. So what WAS wrong with her?

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. My poor, sweet girl.

I tried to leave Mazie alone other than the quick check on her. I put my pajamas on and hoped I wouldn't have to do a middle-of-the-night drive to the ER. I couldn't clean up the linens from her vomit without moving her off the bed. It was only on the end of the bed, so I carefully set a place for myself to half lay down next to Mazie and not be in puke. Was that fun? No.

With my bad neck and back it was not good. Polly came over and laid on my shoulder, then moved to next to my face. She purred and looked at me, seemingly delighted that I finally was going to sleep with them one night. Mazie was still. Her breathing was shallow, but not too rapid. She was not open mouth breathing. Just laying there.

At 2 AM Mazie used the pan again. After that I was so tired, I dragged myself to bed. Set the alarm for 7am and fell into a nightmareish sleep.

This morning Mazie refused to eat. She was no better and no worse. I packed her up and took her to the Vet. She cried at the Vet's office. I told her it would be ok and that I would be back for her. They're going to give her fluids and do some bloodwork, probably a few x-rays, too. Hopefully I'll have some idea of what happened, fairly soon.

UPDATE: As I was writing this, Dr Larry called me. Mazie's white blood count is 53,000! High normal is 19,000. Her x-rays were clear. They can't get a cath into her-she is in too much pain and is resisting. They gave her sub-q fluids and injectable antibiotics. If she doesn't perk up, she will have to be transferred to an ER Hospital. They are repeating her FIV/FELV test-just in case. We do not know the cause for Mazie's infection.

Mazie was so bright and sunny barely 24 hours ago. Now the light has gone out of her eyes and she's in terrible pain.

If you'd like to help Mazie get the Vet Care she needs, please use the ChipIn widget below. Your donation IS tax deductible. Thank you for helping her. I am going to set the goal total high enough to cover a day at the ER Vet if it comes to that. I'll lower it if she stablizes later today. Remember, every dollar helps!!

Please be okay, Mazie. We're rooting for you.

Cara's Big Adventure

It's been a long week of Vet trips. I think Cara's getting used to being in the car, as long as I don't go faster than 70 mph. The faster I drive, the more distressed she gets, so I try to go easy, though if any of you have driven I-95 through southern Fairfield County you'll know the motto is: “I survived 95.”

I find that the longer I have cats and the more often I go to the Vet, I find myself questioning their choices and pushing back on the test or medications they prescribe. I know these cats medical history better than the Vet. They have many other patients to tend to. I can't expect them to remember everything. I find, too, that it's a good idea to make the most informed decision you can. Sure, I'm not perfect, but I can tell you if I had gone along with some recommendations to feed Cara dry food, that she'd be dead by now or at least in very serious shape.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara, chillin.'

I found myself doing that, again, regarding giving Cara antibiotics even though I knew she had an infection of some sort. I wanted more answers before giving her ANYTHING. Two Vets said, Convenia. Well, I've heard too many bad things about it and even if all if it was false, the fact that it's injectable and lasts for two weeks, means you can't STOP giving it if she has a bad reaction to it. Also, she's been on almost EVERY antibiotic there IS and I do NOT want to give her more unless her life is at stake.

So I compromised. Two days in a row of a single shot that lasted one day. It may have been enough to get Cara over the edge. We repeated her blood work and the white blood cell count was back to normal, but her Eosinophils were quite high-indicating either infection or allergic reaction to something.

Again, you must remember that blood work is a snapshot, not the full picture. Often times you have to repeat blood work to make certain there's a problem. I know we'll have to repeat Cara's again at some point.

Cara vomited a few more times. Once at the Vet (good timing so they could witness what was going on) and once a day after that for two more days. I knew Cara was facing something major-another endoscopy or exploratory surgery. Surely this darn cat was going to bankrupt all of us!

I was slated to meet Dr. K in Norwalk, abut an hour drive from here, Friday morning. I knew I was going to have a rough time with the drive because I HAD to get up at 4AM to watch The Royal Wedding. I'm not a nut about weddings, per se, but I did it because it's part of history and I like to be part of things, even if I'm in my PJ's eating scones and watching it on TV. I also did it because my Mother and I watched Charles and Diana get married and it was a nice memory to have, now that my Mother has long since passed away.

I saw the monumental “Kiss,” then ran out the door before the shocking second kiss occurred. No sooner than I got in the car, I realized I was really tired. The last thing you want to do is drive I-95 when you're sleepy, but that's what I did. I decided I'd take it slow, just stay in the right lane-be mellow.

Once I got on the highway, it was clear, you can't be on 95 and be mellow. That doesn't work. You're either stuck behind a diesel belching dump truck doing 45 mph or you get tailgated going 80 mph. Even the middle lane was full of nutty drivers, so I sucked it up and got in the left lane. Better to get it over with.

At one point I decided I HAD to wake up so I slapped myself! HARD! I've never done that before and I must say it did help my face sting. but I felt like I was going to shut my eyes and go to sleep, anyway. I opened the window and let the fresh air slap me, but Cara didn't like the extra noise, so I shut the window.

I got to VCA VREC right on time-alive, so that was good. I didn't have to wait long for the appointment. Out came Dr. K. She's awesome, but very speedy. She just cuts to the chase and goes over what she feels needs to be done, talking 100 words a second. Fortunately, I was able to keep up with her or in my sleepy-mind I fooled myself into believing that was the case. She decided she wanted to take a quick look at Cara using their ultrasound machine-even though we just had it done by another Vet at a different hospital. Before I could start my mental adding machine, she said she was just going to take a peek-don't worry about any charge.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara was VERY popular with the ladies at the front desk.

This is when I was sure I was sleeping, because I must have been dreaming. Dr. K whisked Cara away and I went back to the waiting room and got a “free” cup of tea, hoping it would revive me. Everyone in the waiting room had a dog-purebred. I was definitely in the wrong place. I ended up impressing a woman by identifying her dog—a schipperke. The lady next to her challenged me to guess her dog's breed. Without missing a beat, I said; Clumber Spaniel. She was surprised I knew it and said most people got it wrong. I told her I watch Westminster Kennel Club dog show every year, which I do, but I didn't tell her I knew it was a Clumber because I really don't like that breed at all.

Another lady brought in a Scottie. He was carried in the door, wrapped in a towel. They rushed the dog into the back where the Vets do their secret things. The woman had been crying. The other dog owners were telling her they knew what she was going through and they were so sorry. I didn't want to know what was going on. I'd rushed my own cat, Stanley, there many years ago and he came home with me, in a cardboard box. It was too late for them to help him, too.

Dr. K came out of the exam room and motioned for me to join her. She said that (BIG SIGH HERE), there was no need to do endoscopy on Cara, nor did she feel there was a need to do exploratory surgery-just yet. She repeated the x-rays we just did two days ago and DID see evidence of a small amount of corn-based cat litter in her intestines. She didn't see anything else that was alarming, but did feel Cara could still have some sort of parasitic infection or allergic reaction to her food.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. They let her answer the phones, but she wasn't good about writing down messages.

Oh no...her food. Here we go again. She better not tell me to feed Cara dry food. Thankfully, she only asked me to feed a unique protein in a canned food and she had to write a prescription for me to get IVD Duck & Peas formula. I asked if it had grain. She assured me it did not. I grumbled about the food, but told her I would get some. She told me to de-worm Cara for three more days using Panacur and she also gave Cara an emedic to keep her from vomiting for a day or so. Other than that, we'd just wait and see.

Of course, if Cara DOES continue to vomit, we're looking at endoscopy AND possibly surgery. I wasn't going to start worrying about that. I wanted to focus on getting Cara better.

It's been two days since we saw Dr. K and Cara has been keeping her food down. Last night her energy level was jaw-dropping. She could almost fly on her own she can jump so high. This morning there was a mishap, a step back. I discovered one of the cats had broken the light bulb in the lamp in their room. Broken bits of glass were all over the floor. The cats were right in the area with the broken glass. I acted quickly to get them out of the room, but the next thing I envisioned was yet another trip to the Vet. What fun would it be...four cats with glass in their paws?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara doesn't like “Love Triangle,” but I can't help watching it.

That Vet bill is not math I care to do. The cats seem fine, but Cara got so badly frightened by the vacuum cleaner, even though it was quite far away from her and she couldn't even see it. She started to viciously hiss at me, then ran and hid. She's never ever been even the slightest bit nasty with me or her siblings. She's doing better now, but I think we all need a nice quiet evening with NO MORE VET TRIPS and perhaps a restful nap.

Yes, a nap. I could go for that, just not a dirt-nap.

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 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).

Not on My Watch: Finding a Way to Say Yes

I want to rescue every cat who needs help. As far as I'm concerned, they could all live here with me. It's “Kitten Season” and so many cats are giving birth right now-kittens everywhere. It will only get worse in the coming weeks. This is the time when most cat rescue groups gear up for the onslaught with calls coming in from frantic owners or just folks that find a surprise litter of kittens in their yard. Many of those cats aren't going to see their first birthday. Thinking about that makes my heart ache.

I want to be one of those groups who can say YES to taking in pregnant mamas or mamas and kittens, but the reality is that without foster homes, my hands are tied. Between my own cat, Bob having lymphoma and ringworm and my current fosters too sick to be adopted out, I have nowhere to put any more foster cats—plus it's just not good to bring more cats into this environment until we can do a serious scrub down.

I can't tell you how much I HATE not being able to say YES. I want to get going; get more cats into our Program so we can help save lives. I know it's temporary. I'll work it out. We'll get more foster families. We'll get our funding going. The thing is...I know that more cats will die because I can't say YES. I know it's not my fault, but knowing that I could have helped, but couldn't put all the elements in place to make it happen-that troubles me greatly.

A few months ago I said my last “YES” to helping two more kitties: Noelle and Amelia.

©2011 Maria Sandoval. Sweet little Noelle.

Noelle was lost. A little kitten, cold and starving, hid under the hood of a car to get warm this winter. It was her mistake, but maybe her saving grace that she did what she did. Someone heard her cry when they started up the car. They were able to get to Noelle before she died. For her troubles, she had to give up most of her tail, but she got rescued and found herself in a warm home with our foster Mama in Georgia.

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©2011 Maria Sandoval. Rub the belly!

Because I've been partnering with Animals in Distress in Wilton, CT, I've been able to help out an extra adult cat or two. When our foster Mama, Maria, asked to rescue one more kitty, I could say YES because AID was there for us. Her name is Amelia and she's a lovely tortie/calico and over the months has formed a deep friendship with Noelle.

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©2011 Maria Sandoval.

The girls just gpt onto a PETS transport headed north-the same one they use on Last Chance Highway on Animal Planet. They'll be here early Saturday morning and I couldn't be more excited to finally meet them! Their arrival is another success-another sigh of relief. They're on to the next part of their journey-going to a small shelter that loves their cats, where they will make new friends and await their forever families to find them. Once they're adopted, we'll try to make room for rescuing a few more, but it's not enough.

©2011 Maria Sandoval. Amelia and her awesome white toes.

We've GOT to find a way to save more cats. If you happen to live near us in Newtown, CT and you'd like to know more about fostering kittens for a few weeks, please contact me at info(@) and if you want to save lives in your own hometown, contact your local shelter or rescue groups (you can find a list of them on Petfinder by doing a “search by state”). It doesn't take a big committment-just a few weeks until the kittens are old enough to be adopted. You'll literally save lives, right before your eyes.

Help me say YES! Let's DO THIS!

FCJ: Feeling Stuck

It's been a very long road for Polly and her family. They've been here for three and a half months-the longest I've ever had fosters. They should have found their permanent homes a long time ago, but chronic upper respiratory for some or life and death strictures for another, made it impossible to put them up for adoption. The exception is Chester and his mama, Mazie.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Mr. Handsome! (Chester Cheesetoes)

Chester never got as sick as Polly and didn't have two strictures that Cara is recovering from. He's just a big, love-bug whose already had lots of interest from potential adopters. I've held off moving him because he has a slightly runny eye. I think that a visit to the kitty eye doctor for both him and Polly are going to be needed. I won't adopt out a sick cat unless that cat is deemed “special needs.” I worry that once adopted, the cats might not get the care they'll require-the extra observation and attention to make sure they don't break with the URI again. I have to be very careful about screening adopters. In fact, I had one application come in and in doing the background check I discovered they had not one cat, as listed on their form, but over 18 animals, ranging from ferrets to dogs and a few cats! The Vet they listed said they had not SEEN any of these animals for TEN YEARS!

©2010 Maria S. Polly a few days after being rescued, before she got sick.

For the most part, Polly and Chester are in good shape. Polly is FINALLY getting spayed TODAY. I hope she'll do all right. She's a tiny bit sniffly, but I really can't wait any longer. She's about to go into heat, if she hasn't done so already. I can't believe how big she is. I'm facing the very real problem of not being able to find her a home she's getting so large. I worry about Cara and especially Mazie, who no one has had an interest in adopting. I had planned for her to go to my friends at Animals in Distress where she'd be seen every week at their open house. It would mean separating her from her babies and putting her in a room with many other cats. She broke with a tiny DOT of ringworm so I held her back for four extra weeks, but that is long gone now. I just couldn't bring myself to let her go. I'm hanging onto the hope that she can be adopted with one of her babies. It's a long shot, but I want to her babies are not babies.

Who will want these cats when “kitten season” is here?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Polly before heading off to be spayed.

AND I still have Noelle, remember her? The kitty caught in the car engine? She's in Georgia with another Henry Co. cat we rescued last year. We need to get them up here and adopted quick! They're just waiting around. I had to put off moving them because I have no space for her. Plus, I can't help any more cats. I HATE not being able to rescue! It really bothers me a lot. In fact I feel a lot of shame about it. I really do. Without foster families, my hands are tied. I can't bring any cats into my house. I'm full up. We need some local folks to help out and join our forces so we can start rescuing all those spring babies that are starting to be born!

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©2010 Maria S. Noelle after the surgery to dock her tail.

Then there's MacGruber. Yeah, he's STILL here, too! I had to hold him back because the little bugger had a TINY dot of ringworm on his foot. Ugh. He's loving his life. He and Blitzen are constantly together, either playing or getting into trouble. They chase after Petunia and that's caused a lot of problems. Can you spell, inappropriate urination?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. MacGruber has made himself at home it seems.

We wish Mac could stay with us. He really feels like a part of the family. He's got a huge personality, that's for sure, but we also know he'll get ten times more attention-which he deserves, if he had a family to call his own.

That ALL that any of these kitties dream of...a good home...and SOON!

FCJ: Cara Melle is Super Swell

It's been three weeks since Cara had her first endoscopy. She endured a very difficult recovery, while I tried to survive the every-6-hours-for-two-weeks medication schedule. She fussed and squirmed with every syringe filled with Carafate (aptly named, I think), which is used to treat peptic ulcers; said to bind to the ulcer site and coat it. This would help Cara's badly damaged esophagus to heal if I could get the meds into her.

Cara began to eat more comfortably and gained weight. She also began to grow-FINALLY and her odd looking coat began to fill in. Her chocolate brown fur was due to malnutrition. I was sure of this as I saw it change into a darker, more rich, almost black. She looks like a white mitted “classic” tabby, just like her brother, Chester, only he's orange.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara at the Vet.

Yesterday I took Cara back to be re-evaluated by Dr. K. The Vet hospital was very busy. I met a woman in the waiting room whose cat had stopped eating for two days, was lethargic and vomiting. I asked her what she was feeding her cat. The answer-really cheap dry kibble. I just about fell over. I tried to figure out a way to talk to her about it but when I broached the subject, she cut me off saying; “that's what she's been eating her whole life.” So I guess it makes it good? I wasn't up for another battle. I felt badly for the cat. When I left later that morning, she hadn't found out why her cat was so sick. More tests to be done.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Toe flavored toes. Yum!

As for Cara, well she's just a ray of sunshine. She purred and climbed on me while we were in the waiting room. She washed her paws and looked around. We waited for a good 30 minutes before Dr. K. came to see us, but I just enjoyed the one-on-one time.

I wish you could have seen what happened next. Dr. K burst into the room. She didn't say hello to me, but walked right over to Cara asking; “How is our girl today?” With that, she scooped Cara up in her arms and DID NOT LET HER GO the entire time we talked. She didn't examine her. She just held her tight and petted her and petted her. Clearly, Dr. K has a crush on our little foster feline.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara warming up those big green eyes to use on Dr. K.

We spoke about next steps. She said we didn't have to do the endoscopy, but it would be good to have the information. I reminded her that unless she was going to adopt Cara, that I needed to know if Cara was going to be a special needs adoption and that we really needed to get to the bottom of this. She agreed. Before I could even wave goodbye to Cara, I was sent on my way, wondering if this sweet woman was going to let me take Cara home or if she was going to stick her in her pocket?

A few hours later, Dr. K. called. Cara's distal stricture (say that five times, fast) was still a bit red but about 70-80% healed. The proximal stricture looked very good and well healed, but there was difficulty passing the scope through the area so she decided (on her own and with out getting permission to spend our money!) to do another balloon dilation. Before I could say a word she said she didn't charge us for it!!! It only took a second of her time and it was just a quick tweak of that area. She administered the steroid shots in to the stricture to keep it from reforming. She did all this “because of all the good work we do.”

I'm pretty sure she doesn't know much about my rescue group, Kitten Associates, but I have a good idea that she DOES have a liking for little Cara. Way to go, Cara! You put those big green eyes to work!

Dr. K feels that Cara should recover from this health crisis and not be a special needs adoption As she grows, she should do just fine. I need to give Cara two more weeks of medications-thank goodness it's only once every 12 hours this time. After the two weeks has passed, I call Dr. K to update her and hopefully Cara can be spayed and will be ready to be adopted!

Only time, good food and more yucky medications will get Cara ready for what awaits her-a home with a really great family...Or is it possible that Cara may already be spoken for?

FCJ: Full Speed Ahead

Cara had her first endoscopy performed twelve days ago. She was weak, frail and exhausted on that drive home after the procedure. The next day I began giving her medications at least every six hours. It's a complicated combination of medications that have to be given on time. Although I'm turning into a zombie from lack of sleep, Cara's been turning the corner!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara nibbles on her arm. Good eats!

Each day I brought Cara her food. Watered down baby food plus A/D (which I do not want to feed her!). It's a thin porridge-like consistency. I trained Cara to eat inside a cat carrier. This way her siblings or mother can't bother her (much) as she's eating and I can monitor how much she eats. It also keeps HER from getting into the canned food her family gets. I have to make sure Cara's esophagus has time to heal. Should she eat thick canned food, it might open up a sore or cause a stricture to reform.

I have to be scrupulous about not letting her have a nibble of anything, because she knows to explore the area where her family is fed, after I take up their plates and wipe down the rubber placemat. Cara frantically sniffs and licks at the tiniest morsel. At least her drive to eat is strong, but it could get her into trouble.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara and Polly watch President Obama's speech after the earthquake. The kittens and I are very sad.

Then, I'll wait. I'll sit with the cats and watch Cara. She had some grumbling tummy, some burps, but nothing too bad. I looked for signs of vomit around the room and found none. I decided after more than a week, to give Cara different canned food, baby food and water. She ate it but it was a bit thick and I thought she might vomit. The next morning I found a HUGE vomit all over the bed, with lots of water in it, too. I couldn't believe that tiny Cara had that much food in her AND she would have done it many hours after eating. I hoped that maybe her mama, Mazie had done it, not her.

Since I was worried that it WAS the food, I went back to the old standby.

After the first week, I spoke with Dr. K and she said to stay the course. Now we're at almost the end of week two and it's time to update Dr. K again to see what should be done next. Cara is growing rapidly and gaining weight. She's running around the room like a maniac, chasing after Polly and Chester. If she can keep down thicker food, then she may be out of the woods and will not need another balloon dilation. It's too early to say, but right now, she's looking great!

And since it's been almost two weeks, I think I can safely (I hope) say that I'm very glad we did NOT place a feeding tube into Cara. Cara seems very comfortable now, so perhaps we're one step closer to Cara being ready to be adopted? It's truly amazing to see her progress.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Who feels better? ME!

Go little sweetie, go!

FCJ: From Meh to Meow

My friend, Connie says that Cara reminds her of a little bird, with big, curious eyes and slender, delicate limbs. Cara IS a fragile creature. I'm afraid to pick her up. The endoscopy has taken quite a toll on her and I find my reaction to her is to be as gentle as possible.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor little baby. The morning after endoscopy.

Cara needs care around the clock. I had to take a step back from EVERYTHING in my life, other than cat care, to make it work. No blogging, no answering emails, other than very important ones, no working on getting MacGruber, Chester and Mazie adopted. I'm on my own most of this week, which makes it more difficult, but Sam needed to be at a Conference in Chicago, so he left not long after Cara returned from the Vet hospital. In a way, it's a good thing he's gone. I can get up at all hours of the night and not bother him and not having to worry about making dinner or shopping is a relief. In a twisted way, I'm getting a vacation.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The nightmare shedule.

Some vacation! I've been in a daze. I absolutely must stick to the schedule of giving out medications. I want Cara to heal, feel better, be happy again. I do NOT want her to have to be rushed back to the Vet. She's been through so much already. I chose not to have the Vet implant a feeding tube, so I have to make this work. I can't make a mistake-the food can't be too thick. Cara cannot vomit. She just can't. If she does-she goes right back to the Vet for another $1000.00 procedure.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. They say cats are stoic about hiding their pain, but it's clear that some times the pain is too much, even for them to bear.

On Sunday, Cara looked like Hell. I realized she wasn't laying down, but rather, sitting up, trying to sleep while her siblings ran around the room, bouncing off the walls. It was not the best place for her, but I didn't want to move her into a crate somewhere else. Her room is nice and warm and there's a big brown electric blanket for her to warm herself on. Even with all that, I find her sitting on top of the space heater as it rotates back and forth-as if she's on a ride at Disneyland for very sick kittens. She's just cold. It must be due to her low body weight.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Polly is huge in comparison to little Cara.

The past few days have become a bit of a blur. My iPhone alarm goes off to remind me it's time to do something for Cara every few hours. I get up like a zombie and do whatever it is that needs to be done. I can't leave the house for very long, nor can I sleep for very long. I find myself grabbing naps whenever I can. I still have to provide care for Bob and make sure the other cats are fed and...just before Sam left, we found out Nora has an eye infection that must be medicated, too. It's only for two weeks! I know this will pass. I just need to get through it.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara is painfully thin.

Cara didn't move around very much. She didn't eat very well, either. I changed her food a little bit and found something she likes even if it's very watered down. She eats all her food, then burps and gurgles. I'm sure she's not used to having a full tummy so after she eats, she just sits quietly. I think it's too much for her to do much else. Meanwhile, I sit with her, take notes to track her progress and wait to see if something is going to happen. I whisper to her; “Please don't throw up...please.” So far, she hasn't vomited since Friday.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. At last, after a few days, Cara can lay down for more than a few moments.

Cara tried to lay down, but her tummy grumbled too much. She sat up with her eyes closed, teetering back and forth. Eventually she got so tired she had to lay down. She could only do it for brief periods of time. When she did lay down I could see how much thinner she had become. I felt a knot in my gut, too. Would Cara begin to bounce back and if so, how long would this take?

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. A big moment-Cara reached out for a toy.

Connie stopped in to visit Cara last night after we took a break and went out for dinner. While she was there, Cara ate up a good deal of dinner, then looked up at us brightly, as if to show off that something was going on-something good. I teased a ribbon toy in front of her. She reached out and touched it. She just sat there, not moving, but that she would try to play at all, was a great sign. Clearly she was exhausted just from eating, so we let her rest.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Look who's feeling better!

This morning, my alarm went off at 6am. I dragged myself out of bed. All I had to do was give Cara one medication, then I could go back to bed for an hour before I had to feed her. Every time I open the door to the foster room, I wonder what she'll be doing. Will she be resting and be comfortable? Will she still be hunched over in pain?

I opened the door and I didn't see Cara. All I saw was a blur as she RAN out of the foster room and RAN down the stairs! Clearly, she's beginning to feel better or she's as sick of getting medications as I am giving them to her.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. There's the expression I've been missing for almost a week! Is she back for good? I sure hope so!

Cara ate well today and ate quite a bit. Her eyes sparkle again and she has pep! She's still far too thin, but with time that may improve. It is FAR TOO SOON to say that Cara is out of the woods. Her strictures can come back in a heartbeat and odds are they will any day now, as the usual time between them closing again is 5 to 7 days. Usually these strictures have to be re-opened one or two more times to stay open, so there's still a long way to go.

That said, when I look into Cara's bright green eyes, I see what was missing for so long. I see joy and her mischeivious nature has replaced hunger and pain. It's an amazing sight, truly amazing.

FCJ: The News We've Been Waiting for About CARA

I feel hungover from interrupted sleep, and little of it. I can't imagine how Cara feels in comparison. From the look of her, I'd say she feels a lot worse than I do. The last 24 hours have been difficult.

Yesterday we started fundraising for Cara's Vet Care so we could get funds for her to have an Endoscopy. It's a much needed diagnostic test that we hoped would lead us closer to finding out what's wrong with Cara.

We were very lucky that a compassionate, anonymous person (really a Guardian Angel) came forward and offered to LOAN us enough money to get the test done. It WOULDN'T solve our fundraising problem because we have to pay it back, but at least we could move fast and get the test done. I was able to book her an appointment within an hour of getting help from Cara's Guardian Angel.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara, ready to just play and love life just hours before her procedure.

It was a good thing we didn't wait another SECOND longer. We have answers. No more tests needed. It's not good news.

Cara's esophagus is in TERRIBLE shape. It's filled with bloody ulcers. The lining of the esophagus is thickened from being so irritated.

Cara has TWO strictures-which is a closing of the esophagus due to, in Cara's case, either a genetic component or the fact that she had Doxycycline at such an early age (which I didn't know was something that can cause a problem and I need to look into this further). One of the strictures was SO SMALL they could not get the scope into her stomach-how was she getting any food at all?

Cara must be in HORRIFIC PAIN. Think of the worst sore throat you ever had, times 10. Every time you eat it hurts. No wonder Cara was vomiting! The food could barely pass into her stomach, yet she was losing vital nutrients and was SO VERY HUNGRY at the same time!

The options:

Balloon dilation. Just what it sounds like. Under anesthesia, they insert a small balloon into the esophagus and inflate it very carefully. It forces the esophagus open. Then they inject a small amount of steroid into the thickened tissue to get the swelling down.

If they do this, the esophagus can tear, the chest fills with air and you have a VERY SERIOUS LIFE THREATENING situation on your hands, but you HAVE to do something because soon, Cara will not be able to pass ANY FOOD into her stomach.

If the dilation works, then they would want to insert a feeding tube into Cara. It would bypass her esophagus and go right into her stomach. I've heard about feeding tubes and how they can cause more problems than they solve. They can become infected, come out-which results in emergency gastric surgery. Considering Cara's in a room with her family and is a playful kitten, I couldn't imagine doing this to her. I also didn't feel I had the “chops” to provide that level of care without making a deadly mistake. I wanted to talk to Dr. Larry and find out if he could board Cara and provide her care for the two weeks we'd need if we put her on a feeding tube. I needed more time to think, but didn't have the luxury of having any.

I tried to stay calm while the Internist, Dr. K. gave me the news, but inside my heart was breaking. Would Cara ever have a normal life? Would she ever have a home of her own?

The Vet told me that Cara could have a good future, but that there was also a very good chance that the strictures would recur-soon. That the procedure would probably need to be re-done up to 3 times, before the stricture would stop closing up. Cara would have to be on a high calorie, liquid diet during this time.

Cara could also end up having to be on a liquid diet for the rest of her life and face having a stricture issue recur even if we fix her up now. That yes, it will cost money to provide the care, but no where NEAR the cost of the surgery to fix a PRAA, which would have been at least another $5000.00 on top of the money we needed for the balloon dilation, so that was good.

The Vet wanted to know if as a rescue group, if she should proceed with the treatment. She'd do the best she could for us regarding costs, but I could read between the lines of what she was really asking.

My reply was simple: We do NOT EUTHANIZE ANIMALS BECAUSE OF MONEY. She sounded relieved. I gave her the okay to do the dilation, but to hold off on the feeding tube. My hope is to see how we do for a few days. IF we can get Cara comfortable and eating well, she may heal on her own if she survives the dilation.

There are so many IFs. It's very tough to know what's best, but I knew that I'd be risking all sorts of extra trouble inserting a feeding tube. One step at a time...

The Vet called me a short while later. The dilation went VERY well. In fact she said that it just “popped” open and did so well enough that they could re-insert the scope and see into Cara's stomach. She said; “it looked beautiful.” That was a BIG RELIEF.

They kept Cara for about five hours after the procedure. Sam and I picked her up late last night, along with a huge BAG of medications and a two page list of directions for her care.

Sam drove and I ended up holding Cara, swathed in a big towel. She stretched out her front legs across my shoulder and put her head down and closed her eyes. Her front legs were both shaved in a band around half way up her leg. It made her paws look like she was wearing white mittens. Cara felt like a dead weight, which was very unnerving. She just laid on me, barely moving, the entire drive home. This wasn't the bouncy full-of-life kitten I'd seen just a few hours earlier. I felt panicked about my ability to provide the right care for this little sweetheart and her ability to survive the treatment.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara, this morning, after endoscopy. Not eating much and obviously feeling dreadful.

We finally have answers to what's been ailing Cara. It's not a PRAA-Persistent Right Aortic Arch. We don't have to travel out-of-state to find a surgeon to save her life. We can do everything we need to do right here, but the problem is-will Cara respond well to treatment or have a life filled with suffering?

We still need to continue to raise funds for Cara's care. Yesterday's procedure came in under the estimate, but Cara will likely need a few more balloon dilations. We're going to cross our fingers and leave our goal as is, for now. In a week if Cara is doing well, we'll lower the goal. We never want to ask for more than we need. Every dollar is sacred.

Thank you to the MANY people who responded right away to help Cara. It makes all the difference to be able to provide care for this much-deserving little darling. If you can't donate any funds, PLEASE DO CONSIDER SHARING THIS POST WTIH YOUR FRIENDS!

If Cara could talk, I bet she'd say; “Thank you for thinking my life is precious and worth fighting for.”

I couldn't agree more.


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