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Nature's Variety

The Squee Diaries. Ch 8. Paint the Town Brown

The miserable heat wave has vanished, replaced with blessedly cool and drier air. The windows are open for the first time in weeks. It feels more like autumn than the middle of July. I’m grateful for the respite, even if it will just last until morning.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. The gang at 7 weeks: Confetti Joe, Yukon Stan, Lil' Gracey, Precious Pete & Jellybean Mel (front).

Minnie’s kittens continue to delight me. Even without their mother’s careful tutelage, they surprise me by being willing to accept me as their surrogate—at least in as many ways as are appropriate. For a little over two weeks the kittens have been mine alone. Minnie has completely turned over her duties to me, without a look back or regret. She moved on before any of us were ready. Her sudden apparent rejection of all her kittens, first brought on by the pain of her illness, then perhaps due to her hormones, urging her to procreate again, was rather shocking. It was as if a switch was flipped and with it her motherhood came to a premature end. The kittens and I were lost for those first few days. Neither of us wanted to give up on her so each day I offered her one kitten. I held the kitten out to her with the door opened to her room. At first she would act out violently, hissing and growling, scaring the poor kitten badly. I’d soothe its fears and put it back with the others. Minnie would go back to her place and lay down, grooming away her anxiety over being presented with an unwelcome guest.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Minnie between vet visits.

I tried each day for a week to get Minnie to accept her kittens again. Minnie didn’t hiss as much, but reacted by retreating further into her room. The kitten would cry to her and she would reply with a tiny almost-chirp. Maybe she was telling the kitten that it’s time to grow up and be on their own and to trust that mama knows best.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracey.

What I didn’t expect was how the kittens immediately rallied, focusing their interest on me. When I’d previously entered the room, they would look up, maybe run past me, but now, they run over to me, try to climb up my leg or cry at my feet, hoping to be lifted into my arms for a cuddle. For seven and half week old kittens, they are all very friendly and affectionate. I realize that this will be better for them in the long run. Bonding with a human will serve them well one day when their families come to find them.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Eating raw.

Weaning kittens is always a challenge. They make a horrendous mess by running over their plate and tracking food all over the floor. Their litter pan habits still have a few kinks to be worked out so there’s “that” to be cleaned up as well. The literal dark side of weaning is that the kittens are also getting their digestion working, or not. The result for those tender tummies were piles of mushy brown splats all over the bathroom. At first I blamed it on parasites so I checked a stool sample out and the test came back negative. I still de-wormed the kittens with Strongid, which doesn’t get all the parasites, but it’s gentle enough.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh Stan! Swoon!

That didn’t work so I began adding a probiotic based in dehydrated goat’s milk to their food. The kittens liked it a lot, but it didn’t help, at least for the few days I fed it.

It got to the point where I didn’t want to enter the foster room. The poo-piles were always somewhere tough to get at, like behind the toilet and the smell could be bottled and used as a chemical weapon. I was very worried when I saw blood, some of it mucousy, in their stool. The kittens had very wet bottoms and many cried while in the pan. It’s one thing to work with one sick cat, but five sick kittens is a test of how to stay calm when in your mind you imagine that the kittens have the beginnings of something terrible and not just simple loose stools.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. After a day of raw (inset), canned food moosh-poop.

I kept the kittens clean and I scrubbed the floors a few times a day. I decided to take the kittens off whatever I was feeding and put them on a plain, raw chicken diet that also had proper vitamins and minerals added to it. They attacked it with such vigor that I was taken aback. Within 24 hours their stool showed signs of improvement AND they stopped using the floor for their toilet.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor Joey. Straining and crying in the litter pan.

On the second day, I saw less blood, but in a somewhat formed stool. The kittens behinds looked cleaner and the litter pan wasn’t as loaded. I went back to a new de-wormer and started them on that to see if it would help. I knew I might have to use something more powerful if I couldn’t get the blood to stop, but for now the kittens were racing around, gaining weight and having fun. No need to flip out.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. My little rock stars.

What was interesting to me was that I ran out of raw food and had to feed the kittens one meal of canned late at night. The next morning I found stool puddles all over the bathroom again. I wondered about the food being the culprit or was it just that the raw was easier on their tummies?

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Joey with mousey.

While I was trying to sort out what to feed the kittens, Minnie’s health took an odd turn. She went into heat and stopped eating. I haven’t seen a cat in heat since I was 9 and we were told to wait until our kitten was almost a year old before we should spay her. She went into heat and my parents thought it was amusing that she got so very friendly with my dad-especially. What it told me was that now with Minnie on her own, I couldn’t even spay her so she’d have to remain in her room without any cat-companionship for a while longer. Spaying a cat in heat is difficult because the uterus is engorged with blood and can tear easily. Since Minnie had just barely recovered from a terrible infection, I didn't want to put her into any higher risk for her spay.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. How many cats are in this photo? Hint: there is MORE than one.

I took Minnie to see Dr. Chris, who thankfully gives us an amazingly generous discount, and he told me that we could end Minnie’s estrous by stimulating her ovaries. I gave Dr. Chris a funny look then said; “You’re not even going to buy her dinner first?”

Then I wondered how this was going to be done. Next I thought…I don’t want to know.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Waiting for Dr. Chris.

Dr. Chris grabbed a thermometer and a cover for the tip then gestured for me to hold Minnie in place. He inserted the thermometer into Minnie’s vagina and twisted it around. Minnie started to vocalize loudly, her eyes wide. I thought she was going to bite me, but then quickly realized she was too busy getting her funk on with Dr. Chris to bother with me.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Stan and Mel.

In all the years I’ve done rescue, this is one thing I’ve never had to do. Dr. Chris told me that we had to irritate her, just as a male cat’s barbed penis would and it would end the cycle and we could spay her safely sooner.

Of course, I blurted out that if humans had barbed penises there would be three humans on Earth. He didn’t make a comment and I simply blushed.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Mine! Mine! Mine!

We opted to give Minnie her Rabies and FRVCP (distemper combo) vaccinations. I thought she’d be fine, but she had a nasty reaction to the shots. Her right front leg went lame and she didn’t get up for the next 24 hours. Worried, I called two Vets and they said to give her another day. By the second day she was up on her paws, but not eating well. I sat down next to her to give her some reassuring pets when I noticed a big red lesion under her left front leg-nowhere near where her vaccine was given.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Mellie.

Either she was having a nasty allergic reaction or somehow Minnie had gotten the dreaded “RW” (ringworm). Just as I thought Minnie was finally out of the woods, she was back in it again. I raced her over to Dr. Chris and he took a look. He thought it was an Eosinophilic plaque-possibly brought on by the vaccine OR it was “RW.”

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. A foreign lesion.

…but he was leaning toward the plaque to which I almost told him I would make out with him I was so happy. Ringworm means lots of fear it will spread to ALL of us..not just the cats but to me and Sam, too. No ringworm means Minnie can be with other cats much sooner and hopefully with some treatment she will feel much better, too. Fortunately for me, I kept my mouth shut and didn’t embarrass myself further. We did a culture of the fur near the lesion and we'll have to wait about 10 days for results.

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©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. Joe & Gracey.

In the meantime I will keep fumbling along, trying to right this tipping ship and hoping I can prepare myself for the kittens to be ready to go up for adoption soon. I knew I would get attached and now I have to figure out how to still love those babies to pieces without shattering my own heart.

NOTE: there were SO MANY PHOTOS I didn't have room in this post, so the next one will photos-only and please don't forget to VOTE so we can win a $1000 donation for our kittens!

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PRODUCT REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Nature's Variety Instinct® Boost Bites™ & Daily Boost™

After careful consideration, from time to time I write a product reviews. If you see it here, it's because, at LEAST I think it's worth you knowing about even if I have an issue with it and, at BEST, I think it's amazing and we should all have one, two or more of whatever it is I'm reviewing. I get NO reimbursement for writing these reviews, though to write a review I am supplied with the item, as I was in this case. This review is MY OPINION, ONLY. The result you experience using this product may differ.


If you've read my Blog for any length of time you know I'm passionate about providing my cat's with the best nutrition possible. For me the answer is to feed a raw diet I make at home using a single source protein and a few essential vitamins and minerals mixed in and that's about it. I realize that this choice is not for everyone, even if I feel it's the most appropriate for our obligate carnivore kitties.

Nature's Variety® Instinct line has come out with two new products that anyone can feed, regardless of what they currently feed their cat. Both are freeze dried raw products using the following single source protein per package: Lamb, Beef, Venison (with the exception of the Chicken which adds turkey and turkey liver). The ingredients include blueberries, salmon oil, pumpkin seeds and ground flaxseeds—all recognizable ingredients that you'd be able to buy in your local grocery store and eat yourself. There is no sign of chemicals, preservatives or cheaping out using low quality vegetable protein sources. I had no concerns test driving these products on my own cats and if you have a fear of handling raw food, don't worry. There's no chance of spreading a foodborne illness since the product is freeze-dried.

Instinct® Raw Boost Bites™ are freeze-dried raw treats and come in 4 oz packages at a suggested retail price of $9.99. They're medallion shaped and roughly the size of a half dollar, but much thicker. I think they're a bit large for a cat to eat as is so I broke them up into smaller pieces before I gave them to my 8 cats.

I gave the Bites to my cats and I also gave some to the shelter cats at Animals in Distress. The cats at AID are fed a mix of grain-free kibble and canned food. Some of the cats gobbled up the Bites while others simply sniffed at it. The ones who did enjoy the Bites wanted MORE. For a cat under 20 lbs in weight, you'd only want to give them ONE Bite a day or otherwise you have to adjust their daily intake of food so your cat doesn't get chubby. The Bites are soft enough that they crumble, but don't break apart into small pieces easily. I cut mine up into small slices and fed that way and it worked fine.

Does freeze-drying negate the raw quality of the product? What is Freeze-Dried Food?

“Freeze-dried food is fresh or cooked food item that has been frozen – then had the water removed. The result is a light-weight, fresh appearing and tasting preserved food that can be rehydrated with a minimum amount of water…

The process involves freezing a fresh food (fruit, dairy, vegetable, cooked meat or fish) in a special “freeze drying chamber,” then removing the water by quickly changing the chamber’s pressure and temperature. This causes the water in the food to change from a solid to a gas without ever changing back into a liquid. This “quick change” process preserves the cell structure of the food without compromising vitamins, nutrients, color or aroma.”

Source: Oregon Freeze Dry via PackitGourmet

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©2012 Nature's Variety

Instinct® Raw Daily Boost™ is similar to the freeze-dried raw treats, only this is in a powdered form. It comes in 11 oz canisters at a suggested retail price of: Chicken ($25.99), Beef ($25.99), Lamb ($27.99) and Venison ($27.99).The idea behind this is to use the as a way to supplement or “Boost” the quality of the food your cat is eating. If you feed kibble or canned, you can sprinkle it on the food, increasing palatability as well as enhance the overall nutrition they're getting. Is this a band-aid for feeding a lower quality of food? I hope not, but with the economy the way it is, if you have to feed lower quality food, perhaps there would be some benefit-as if you were giving your cat a daily vitamin?

Just sprinkle a tablespoon onto the cat's food twice a day. The container has 60 servings in it so it will last awhile if you don't have many cats.

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©2012 Nature's Variety

What I used the Raw Daily Boost for was as a flavor enhancer. There are times when my cats just aren't in the mood for raw turkey or chicken, what have you, and I find that sprinkling a bit of bonito flakes or dehydrated chicken gets them going. The problem for me is that one of my cats can't have fish and the dehydrated chicken is very expensive. Although the Daily Boost is roughly $26.00 to $27.00, retail, the price per serving is significantly less than the dehydrated chicken treats I was using from another company.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Boost Powder shown before we wipe out the container completely.

The nicest surprise was seeing how much my cats liked the powder. It was very well tolerated and I do believe it helped get them to eat their food.

I gave my friend, Irene, a few tablespoons to give to her cat, Oscar. Oscar is 20 years old and is VERY finicky these days. Irene didn't think anything would get Oscar to eat, but low and behold, with the Boost, sprinkled onto his food, Oscar ate well for the first time in a long time.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The Boost Bites are a bit large for a cat to eat. This package is NOT shown full.

What's great about this is the potential to get older, ailing cats to eat and usually by the time they're in that condition cat guardians will feed them ANYTHING they want. In this case, if you chose to try the Daily Boost, you're not harming the cat by giving it cheap, smelly food full of appetite enhancing chemicals-you're actually doing your cat some good.

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©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Foster Kitten Jakey grabbing a Boost Bite, but it's a little bit too big for him to manage without me breaking it up.

Is this product a cure-all, a Holy Grail food? No. No food is, but it's a good choice if you want to give your cat a healthy treat or if you have finicky eaters or simply want to give your cat some additional supplementation. I like seeing products like this hit the market. It gives me hope that the trend is aiming towards better quality, fewer ingredients and more wholesome options for our cats.


If you'd like to WIN a combo of (one 4 oz package) Instinct Raw Boost Bites & (one 11 oz container) of Instinct Raw Daily Boost (protein type to be chosen at random) simply leave a comment on why your cat needs a Boost, below. FOUR NAMES will be selected at random to WIN! You can only leave ONE comment for one chance to win per person. Voting ends FEBRUARY 2, 2012 at 2:22 PM EST and is open to residents of the USA, only (sorry guys!). Rules, quantities and whatever else I forgot are subject to change without notice.

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