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Celebrating Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month in the Obvious Way

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©2010 Henry Co. Care & Control. Chester is born.

Chester Cheesetoes was born October 15, 2010 in a stainless steel cage at Henry County Care & Control in McDonough, Georiga. He was the first of three offspring-the second, his sister Polly and third, little sister, Cara. Chester's Mother, Mazie gave them plenty of love and nourishment. It wasn't a perfect home, but for now, it was a safe place to raise her family.

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©2010 Maria Sandoval.

In a few weeks time, Chester began to see the world through kitten-blue eyes. He had no idea his life, barely begun, could end at any moment. He was, in fact, in a “Kill” shelter, where he and his family could meet a swift end with the hint of a sniffle or if they needed to make room for another. His, was a life of confinement, though he was happy being close to his mother. It only troubled her when she wanted to stretch her legs. Chester slept, tucked close to his family on bed of newspaper or a towel. The smell of the litter pan, which was only inches away, mixed with the warm sweet smell of his mother's belly.

©2010 Maria Sandoval.

Chester and his family were very lucky. Just as one of the kittens began to sneeze, Kitten Associates, Inc., stepped in to rescue them. It was a good thing, too. For Chester and his family fell ill while in foster care-very ill. Chester, being the biggest, didn't get nearly as sick as his sisters. It was touch and go for many weeks. There were lots of trips to the Vet and lots of medications to be taken. Finally, they were all well enough to travel to Connecticut and live with their new foster Mom- “Aunt Robin” and her clutter.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Fun with the iPad. Chester (front), Mazie (back), Polly (left), Cara (right).

Chester slowly got better. After three months of being sick, he was well enough to be neutered and put up for adoption. He was still a little guy and applications by the fist full arrived. Almost as soon as Chester was placed on Petfinder, he contracted the dreaded ringworm. It was just a small spot on his head, but he could not be adopted until he was treated and cleared of the fungus-another 4 weeks would go pass while he grew even bigger, and a little bit less adoptable.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

As Chester grew it became clear he was something special. His classic tabby swirled pattern was defined and beautifully symmetrical. Chester was much bigger than his sisters, but he was a gentle giant. Chester would rather give kisses and snuggle, than do just about anything else. When he was naughty and got scolded, instead of running away, he would run over to give more kisses as a way of saying “sorry!”.

Chester also loved other cats, in addition to his own family. If there was such a thing as a model of perfect cat-ness, this cat was it.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Chester and Blitzen meet for the first time. No cats were harmed after this photo was taken.

By May, though Chester was healthy, many of the adopters couldn't wait for him and adopted other cats. There was no rush to get Chester adopted. He was so easy to love, but he was larger than his mother, now, and anyone who wanted a kitten, would not want him any longer.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Mother and Son.

One day, a lady wrote, inquiring about Chester. She had a big orange cat who died last year and she and her husband felt they were ready to adopt another cat, not to replace the one they lost, but because the cat who died was so special, they had developed a fondness orange boys.

They lived far away in another state, but after many conversations and a few calls to their Vet, it was clear that this family would go above and beyond for Chester. Not only would they change the diet they were currently feeding their two cats and two Italian Greyhounds (who believe they are cats and are afraid of other dogs) to a more species appropriate diet; they went on a shopping spree and bought Chester a tall cat tree and lots of new toys.

They also admitted that they had fallen for Chester before they even met him. It just doesn't get any better than this.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. You will be missed, big guy.

Very soon, the adopters will arrive and make their final decision on whether or not Chester is going to be their new family member. Though there is the temptation to wish they would change their mind and leave Chester behind, we know that it's for the best-that Chester will get lots of love and a wonderful home at last.

This is the moment we dreamt about in the beginning-when Chester was first rescued. That day he would leave and begin a new journey-one he has been ready for for a long time.

In just a few more hours we'll know if Chester is adopted. For now, we'll focus on enjoying our last hours with him, with a very heavy heart, but the comfort of knowing that his adoption will bring us one step closer to being able to rescue even more cats.

WSJ Article Slamming Owners for their Obese Pets is Way Off Base!

Gwendolyn Bounds wrote an article earlier this week in the
Wall Street Journal decrying the epidemic of obesity in cats and dogs in the United States. While it's true this IS an epidemic of obese pets, how we got to this point with out companion animals is way off target.

She notes that pets are like their overweight parents, under-exercised and over fed. That the only solution is to do the same for people as we do for our pets-put them on a diet! Make them exercise! And yes, to solve this problem, some pet food manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon and are now offing a "weight watchers" style feeding program for fat pets!


Considering the pet food industry is at fault for our pets soaring weight problem, the finger needs to be pointed at THEM, not the pet owners; especially in regards to cats.

Let's get a few things straight:

If you look at the history of pet food, when it started to be available at the turn of the last century, it was a way to make a profit off of the leftovers of other processes and most of them were related to the GRAIN industry. What to do with horse meat, rendered animal fat of who-knows-what animals? What to do with all this corn and corn by-products? Let's put them into pet food. Up until that time owners were feeding "table scraps" which was common to do and was actually much better for the pets health. Ads used to show that "including their pet food with table scraps would make a complete diet." They were just using it as a way to get folks to buy their junk, based on NO SCIENCE WHATSOEVER. It was based on making MONEY, pure and simple.

In the 1940's during WWII, the tin for cans had to go to the war effort, so manufacturers came up with dried food in bags. They began a marketing campaign saying that table scraps were BAD, might as well be poison, and the only really good food was their dry food. Again, not based on doing any studies of animal health.

It was simple to feed, easy to use, cheap. Again, always touting that this was the best, balanced food for your pet, made out of junk.

As time passed, families just followed the advertising promising their food was wholesome and showed pretty pictures of healthy looking cuts of meat and vegetables on their packaging-which couldn't be further from the truth. Proving their food isn't all it's cracked up to be, as recently as the 1980's manufacturers didn't even know to add taurine to a cat's diet or they would DIE. I wonder how many cats were fed this junk and died as a result?

Somewhere along the line, the truth of what a cat needs to thrive, got lost in hype. So what could have been based on science and creating a species appropriate diet got lost in making a buck. Who pays for this? We do! Our animals do by sickening and dying. Do some cats thrive on drive food? I doubt it. They will live, but in what condition?

The obesity epidemic is due to inappropriate pet food being sold. It's the same as if we went to McDonald's every day and loaded up on junk. We'd get fat, sick, and die. Put a cat on cheap kibble, full of grain and watch them get fat, sick and die. They won't get obese if we just feed them something based on what cats NEED, not advertising.

Cats are "obligate" carnivores. They NEED meat to survive. They cannot process grains. They have no teeth to crush dry food or crush grain. They bite, rip and swallow, they don't grind food. Their digestion is short, unlike humans. That's why they can't process grain effectively. They also lack the enzyme to digest it. SO WHY FEED IT TO THEM?

©2006 Robin A.F. Olson. My cat Spencer before I switched to grain-free, then a raw diet.

Cats get energy from PROTEIN, NOT CARBS! Cats cannot be put on a DIET! They can get Hepatic Lipidosis so you must be careful changing what they eat. Cats need MEAT, BONES, ORGANS...that's it.

You don't have to buy a treadmill for your dog or your cat or run them around the yard, you need to READ LABELS on what you buy. Don't fall for the seductive ads with pretty pictures.

I suggest the following:

1. Pick up the bowls of kibble and throw them out. NEVER BUY KIBBLE AGAIN. Even premium brands, though much less dreadful, are too processed. Cats lose nutrients they really need in the overcooking of protein. Do you see your cat wolf down their dry food? They're desperately trying to get the nutrition they desire, but aren't getting it. They will eat and eat and drink LOTS of water. Their litter pan will be overflowing with foul smelling bowels. You don't leave a bowl of food out all day. The cats can get two measured meals a day and be totally fine.

2. READ THE LABEL-At least buy canned cat food marked, GRAIN FREE. If you've done that, you've done a great kindness to your cat. The first ingredients should be a known protein source, not a by-product. The more protein, the better. The rest is common sense-get the best quality ingredients you can afford-and YES, it will cost more, but how much do vet trips cost with a sick cat or treating diabetes or cancer?

3. If you want to do the ultimate, feed a raw or (even lightly cooked if you must) diet to your cat. Their ultimate food is a live caught mouse, but I'm not asking you to do that. There are many pre-mixed, ready-to-go, brands of raw food or you can make it up yourself. If you need a recipe, email me and I'll send you one.

Your Vet may pitch a fit. He or she may say "The cat will get Salmonella and you will, too." VETS DO NOT GET MORE THAN A FEW HOURS OF NUTRITIONAL CLASSROOM TIME AT SCHOOL. You need to do the research and read about feline nutrition. While it would make sense that handling raw meat leads to illness, it's NOT the case for cats. Their digestion is too acidic and their digestion process is too fast to "brew" any decent salmonella. Safe handling of meat, hand washing keeps you safe, too. Wipe down the countertops and wash all utensils in hot water. COMMON SENSE. We have never gotten sick or sickened our cats.

So while it's true our cats and dogs are getting fatter by the minute, I hope you'll take a moment to think about what you feed your cat. Is it really appropriate for them or is it just keeping them alive and at the cost of them really THRIVING?

This epidemic is not the fault of the pet owners as much it is the pet food companies and their clever advertising. Please don't fall for it and do what YOU think makes the most sense. Your cats depend on you. Don't let them down.

©2008 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer about a year or so after the switch. Nice belly, still, but appropriately sized!


Decide for yourself. Here are some helpful links:

If you'd like to read more about feeding a raw-fed diet, visit the Feline Nutrition Education
or read Dr. Pierson's web site.


Lastly, if you're feeding dry kibble to your cat, I'm not being critical of your choice. If you feel it's the thing you want to do, then you do that. I'm providing this information to all of you in the hopes you will begin to open your minds and be aware of what is going on in the pet food industry. They make lots of claims about balanced diets and find ways to make the nutrition info on the labels look good, but if you look deeper, you'll realize this stuff is really not appropriate for your cat and when you switch their diet, you will be AMAZED when you see your cat slim down to an appropriate weight, get a refined, silky coat, not load the litter pan with smelly poo and gain a sparkle in their eyes and renewed kitten-like energy. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Here's to your cat's good health!

UPDATE: Since I wrote this article, the misleading information about pet obesity was picked up by CNN. I wish someone would do their homework before announcing such nonsense. I really worry about the welfare of our companion animals.

Foster Cat Journal: Down, Then Out.

Cara's spirit is as big as the world. Her green eyes glint with mischief. As I hold her, a deep purr kicks in, celebrating the simple joy of being alive. Her chest rises, quickly falls, then rises again. When her breath leaves her, I can see her ribs. When I pet her back, I can feel her spine. She is so small and underweight, yet her drive to live is so strong, so vital, how can we lose her?

If we can't find the answer to WHY Cara is not able to keep her food down, we WILL lose our little girl.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

Cara's ultrasound didn't give us anything to go on. Not a clue. Things seem to be normal. It's not perfect science. It can't detect everything, but so far x-rays and the ultrasound tell us nothing.

After a week at the Vet, I brought Cara home. That night she started to vomit. I tried to be extra careful, only giving her a small amount of food. Some times it would stay down, many times, not. I didn't know if it was because I was giving her too many tiny meals or the wrong food, or I was waiting too long between meals. I just couldn't figure it out.

What did seem to be clear, was that continuing to give her antibiotics was NOT a good idea. She's on a very heavy dose of them to stave off this damn URI she's had since she was barely a few weeks old. She seems clear of the URI and yesterday I stopped giving her some of her meds. With one antibiotic left, even that made her vomit after I gave it to her.

I called East Lake, one of the Vet's I work with in Georgia. They told me that in her records they noted that Cara was having difficulty eating and that they thought she had something STUCK IN HER THROAT! What?!!! And they didn't do more to find out what was going on? At the time, Cara was being syringe fed because she wouldn't eat on her own. Polly and Chester would not eat on their own, either. They were having a tough time being weaned. Maybe that was it? Or maybe not.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

I took Cara back to see Dr. Larry this afternoon. The one thing we haven't done is run a blood profile on Cara to see if there's anything going on there. Even if it shows nothing alarming, any future Vet care is probably going to need recent blood work as a prerequisite to treating her.

I told Dr. Larry about what I'd found out in Georiga. He called his partner, Dr. Andrew, to come into the exam room to talk about Cara since Dr. Andrew is also on her case. What I didn't expect was what came next.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

They wanted to talk about what to feed Cara and what else might work for her, since what I've been giving her has made her vomit sometimes. They BOTH said to feed her DRY FOOD! Here it comes, the big talk I've been trying to avoid. Feeding cats a raw diet or even just grain-free canned is like being part of a religion whose followers are persecuted for their beliefs. I felt my blood pressure tick upwards.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

I'm not the sort of person who does well with conflict. I never know the perfect thing to say to make my case. I tried to be respectful, but here they are, telling me they see cats do great on dry food and here I am, knowing from their OWN LIPS they do NOT get more than a few hours (brought to you buy big industrial pet food manufacturers) nutritional training in Vet school. So who are they to tell me to feed crap to my sick kitten?

They said that cats used to be obligate carnivores, but not so much now. That's bull-hit. They wouldn't even accept that feeding grain, an irritant that cats cannot digest, would be bad for a cat with stomach problems.

Then they said that why don't I just try it. Spend $5 on some dry food instead of spending $1000.00 to have Cara 'scoped.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

Really? Really? Do they think I'm as close minded as they are to feeding a wholesome diet to cats? I was so offended, I almost walked out. I would feed Cara spaghetti and meatballs if it would help her.

I kept going back to the fact that Cara's been on 8? 9? antibiotics over her 17 weeks of life. She needs to be on NOTHING other than a bland diet. I said to them, would you eat a bowl of cereal after you had a stomach ache or eat something bland? They went back to the dry food debate.

Cara had her blood drawn. I asked them to tell me how much food she needs to eat so I know what the target is. Cara has lost 2 ounces. This is really scary. She now weighs 2.14. Her sister is TWICE her size and Chester is pushing 5 pounds. I just wanted to get OUT of there. Just give me the info-let me leave.

Both Vets tried to be respectful and kind, but they also kept reminding me that they had many years of being in Vet practice-which again, great for diagnosing ailments, not so great at understanding feline nutrition! It left me feeling like I'm just a person who “takes great care of their cats and is the best and they love me and I'm great, BUT...they have all these years on me.” (hey, don't placate me, ok?!). How many years have I been studying and learning about feeding grain-free? FIVE?!! I know that counts for nothing even though I've cured a diabetic, fixed life-long breathing problems, unblocked a blocked up cat, reduced obesity in an overweight cat, greatly improved blood test results in just my cats-not to mention the other cats I've helped with IBD and other chronic conditions. They don't see that. I'm just a lay person on a rant.

I think I need to start looking for a new Vet. Even writing this makes me feel sick. It's akin to me breaking up with Sam after almost two decades of life together. I don't take this feeling lightly, at all, but I can't go somewhere where we part company so seriously. Proper nutrition is the basis for good, lifelong health. Why Vets don't start from this basic point when they do an exam is beyond my comprehension. "What are you feeding your cat?" should be one of the FIRST questions a Vet asks about their patients-not something that's not even considered.

Then, the final straw. Super-Deb, who I trust as if she were my own beloved sister, told me to feed Cara the dry food. Just do it. For her (Super-Deb not Cara). See how it goes.

I left the Vet feeling like I was going to scream and burst into tears (which I did after I left). I drove over to the pet food store and bought Cara some more grain-free canned food and I bought a tiny bag of premium dry cat food. I felt like a Judas.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

When we got home, I gave Cara the dry food. She seemed interested in it, but really only picked at it and left half of the tiny portion on her plate. I don't think she understood it was food. After a few minutes, I let her out of the cat carrier (I lock her in it when she eats so the others don't bother her). She seemed fine. I started to fear she was going to do great on dry food and maybe I was wrong, but I just couldn't face it.

A moment later, Cara jumped off the bed and found a plate that had, literally, a pea-sized, if even that big, bit of raw food on it. A meager leftover part of a full dish that I had just given to her sister. She licked it up. Seemed fine. Then..all of a sudden...the straining, neck twisting and stretching started. The horrible gurgling sound..the vomit. All the dry food, the tiny dot of raw amid mucus and foam came out.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

Was it the dry food that made her sick or the bit of raw? I offered more dry food to her, but she wouldn't eat it. That's my girl. Chester was playing with it. New toy, not nutrition!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

An hour later I gave Cara chicken baby food. She ate it up, purred and laid in the sunshine. No vomiting. I have to trust my gut and my experience. I'm going to give Cara time. I'm not going to do anything else to her for the rest of the week, other than give her baby food, then after a few days, some canned grain-free mixed in and a bit of pro biotic to help her flora balanced...see if she keeps it down.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson.

For Cara, I will slay dragons, but right now I need a moment for myself. The hours and hours of watching her, cleaning up her vomit, measuring food, worrying, have taken a toll. I thought I was to a place where I could handle these ups and downs, but I think it's cumulative. Between my own cat battling cancer, the sickly kittens and Cara's tender tummy, I hit a wall. I'll get us through this somehow, but I'm not sure what scars will be left behind as a painful souvenir of these difficult days.

A Journey of 1000 Miles Ends for The Right Cat.

It's been a few months since I first wrote about Bobbi, a Manx/Maine Coon mix whose owners felt it was ok to declaw her on ALL FOUR PAWS and whose Vet felt it was OK to do this and NOT EVEN SPAY HER!!!! If you want to read my blue-worded-rant, you can go HERE and if you want to read about how I came to rescue her, you can go HERE and HERE.

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©2010 Henry County Care & Control. Thanks to Robin, the Kennel Master and Betsy Merchant, I learned about Bobbi being in dire need of rescue. Luckily, the timing was perfect and I could help her out with the efforts of my team: Maria, Bobby (who Bobbi is named after), Connie & Carole.

After Bobbi's long trip from a Kill Shelter in Georgia to a little break at Connie's house in Connecticut, to living at Animals in Distress, Bobbi got adopted by a family with another cat. Sadly, Bobbi didn't seem to like other cats, but she wasn't SPAYED (which we didn't realize at the time), so that might have been the reason why.

Bobbi got returned after a week. She got spayed a few days later. She got along fine with all the cats at Animals in Distress, which is an open shelter with no cages. We all felt bad for her. She'd come so far, yet we wondered if we could find a home for her without other cats. Maybe that was best?

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Who is lovin' life right now?

On Saturday, during the adoption event, a family came in to visit Bobbi. I had just taken photos of her for her Petfinder listing. Apparently, the Mom of the family had been there a few days before and had taken photos of Bobbi to share with her husband and adult daughter. They'd recently lost their 16 year old kitty and wanted to rescue a cat in need.

They had returned, together, to see if Bobbi was the right cat for them. They took turns petting her, then holding her. She sat comfortably in their arms. I swore she was smiling. After a day spent being surrounded by other families, kids and cats, Bobbi was non-plused. She was just happy to be safe, with a fully belly and a nice place to sleep. She glowed from all the attention.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh yeah, she's got them wrapped around her little declawed toe!

It wasn't a tough decision for the family to make. They filled out an application, got a great Vet reference and were greenlighted to adopt Bobbi. I chatted with them a bit and found out they live near my house, I know of their Vet and that he is a proponent of feeding raw to cats. They wanted to know about feeding a better diet to Bobbi so I gave them some handouts, as well as anything else I could come up with to help her transition off dry food. These people are genuinely warm, kind and loving. I could tell they wanted the best...for THEIR cat...this little, loving wonder who somehow survived Death Row and a VERY long journey to find that her perfect home was waiting for her all along.

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©2010 The Murdoch Family. Used with Permission. Bobbi at home with her new Sister.

This is what I live for. This moment. This feeling that lifts my heart above the clouds. Knowing that this one cat, who didn't stand a chance, got plucked out of Hell and placed into the loving arms of a family that will NEVER put her outside to slowly starve to death...that will NEVER dismiss her or give up on her. She will finally know what she should have known all along-that her family will always look out for her and love her for the rest of her life.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Bobbi showin' off her "stuff."

And to think, they wrote to me to thank ME for what I do, but it's really them. Bobbi could have languished at the shelter for months or years without them being willing to give her a home. I feel a sense of peace and joy, knowing this journey has come to happy end.

...but that wasn't the only adoption I have to tell you about...there is still ONE MORE to go.

Choking in Cat Hair

When any of my cats are sick, I get stressed out. I don't feel better until I know THEY are feeling better. Imagine knowing your cat is not well for 1 year and 8 months (and counting). It's stressful for me. It's more stressful for my poor cat, Gracie.

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©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracie (left) with daughter, Petunia (right)

Since February, I've been treating Gracie's miliary dermatitis homeopathically. It was starting to show signs of improving, the middle of the treatment, I messed around with their food a bit and that might have caused Gracie's condition to worsen, so I went back to her very plain, raw diet.

Was the damage done? Was it too late? Gracie had a terrible self-mutilation on the inside of her right leg. I treated it and she seemed to be getting better, but today, after noticing her lose her appetite for a few days, I knew something was wrong. I thought her anal glands were impacted and I imagined it would make for a humorous blog post. Dr. Larry checked Gracie out today and her anal glands were fine, she had no fever, but had lost 7 ounces-which in a short period of time, is a lot of weight. Now I imagined writing something more sobering.

Then we looked at Gracie's abdomen. I don't think I should post a clear photo of it because it was "that bad." She had not only hurt the inside of her right leg (which I just checked a few days ago!), but she was starting on her left. On top of that Dr. Larry said she is getting an infection so there was no choice but to put her on antibiotics, which trashed the homeopathic treatments she was getting.

We discussed the “S-word”...STEROIDS and I was very close to just saying; “YES! DO IT.” I've read too many BAD things about steroids to take a chance with them even if I know it will help Gracie for the short term. The steroids would effect Gracie's skin and her immune system. To give her antibiotics and steroids together? I just couldn't open her up to even more problems down the road.

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My poor sweetie.

Gracie's still with Dr. Larry. Super-Deb is giving her a soothing bath (no steroids!!) and they're going to shoot an x-ray to make sure Gracie isn't so full of fur that she's not eating as a result (or keeping her food down as of this morning)

I'm going to try two more things, then I may fall onto the steroid sword and give that to Gracie as a last resort.

1. We're going to try Allerderm® Spot-On to soothe Gracie's skin.

2. Treat Gracie's anxiety homeopathically, instead of trying to treat Gracie's skin condition. If Gracie stops this OCD-ish behavior and feels better, maybe her skin will improve?

I keep wanting to just give up, but I look at Gracie's sweet face. She's such a kind cat. Truly would never hurt anyone. She is depending on me and I can't and won't let her down. I just wish she knew that.

Foster Cat Journal: Good Kittizenship

Candytuft will be leaving tomorrow. He's getting neutered in the morning, then will most likely be put up for adoption once he has some time to recover. Writing this makes it seem like a simple statement, but reaching this moment was not a sure bet.


Candy, 18 days ago.

I didn't know we'd make it. Candy was one of the nastiest kittens I've dealt with so far. He still has a knee-jerk reaction to hiss, but it doesn't mean anything now. It's like a person gasping when startled, instead of a person flipping out and punching you in the face when startled.

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Candy, 8 days ago.

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Candy, today.

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Someone liked to watch the weather report with me. I'm not sayin' who.

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Happy, at last and loving life.

I'm by no means a professional feral kitten socializer, but here are some thoughts/tips:

Most important-“tough love”...sequester the kitten away from all animals and people. You will be the only one he/she sees for the next few days, until he/she is socialized.

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A little shy for a moment or two? Don't worry, Candy!

1. GO SLOW. Don't expect too much and don't talk a lot to the kitten at first, it's just another thing that can cause a fearful reaction. If you do talk, keep it to a whisper. Don't move too much or too fast until you feel the kitten is comfortable with you.

2. The toothbrush was the key (I attached it to a wooden stick to make it longer-keeping my hand safe and allowed the kitten to stay at a comfortable distance). It's small, not threatening and it really made a big difference. Candy loved the feeling of being brushed even if, at first, it scared him. Within a short period of time, I encouraged Candy to come closer to me to get brushed, then snuck my hand in to replace the brush. He got scared, but quickly loved being petted, as it reminding him of the touch of his mama.

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Candy LOVED eating raw (today's meal included some dehydrated chicken treats crumbled on top).

3. I gave high value treats off a baby spoon (again, a tiny sized item that is not threatening) attached to a longer wooden spoon. A raw diet is a high value treat. I used ground raw rabbit (sorry!). You can use ground turkey, chicken, duck, quail, venison, not beef. Make sure the meat also has the proper nutrients added. There are many pre-mixed brands of raw food out there.

4. Chicken baby food with no rice is also a good treat. Encourage the kitten to come closer to you as you feed the treat. Also, KEEP THE KITTEN HUNGRY. Don't leave out tons of food. When you bring the treat, the kitten will start to come out to see you, knowing there will be food. Always have good food on you the first few days until the kitten is more confident.

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Silly boy!

5. With Candy, I began to realize he was all bark and no bite. His hissing was a sign of fear, but after a few days, there was aggression. As much as I could, I didn't react when he hissed, I either distracted him with a toy, or petted him until he forgot to be hissy. Once he was getting petted, he was so happy, he would not hiss.

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6. Have no expectation of outcome. Just let the kitten go at his/her own pace. You'll be surprised at how fast they move along-far faster than you expect!

I hope these informal pointers help you with your feral fosters. Cats CAN change if you give them the time and are patient, but also know when to give them a push to challenge them on to the next step.


I hereby award you, little Candytuft, the first ever, Good Kittizenship Award, given only to feral kitties who meet the following criteria listed below.

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Concatulations Candy! You've become a very friendly little man. I hope you'll find yourself a happy home, full of love and you never have a sad or difficult day for the rest of your life.

Foster Cat Journal: That's MR. Candy to You!


Candy, taken a few days ago. One of the first times I saw exposed belly! Then I noticed something else, Candy is BOY! Hee hee!

It's been two weeks since Candytuft arrived. Each day there have been small improvements. Candy continues to impress me with his willingness to trust and to go outside his comfort zone.

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Don't be scared, Candy!

The key was I kept using the good ol' toothbrush on the little guy, any time he would hiss, to get him to change course, so to speak. I never let him scare me away. If he hissed, I ignored it. Eventually, the hissing has reduced down to just a few times a day. I'm aiming for no times per day and if he can continue to gain confidence, it will happen.

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Candy trying to figure out if I'm scary without makeup on. The answer: YES!

After a week had passed, I allowed Candy to explore more and more of the foster room, until I felt confident that he could stay out of the crate and not hide when I came into the room. It took a few days. Each session of being "free" was longer and longer. He never really hid. He did get into a small space, but he always came out to explore toys or, of course, eat high value food. His favorite-raw meat! He loves Raw! He would rather eat it than anything else I've tempted him with.

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Candy poses with his stuffed kitty cat friend.

Now out of the crate 24/7, Candy's mood seems better. He seems happier and is very spunky and playful. I know he's lonely, but the “tough love” of keeping him sequestered has forced him to find love with humans. When he's not trying to play-attack me, he wants to sit on my lap, purr, or play close by. At times, I think he confuses me with a cat tree and I have the scratches to prove it. It's a huge change from the terrified, angry soul who first arrived such a short time ago.

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Candy has also taken to watching TV from his perch atop the dog crate.

All in all, Candy is just about ready to go. He's slated to be neutered next week, so it won't be long before he leaves. I need to make sure he's ok with me standing near him or picking him up. He sat on Sam's lap last night, so that was good, too. If he stops hissing when he gets scared, I'll feel more confident that he's ready. I think another week would be great, but hopefully wherever he goes next, he won't regress. At least he knows humans are not scary and he's stopped being angry and aggressive towards me.

As I was writing, I heard a curious meow coming from outside my window. It was Buddy, the feral I trapped a few years ago. He still comes here to eat almost every day, but he looked thin. I know Buddy's been around the block, and then some. He's not a young cat. His ears are ragged. He coat is wet from the recent rain. I realized that Candy could have faced the same life as Buddy's, if I hadn't taken the time to work with him. Yes, Candy would have had a caretaker and possibly have been released with his mother, but what life would he ultimately have had? And he would have been released at only 9 weeks old. I doubt he would have lived very long on his own.

I'm very glad I don't have to imagine that future for this little cat. Very glad, indeed.

More on Gracie

There were a lot of questions and comments regarding how I was treating Gracie and even some suggestions that I was being cruel to her to not load her up with steroids and antibiotics when we discovered she had self-mutiliated.

This is what I've done so far for Gracie:

• Gave her two shots of Depo (Steroids) two months apart. Boy did that work great, but...will give her diabetes and shorten her life span.

• HESKA blood test and complete blood panel. Indicated she was allergic to dust mites and beef. Pulled beef from her diet. Can't do much about dust mites. Blood work initially indicated Bartonella so she was on big time antibiotics for 4 weeks. Otherwise her blood test results were "that of a 2 year old cat". Gracie is 9.

• Treated Gracie with hyposensitization therapy for about 8 months. Did not help.

• Boarded Gracie at Vet for a week to see if being out of dusty home environment and away from other cats would calm her skin down. She had daily soothing baths. Improved slightly, but ultimately did nothing.

• Took her to see Dr. Rhodes, a noted Dermatologist in New Jersey. Put her on anti-organ rejection meds that were supposed to prevent her skin from reacting to whatever was irritating her. Did not work.

• Put her on anti-anxiety meds. Turned into a lifeless zombie. Was very tough to get hold of her every day to medicate her because she has been a high strung cat since the first day I took her into foster care. Had to stop trial. Don't believe it would have helped and she certainly seemed unhappy.

• Changed her diet from grain-free canned to raw. Saw some improvement.

• Began homeopathic treatment. Saw more improvement, but 2 weeks ago either slight tweak to diet or treatment caused her to get worse for awhile. Changed diet back, skin is slightly improving.

I'm sure there was more, but that's all I can think of for now.

Next steps. Homeopath on Tuesday. Gave her soothing balms last night and apple bitter around the unbroken skin to keep her off the area. Early June or sooner, I hope, she will be taken to get acupuncture, which is supposed to act the same way anti-anxiety meds work. She should become calmer.

Her home environment is very quiet. She has her own place in our bedroom where she and Petunia can sleep side by side by a window and relax in the sunshine. They don't get bothered for most of the day. It's not perfect and there are some conflicts with the other cats, but those instances are generally short-lived.

Initially, this problem was the result of over-medicating Gracie. She had an ear infection (antibiotics), a URI , Bartonella (antibiotics), a dental (more antibiotics?) in a short period of time. No wonder her immune system blew up. We didn't find the ear infection until the dental was done and about that time I started doing Bartonella testing on the cats so it was just a coincidence we discovered she was positive for it.

So what I'm trying to say is...I have ALWAYS done whatever I feel will give Gracie the most comfort and the best results and for anyone to think differently of that-well...then it's my fault for not describing it more clearly OR they can come here and meet Gracie and see how well she is cared for and how much she is loved. Gracie may suffer or feel discomfort, but my hope is that it is not constant. I do as much as I can to keep her feeling good without heavy duty meds. This WILL END and I WILL FIND A CURE for her. It's just taking for friggen' EVER!

Kittens Shouldn't Play with Their Food?

Do not play with your food!

Okay, play with it, but eat it when you're done.

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Bob LOVES frakenprey-which in this case is the neck and giblets of a chicken we were going to roast. I cut up some of the bits because Bob only has a few teeth. I don't have to worry about Blitzen, so he got a neck to gnaw on to help clean his chompers. He really had a blast dragging a chunk around, throwing it up in the air and carrying it in his mouth. No, not particularly hygienic, but I cleaned up after his playtime was over.

P.S. Bob and Blitzen LOVE their raw treats!

Bob Dole's Story Featured on

While I wallow in self-loathing and despair over parting with many of my foster kittens, I thought I'd mention that my latest article just went live on Feline-Nutrition's web site.

It's a story about how I got started feeding Bob (Dole)(my cat, not the dude), a raw diet. Just after I wrote the article, I made my first batch of “homemade” raw for the clutter. Since it was too late to go to press, I'm including some extra photos, here.


For my crew, this is what it takes to feed my cats for a little over TWO days. Yes, it's a lot. It's kind of a pain in the ass, actually, but I'm still trying to find my pace and getting used to not opening a can and dumping it onto a plate. At least now I know for sure what my cats are getting in their food.

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For anyone who fears this is gross, it's not. It smells nice and fresh. The trick is getting it warmed up without cooking it. If it's still icy cold the cats won't eat it.

If you want to know why I bother, look at the before and after photos of Spencer, below. He was a blimp a few years ago. It was hysterical to look at him, but I was doing him an injustice and I knew it. Spencer also has a chronic breathing problem, which left him wheezing all the time. These days I can barely hear him. I'm sure the diet helped keep any swelling down in his sinuses

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Here's Bob on day one of the new raw diet. He ate as though he had never eaten before. Most of the cats cleaned their plates, which I have NEVER seen them do in almost a decade. This might sound weird, but they also seemed relaxed and content. Most of them passed out after they ate and washed their faces. It's not like that every day. I'm still working out the kinks, but it's nice to see them be interested in their food.

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The article is on the front page, so if you care to read it, just look for Bob's cute face and you've found the right place.

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