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Foster Cat Journal: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Yesterday was tough for me. I woke up at 7am, after only five hours of sleep. I was up late the night before because I hadn't spent enough time with Cupid and her kittens since they arrived. I've made sure they've had plenty to eat and drink and a clean litter pan, but that's about all the time I've had. I've been so busy running the sick cats back and forth to the vet, spending time with Dash (he's alone most of the day and I take him out and run him around as much as I can) and dealing with the many applications from hopeful adopters, calling them, calling vets, calling our Director, getting photos of them to the paper, that it left me having to wait until midnight before I could start to have some real time with them.

cupid and babes.jpg
Cupid lets me know how she feels about me.

Cupid is laid back and sweet. The first days she was here, she spent a great deal of time, pressed up in the corner of the big dog crate I use when I need to separate cats from each other. She looked depressed. The many weeks of life in a cage had probably taught her that life was meant to be spent sitting in one spot, all day, up against metal bars. I thought she might not be friendly, but that was not the case.

Cupid has slowly been allowing herself to rest on the bed, that has a big fluffy down comforter on it. I found her sitting on the cat condo by the window this afternoon. She seems content, but also fragile. It's tough to get her to eat, but once she starts she's all right. She's battling the same damn URI the other cats have and maybe her sense of smell is off. I worried about mastitis, but she seems fine when I checked her mammary glands. She's painfully thin, but even after a few days her coat has improved a lot. I think that one day she will really be a serious beauty, once she gets her health back.

If I could have rested in that moment, I would have been fine, but I had to talk to our Director about where Comet and Rudy were going to be living. Our Director was "done" with fostering and would only help in an emergency. I did NOT want either of the cats in my house. They were still quite sick and I didn't want MY cats to get sick or Cupid and her family to get sick! Sniffles are one thing, but raging high fever and bad congestion is a big problem.

I've got two rooms I can use. That's it. I have my big foster room for mama and the babies-done deal. I have a bathroom with a tiny laundry room attached-which is space two. I don't want ANY cats in that space. It's a nightmare to do laundry while there are cats in the room, plus it's too much work. It takes me about an hour per feeding to get everyone fed, fresh water, cleaned litter. If it's just one room plus my own guys, that's one thing, but an extra room of cats-not good.

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I've got Dasher in room two. He can't be put back with Rudy and Comet. Dash is doing fairly well. He's eating great, running around, sneezing, but that's it. If I put those other sick cats in with him, I can't adopt him out on Wednesday.

I give Dash a break as often as I can, to get out of the tiny bathroom and run around in the bedroom. He's a joy to have around.

So I can't take them, the Director won't, I can't ask Jennifer because she has geriatric cats and it's too much to ask her to take on sick animals. I can't ask Rick, another foster, because he has six cats of his own. I had our Director ask our Vet to do a medical boarding of the cats until after Christmas-just to give me breathing room and maybe the cats would be healthy enough to not be such a high risk of getting my cats sick. They said, No. I called Dr. Larry and talked to Super Deb. It was weird that she answered the phone on a Monday (she doesn't usually work on Monday's), but I was grateful to talk to her. By the time I called her, I was in tears. I had tried to figure out how to deal with these sick cats. It wasn't my fault they were so sick, but it was on me to care for them. Thankfully, Super Deb said; YES, but it would COST. I felt at that point, there is no price I wouldn't pay for sanity. I honestly felt like I was about to crack from stress.

Now all I had to do was get Rudy to the Vet for a checkup. Pick up Comet from the same Vet, then drive over to Dr. Larry's office and have them both examined, then they would be boarded, but only for a few days. On Christmas eve they have to be picked up. Not ideal, but better than nothing. If I play my cards right, I can get Dash out of here (adopted) and slot the sick cats into my bathroom. Also, the sick ones would have 4 more days of meds-which would put them at just a week's worth. That might be enough to get them to a point where they are doing better.

Just as I was about to walk out the door to meet our Director to pick up Rudy and get him to the Vet for a re-check, I got a call. It was from Julia, Vixen's adopter. Vixen was sick. She broke with the URI and Julia wanted my advice. When she said: “Didn't get up this morning..not eating...vomiting” I urged her to get the kitten to the Vet-already done. She was going in shortly. Holy shit...that's four cats with this nasty URI. Of course I had warned Julia that this might happen and Julia is a great person-totally understanding. She doesn't have other cats so it was safe for her to bring Vixen home, but now that she was home, she was in trouble. I felt guilty and responsible. I have never and would never knowingly adopt out an animal that was sick. I was mortified. No wonder...a few hours later I found out that Vixen had close to a 106°F temp and had a SERIOUS EAR MITE INFECTION on top of that.

Ear mites are not that big of a deal, but in this case it was the straw the broke the camels back. NONE of these cats should have ear mites!!!!!Supposedly they were ALL checked by a VET before they left GA. Something wrong is going on. I don't know what it is, but I did ask Barb to find out. This is why we do the fundraiser-so we can afford to get the cats vetted before they come here. Transports don't cause ear mites-at least not this bad. And that, I found out later, was not even the half of it...

I got Rudy to the Vet. He looked marginally better. No weight change. No temp. Ate for us. Still very snotty and a bit teary. Had blood in his nasal discharge. They added one more med to his bag of tricks and said they wanted to check him in a week to ten days. “When can we get him to his new home???”...two weeks?? Yes. About that...we have to see how he's doing. Great. Now I may lose the adopters we have for Rudy and Comet, since Comet is only marginally better herself.

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Comet was released with lots of meds. Her eyes look much better, but she is very snotty. She also was pooping out tapeworms. Nice!!! Were any of these cats really de-wormed or was it a lie? No problem I will deworm everyone again to make sure...again...what is going on here?

Now that the better part of the day was behind me, I had yet to get the cats over to see Dr. Larry. Actually, they saw Dr M. since Dr. Larry is off on Monday's. I loaded the cats into the car and drove through rush hour traffic just getting to his office on time. I dreaded going there partly because I knew I was going to see Julia and I was scared to find out if Vixen had taken a turn for the worse.

Super Deb looked over Rudy and re-checked his vital signs. Rudy was a playful little imp. Nothing seemed to bother him much. Deb stepped out of the room and I sat down, holding Rudy in my crossed arms. Rudy laid across my chest, like a baby. Deb opened the door and as she did, Rudy suddenly grabbed at my right boob and nipped my nipple-as though he was going to nurse off me!!! Debbie stopped frozen in her tracks, then stepped back out of the room, shouting “I didn't see that!” I had good laugh, but man was that FREAKY!!!!!! No pix. Sorry everyone!

Then Comet was checked out. She is really really thin and dehydrated, still. She had a fever, but that could be brought on by being in the car or her being due for another antibiotic OR she is running a fever. Regardless, she was going to be cared for by good people who have the skills to make sure she stays in better shape for a few more days. Then, she will be my problem, but for now I had a break...

...until Dr. M came into the room and ripped me a new asshole.

It wasn't enough that I was feeling horrible about so many cats being sick. That it was my fault that I subjected them to this awful transport and that they are too young to handle it. Well, some of the cats that are sick are 6 and 8 MONTHS old. The kittens are doing marginally better (other than Rudy). This also seems to be a great opportunity for people to give me shit about doing transports at all. You know...let me tell you this: the deal is done. I did the transport. The animals got sick for one reason or 100 reasons. Some are shitting worms. Some have ear mites and flea dirt. Let's get them well and not use this as a platform to make whatever point you want to make. Apparently, Dr. M did not get the memo because she launched into me about how the Practice is too small and that they don't have adequate quarantine facilities and if I wanted to get into a viral quarantine, well that would REALLy start to cost big bucks. That she couldn't completely decontaminate herself so it put the other patients at risk and if this was her Practice she would have not allowed these cats to be boarded at all. Then she told me about North Shore Animal League washing their hands of an adoption they did a few days before and that the puppy that was adopted was near death...then here's Vixen's adopters whose cat could also die from a high fever and how would I feel if my adopters had to face the DEATH of their cat just after adopting it? Hey...they KNEW the risks. I was very clear that Vix had been exposed to a nasty URI. That she got sick was bad, terrible, awful, rotten, BUT...why am I getting ripped on about this?

I seriously felt like I needed to just take the cats home. I started to imagine seeing Bob Dole and Spencer, dead. Neither of them could handle getting this f-ing virus-espeically Bob. I started to imagine that this rescue may be the worst thing I have ever done-with the best intentions I have ever had.

We've had many good runs. Many good transports with very happy outcomes. Now we are having a big problem and I'm basically on my own. I am very thankful I didn't get 12 cats instead of 9. I really would have been in trouble if that was the case.

I did my best to explain that we've learned that we cannot spay or neuter the cats before they leave GA. It's too much stress on them to do that, then transport them. Her reply was “Ya, THINK??!!!” a way, almost mocking, and certainly belittling me. I felt like I was an inch tall.

I left the exam room while Rudy and Comet were set up in their new home. I heard Julia's voice as I turned the corner. She saw me and I gave her a weak smile. I sat next to her and was ready to get laid into, but she was very nice. She wanted to know if Vixen's fever was like the others. She wanted me to help her feel better about all this. I didn't want to say that Vixen could die, so I didn't. I did tell her that the other cats had high fevers that broke within 24 hours-which was true. She was scared to take Vix back home since she still had the high fever and I told her she could call me any time, day or night and that I would help with the cat. It's the least I can do. No adopter should have the first days with their new cat be mired in fear and have to cough up a HUGE Vet bill on top of that, but she was graceful about it and understanding. It was a big kindness to me after such a bad day.

Just as I pulled into my driveway, our Director call to see how I was doing. I got choked up, but didn't cry. She was really kind to me about all that's going on. She has been there-and lost many kittens over the years. We had a good talk and we decided we need to shut this down for now. Instead of moving ahead to get Cupid and her kittens spayed or neutered, we are going to cancel all Vet appointments for the next two weeks. That will give them time to fight off this URI. If they are symptom free, we will go back to getting them vetted, then put them up for adoption. We fear any stress will be bad for them. I can't even move Mama and the babies out of here to get away from Rudy and Comet when they arrive on Thursday. The move could make them sick.

So I'm stuck. I've got more foster cats than I bargained for and they'll be here for far longer than I hoped. I may lose the adopters I have lined up, but so be it. I honestly don't mind having the kittens here, but I'm fearful of what's to come. Will Rudy and Comet be the tipping point to send a wave of illness through my own cats? Will they survive it? Will the kittens get seriously ill? Will they live through this?

Then there's Christmas. I didn't send out a card—first time in a gillion years. I didn't wrap a gift-I hardly even bought any. I only got Sam two little presents and I feel awful about it, even though he tells me not to worry!!! I have the house decorated, at least, but the place is a mess. I'm trying to just take a deep breath, but I so want to have a good Christmas, for once, but at this point, I'd be thrilled with a Christmas where my cats don't get sick and a New Year that brings new homes to my fosters.

Will I do this again? Will I rescue more cats?

What do you think?


This is an unenviable situation, and one that I am, unfortunately, very familiar with. Robin, there is a reason someone coined the phrase "no good deed goes unpunished." No matter how hard we try as fosters, we all go through something like this. It's sad and discouraging, and more than once it's made me tearfully say, "That's it! I can't take it any more!" And then I get a phone call and proceed to take it again. The question of whether you'll foster again is very personal and no matter what, it won't be a decision made lightly. You need to decide what's best for your household. Maybe you'll decide that now is not the right time to pull cats and kittens and foster them in your home. Does that mean you'll stop trying to educate people, attract good adopters and bust your ass on behalf of the animals that can't stand up for themselves? Hardly. You'll just have to do your work in a different way.

Give the fosters the best you can while they're at your home - the smallest act of kindness will be the greatest thing for them.

Mediate with Sam and your kitty family. Let them help give you clarity.

Know that your efforts aren't in vain. You've saved many cats and kittens, and will continue to do so, whether through fostering or another medium.

Take strength where you can.

Listen to what the angry vet told you, but don't take it to heart. It was a hurtful exchange, but maybe she saw herself as advocating for her patients and had gone through a particularly rough week. When I was at the shelter, I was unnecessarily harsh to people on a few occasions because I had just gone through too much else at the same time. It wasn't pretty and it was a side of me that I didn't know existed.

On a more practical note, have you treated the cats with Baytril? It's strong, but I've seen it turn cats around.

Do what you have to for yourself and your cats. What needs to be right now may change in the future. If you burn out, you won't be good for yourself, your loved ones, your pets or any rescues. Remember why you get out of bed in the morning and do what you need to do in order to keep that going.

Lots of us understand. We may not be going through the same ordeals at the same time, but we all go through them. Need proof?

Feel bad and cry tonight, but as Scarlett said, "Tomorrow is another day."

Robin, You are an amazing woman who does amazing work! God never gives you more than you can handle. I think someone in GA needs to fess up on the lack of care they provided. Since there is enough evidence that certain treatments were not performed, they need to refund some of the money or at the very least, use it for the next transport. ...and yes, I know you will do it again... It's who you are, and you are someone I admire completely. Here is a big hug from me: ((((((((((Robin)))))))))) Smile, lots of people love you (and even more importantly, cats & kittens love you)!!!

Right now the situation sucks - there is no other way to put it. BUT you have to try (difficult though it may be) to look at the positive. You saved these kittens from certain death - yes, they are sick and it could go south, but you gave them a chance, and it sounds like everyone is doing at least a little bit better. You kept the sick ones as quarantined as possible, so hopefully it won't spread. And you are on alert so you will be extra observant over your own kitties for a few days and if you see anything you can get it taken care of right away.

Don't worry about Christmas stuff - so your house is a mess, so what! You can hardly walk upstairs at our place right now because we "cleaned" by moving the crap from downstairs to upstairs. There are storage boxes from our decorations everywhere. It happens, you can worry about that stuff when things calm down. And cards - again, don't worry. A lot of the people I know (mostly animal bloggers) didn't send cards this year because of a combo of the economy and the desire to use the money and time for other things - mainly doing things to help out animals who need it.

The place you got the kittens from (I can't bring myself to call it a shelter because a shelter protects animals, doesn't kill them) obviously is not telling you the full story - these kitties should not be this sick. Unfortunatly it is getting to be a common story about animal containment facilities (no idea what to use instead of shelter) and it is just so wrong. Again - you are giving these little guys a chance at least. Believe me, they appreciate all you have done for them, I am sure of it.

Take some time to regroup - even if it means not doing the transports for a couple months. You need to take care of yourself too.

And don't even ask me what I think of this Dr. M - that is not an appropriate way for a doctor to act - I understand the point she was making but it was not the appropriate time or place for it. And just because she doesn't think transports are a good idea doesn't mean she is right. I am pretty sure if you took a poll of all the animal bloggers out there they would think you are doing the right thing. And since I know a bunch of them do dog transports (and I think have taken a kitty or two when needed) they can tell you what a good thing you are doing.

And as far as the adopters - if the adoptions fall through then maybe they weren't the right person to adopt these kitties anyway. I know if I had a kitty that I wanted to adopt and it had to wait to come home to be sure it was healthy and ok, I would wait (I have had two that started out after being left at the vets office - one in a box at their door and it never would have even occured to me to chance my mind if I couldn't have taken them home right away - I had to wait a week to bring one home and a few days for the other but I would have gladly waited longer).

So take a few deep breaths, and realize that what you are doing is a good thing. It is not an easy thing but it is a good thing.

Is there a way we can donate directly to you to help offset these costs?

Everything has been said so well by your other readers, I can't think of much to say, but I heartily agree with them. For these 9, you have saved the world.
At least for your cats at home, they have had good care and good nutrition. That may make it much harder for a virus to take hold.
I am very interested to hear what GA has to say about the condition of these animals.
About transports in general.. I think they are a good idea. They allow you to concentrate on the young kittens you are good with. Other rescuers and groups also have their specialties. Every life saved is a life saved. No life is less valuable because of where it originates.

Was out of line. She needs to reassess her own prejudices. Any cat/kitten from any shelter, transported or not could get sick like these kittens have.

When I got my kitties from GA, they got sick shortly after arriving and two of my own cats got sick too. I read that a very high percentage of shelter animals are exposed and carry the FCV virus. I think it was something on the order of 40%, so her argument that the transporting made them sick is bogus. Like you said, you've had a number of successful transports without the problems this batch has had.

Obviously, something went haywire here with the vetting. You're right, they're sick, wormy and have ear mites. Somebody dropped the ball and how.

But that doesn't mean you should stop doing what you are doing. It won't stop me from adopting more cats once I have room. Right now you are overwhelmed, under-appreciated and worn out. Take a break. Take a breather. Get these guys better and adopted, then reassess. Maybe 9 was too much. Maybe you need to keep it under 6, but these helpless ones need you, they need as many of us as they can get, and this experience shouldn't make you stop saving them.


You do an amazing thing under difficult circumstances and I think many of us readers are in awe of what you do to help these poor creatures.
I'm so sorry this is so bad fro you right now and hope that things get better.

Kinda obvious to me that they left Georgia either in bad shape or close enough. Your working your tail off to try and give them the second chance everyone being deserves. Right now its tough.. but you'll look back at it someday.. probably when you see one of the kits you've saved.. and realize that you did good.. damn good.

Bob & Myst

just breathe. take it as it comes, and things will work themselves out. then when everyone gets better, you'll forget how horrible it all was. and yes, you will do it again. we all will. :)

*hugs* merry christmas

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