Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Ever since I was a little girl when my mother would read me stories each night before I went to bed, I wanted to believe the world was a magical place. I never outgrew the deep longing to feel like I was like a character in a book specially chosen to be unlike anyone else in a world filled with endless possibilities. I would go to the movies and wonder why I couldn’t be like those people who went out and did great things, against all odds, they’d save the world after a remarkable adventure.

Kitten Season: A Beginner’s Guide to Fostering Kittens

[note from Robin: In over 8 years of blogging this is the first time I've ever allowed a guest post. I feel this message is an important one and certainly worth sharing. It's part of the #100KittyDays initiative where Found Animals is hoping to place 500 kittens in 100 days.]

100 Kitty Days

Hello all! My name is Aimee Gilbreath and Robin asked me to lend a hand and help create awareness for kitten fostering. I am the executive director of Michelson Found Animals and, like Robin, I am a huge supporter of rescuing cats and kittens through foster programs. As kitten season continues to purr on this summer, a frequently asked question I receive from new and existing cat owners is: “What exactly is kitten fostering?”

Kitten fostering is volunteering to take a kitten into your home and caring for them until there is room for them in a rescue or shelter, or until the kitten is old enough to be spayed or neutered and adopted. When you foster a kitten you are saving a kitten’s life! Most shelters don’t have the resources to care for kittens which lead to an extraordinarily high euthanasia rate amongst kittens.
Without the long-term commitment that comes with adopting, you can learn about animal behavior, caring for kittens and experience the overwhelming cuteness of a kitten, before you commit to adopting. There are several aspects to consider before becoming a foster parent. Here are a couple things to think about before you take the plunge:

1. Understand your responsibilities. Before you take on the responsibility, make sure you understand that fostering a kitten can be time consuming, and entails socializing and feeding and cleaning up after your new furry friend. Setting aside time for your kitten will ensure that foster kittens receive the time, care, and attention they need. If you won’t have time to provide the proper level of care and interaction, fostering might not be for you.

2. Be prepared. Many foster programs will provide you with supplies, but don’t assume this will be the case. Purchase a litter box, water bowls, toys and other accessories you may need while fostering the kitten. The investment is small but the returns are great!

3. Have fun! While fostering has some serious undertones, let’s remember that kittens are adorable! Seriously, who doesn’t want little bundles of cuteness frolicking around their home? Yes, there can be moments of anxiety when a kitten is sick, but the joy of watching a kitten find its way in the world is totally worth it. (FYI – while super-cute, kittens can be a bit….messy. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

4. Training. Remember that you are preparing the kitten for its fur-ever home. Just like humans, it’s always best to start training as soon as possible. You will want to make sure the kitten will grow up to be a good cat citizen by teaching it right from wrong.

5. Goodbyes. Fostering a pet is temporary. While it can be difficult, we recommend against becoming too emotionally attached to your foster kitten. Keep the cuteness going by taking lots of photos and sharing them on social media so all your friends can see how fun fostering can be. Prepare yourself to say goodbye once the kitten is ready for adoption and consider fostering again in the future!

Celestes Four Kittens
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Just 4 of the many kittens Kitten Associates has available for adoption-just saying'.

If you can do all the above and are ready to foster a kitten, thank you for saving a life! Also, support campaigns such as Found Animals Adopt & Shop’s #100kittydays campaign. During the campaign, Adopt & Shop hopes to adopt 500 kittens in 100 days this kitten season. Just like Robin’s nonprofit Kitten Associates, we're huge supporters of fostering kittens until they find their fur-ever home.

Now, let’s save some lives!

Dark Days & Robin Williams

Dear Friends,

Like so many others around the world who are in shock and mourning the loss of the brilliantly talented Robin Williams, his death reawakens discussions about mental illness, depression and suicide. As a suicide survivor and as someone who has battled serious bouts of depression, I decided to step out from behind the curtain and share some thoughts.

The other day I was talking to my partner, Sam. I was telling him how grateful I was that I got to be alive. That it really IS a miracle that out of all the people who lived before me and who had to survive and have children, that one day two people would find each other and I would get to be a product of that union. The odds blow my mind when I think about it long enough. What reason do I have to ever be sad or sorry to be blessed to watch a sun rise, to walk on my own two legs (I’m not handicapped), to breathe without being plugged into a machine. I can take delight in getting a hug or finding I did have one cookie left when I really wanted one. I may be nearly broke. I might lose my home, but in the scheme of things I have so much to be grateful for simply because I was born and I get to experience all this juicy, wonderful and terrible stuff called life.

This is not a story about blindly being happy or that there can be no reason for feeing brokenhearted and depressed. It’s a reminder to all of us to yank our head out of our ass. To stop being consumed by being a consumer. To stop tap, tap, tapping on the phone keyboard ‘til our eyes burn. To quit beating ourselves up because we're too fat, too thin, too old, too this or that and start a path towards being gentle and loving with ourselves and others in a real and open way.

There are so many issues, so many concerns, so many fears, yet if you could clear those things away for a moment and take a step back and look around, you’re pretty fucking lucky to just be alive and maybe in all of that there is the seed of joy, ready to blossom.

I’ve been to the dark place many times. I’ve come very close to taking my own life more often than I’d care to say. In 1999 on a hot summer day in June, my father blew his brains out in my brother’s old room. He’d had many trials over his life and dark days, too, but in those days seeing a therapist or taking medication wasn’t a thing a “man” did. My father was a great provider for his family. He loved us yet scared us with his temper, but in the end he was a guilt-ridden, frustrated man who so wanted to be happy but couldn’t find a way to stop feeling bad about what he didn’t achieve. Because of that he was blind to seeing what he DID accomplish. He could never let go of having to prove something and as a result could never feel good about himself. It was a demon that he couldn’t shake. He was so creative and far ahead of his time that it still pains me to think about it. If he could only have seen what I saw in him.

©1970 Judith Feminella. Daddy going on another business trip with me and my brother at his side.

I wonder if that is true of Robin Williams? I can’t speak about this man’s life. I have lots of questions like everyone else. I think about how I want to feel jealous of my friends when I see them having success. I think they have it all and I have nothing. I think I’m not good enough because they have more than I do. I think about Robin Williams, a comedic genius with money, fame, access to whoever or whatever he wanted. He didn’t have to worry about how to pay the bills or if he had enough Likes on Facebook. He “had it all” by our standards, yet look at how things ended for him? He may have felt like his life was some sort of living Hell that was so painful the only solution left was to leave this mortal coil.

Looking at it from the outside it would be easy to assume he had no reason to take his life, yet what he did is exactly the reason why we need to learn from it. It’s so easy to think the other person has it so good when we don’t know what their life is really like. We don’t know what’s in their heart yet we’re willing to let ourselves feel like we’re not good enough or our life doesn’t have meaning, when we couldn’t be more wrong.

I know how depression feels like impossibly tight blinders. We can’t be reasoned out of not wanting to hurt ourselves in those dark moments. For myself what I have learned was I made a promise to my Mother that if I ever felt that badly I could sound the alarm and she would help me simply get to the next minute. If I could get to one minute, surely I could get to two and soon after that the darkness would slowly begin to wane. I could always depend on my feelings changing. Nothing is solid. I can just take another breath and another and I can get there even if I’m still wobbly for a long time after. The sky will be blue again. That’s a guarantee.

My mother died 8 years ago Friday. I don’t have her to go to when the dark times come, but I have all of you and I can’t tell you how many times your love has kept my fingers typing along, telling another story, when I thought so little of myself that I didn’t want to go on any more. I also don't feel so dark all the time. The more I focus on being grateful and in helping others, the less I feel bad about myself.

I’m so terribly sad that Robin Williams choice was to take his life. I know if he had reached out to any one of his fans, his friends, his family, they would have gone to his side. I wish Robin could have taken another breath, given it another minute. At some point there will be good days again. You have to have faith in that. If you can just open your eyes and let a tiny sliver of this beautiful world reach your heart you wouldn’t ever feel the need to leave it all behind. There really IS so much wonder around all of us it’s a terrible shame how easy it is to forget that.

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Unrestricted Image Creative Commons: Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA

I wish I could have said some of these things to my Father and I wish someone could have said them to Robin Williams, too.

And to all of you, my friends, thank you for being there. To those who suffer the dark days, please, please remember to have faith in that next breath and that soon your feelings will change. Reach out to friends and family for help or call any number of suicide prevention hotlines. People care about each other and want to help each other. You DO matter. Let someone help you. Then, when you feel you can, go outside and look around. Find a gem in a newly formed leaf or really enjoy the sweet smell of the air before it rains. Don’t take your life for granted and throw it down the drain. Relish it. Love it. Be joyful. Live.

Birth, Death and Everything Inbetween.

It’s been a tough month since we took on ALL the cats from one home in town in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. The woman said she someone gave her a cat we call Laney and she never got around to getting her spayed. Fast forward 3 years and there were 13 cats roaming around her yard, all offspring of this one cat or her "old enough" kittens. Many more than the ones we were able to account for “disappeared” or were flat out killed by wildlife or died from never getting vet care. Laney's own daughter Winnie was the latest in a long line of pregnant offspring, but she would get the care she needed, unlike the others.

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©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Mother, Laney (left) and her daughter, Winnie (right)

Their miserable life ended on July 1 when we took them into our rescue. Kitten Associates is “full-up” with other cats and kittens but because our foster mom, Moe was willing to make room, we decided to take on the risk. It’s very hard to turn your back when you know something terrible could befall little kittens and their parents. It meant a big challenge for us because we haven’t had any adoptions this summer and what little interest we’ve had hasn’t panned out. Trying to find the funds to feed all these cats plus the dozen plus more I have in my home is difficult, but it must be done. We are devoted to ending their misery by providing for their well-being for however long that means. We treated their flea infestations and took them to the vet over and over again. Two of the kittens, Jasper and Julep, were chronically sick to the point of us fearing we would lose them, but they recovered and for now they are doing well.

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©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Laney has got to be due soon!

Meanwhile, Celeste, our friendly stray who was dumped and pregnant in a nearby town to my home in Connecticut is ready to be spayed. Her kittens are already vetted now that they’re 12 weeks old. Astro, Hubble, Twinkle-Twinkle and Little Star are delightful. They’ve grown like weeds and are full of love and joy, but they’re outgrowing the small blue bathroom and it’s tough to keep them in such a small space. We let them out of their room for a run down the hallway a few times every day. They love to race back and forth after pom poms, spring toys and pretty much anything else they can get their paws on until they get so tired they lay flat on the floor having no further desire to run around until they recharge their battery with a nap. I can’t believe they’re getting so big already. Seems like only a week or two ago that I watched them being born. Sometimes I imagine little Fiorello, their sibling who died a day after he was born, running around with the others, finally getting to live the full life he deserved.

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©2014 Robin A.F Olson. Celeste getting ready for the next part of her journey.

Mia, who came to us from northern Georgia, and her kittens are doing well, too. Although it was the right choice to bring Mia to my home in Connecticut to be fostered with her kittens, it was also the wrong choice to make. Mia and I haven’t bonded. She always hisses at me when I come near her. I’ve snuck a few pets in but she recoils fearfully. If I’d left her behind and only transported her kittens to my home leaving Moe continue to work with her, the 13 cats we just rescued wouldn’t have had a space to live and we would have had to leave them behind to fend for themselves.

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©2014 Robin A.F Olson. A little bit of everything going on here.

Mia’s kittens are a riot and the two who were most shy are starting to warm up to me. They’re all getting to be too big, which always makes me worry, but I have to have faith it will work out and they’ll find their homes soon regardless of how big they are now.

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©2014 Robin A.F Olson. Who is the most beautiful one of all?

Wallace, our little brat, has had a few setbacks, but has also made some great progress. Wallace, who was rescued by the Danbury, CT Fire Department when they broke him out of a wall, needed to be bottle fed for many weeks. With Nina, a Great Dane, as his only animal friend, Wallace didn’t learn his “kitty manners” and became fearful and aggressive with humans. I was shocked this happened to Wallace and felt like blaming his foster mom for not doing a good job, but after doing some research it was clear that Wallace needed the company of other kittens to help him learn how to be a proper kitty—to not bite hard, to not be aggressive. He couldn’t learn this from humans so he returned to my home for what I call “Kitten Bootcamp.”

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©2014 Robin A.F Olson. Hubble (left) and Astro (right) growing like weeds.

It wasn’t easy to make the choice but after careful consideration I put Wallace with Mia’s kittens instead of Celeste's even though her kittens were the same age as Wallace. They were already vetted and were less likely to cause Wallace to get sick and vice versa. They were older and bigger and could also handle Wallace’s rough play-behavior. I worried that Wallace would get hurt especially after seeing how Mia's kitten Woody reacted to meeting his new friend.

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©2014 Robin A.F Olson. Little Star at 10 weeks.

It took a few days for the hissing and growling to subside. The once sweet Woody turned violent and unpleasant with all of us during those days. I was surprised since Woody has always been the most friendly and outgoing, but apparently he's also the most possessive of his humans.

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©2014 Robin A.F Olson. Mia's son, Fernando. Just chillin'.

I didn’t think this test would work very quickly, if at all, but within a week I began to see big changes in Wallace. His initial anger was gone. He was no longer frustrated by not having an outlet for his pent up energy. He could chase and be chased. He could wrestle, jump, bite and burn off any excess energy he had. He’d come over to me when I entered the room and he’d PURR. He’d climb up on me and rub his face against my cheek. He couldn’t get close enough to me. I wanted to relax and enjoy it, but I was still very careful in how I handled him. I didn’t pet him a lot because I didn’t want to over-stimulate him and I wanted him to have positive reinforcement for his good behavior, too.

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©2014 Robin A.F Olson. Ivy (left) and brother, Fernando (right).

He definitely seemed to have a point where it was too much and I didn’t want to get to that point. If he started to jump or nip I stopped giving him attention. He needs more work but he’s so much better and our little punk has gained over a pound! He no longer looks like an elf with his big ears and eyes. I miss the silly face he once had, but I’m glad to see him maturing normally and losing that scary-big belly that made us worry he had the wet form of FIP.

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©2014 Robin A.F Olson. Sweet Greta.

Junebug and her sister Maggie are STILL waiting for their forever home. The once shy kitties are much calmer and living a great life with Jame and her family. They are our newest foster family and have helped the kitties overcome their fears. The cats are almost full grown and gorgeous. It pains me that only their brother Purrcee has been adopted. I hope their turn will come soon.
I had a chance to see them today when Sam and I visited them and showed Jame how to do claw trims, but it also left me feeling guilty that I haven't found their home yet.

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©2014 Robin A.F Olson. One of the weirdest photos I've ever taken.

And lastly there’s Winnie and Laney, our pregnant ladies. Two days ago Winnie gave birth to three kittens. Sadly, only one of them survived. The others were stillborn. Winnie didn’t have the best odds coming from a lousy environment, being very young-barely out of kittenhood herself, and her offspring were likely inbred. It just doesn’t add up to producing healthy, viable kittens.

Wallace and Nany R Olson
©2014 Robin A.F Olson. Wallace makes friends with Fernando.

It's heartbreaking that the kittens didn’t make it. Tigger and Eeoyre deserved to have a long, wonderful life, but they never even took a breath. Their little sibling, Piglet is precious and pale, but is nursing well. Winnie is too young to understand the responsibility of being a mother. Maybe her hormones haven’t kicked in or there’s something wrong with Piglet. All we know is she’s not being a great mother. Unless she’s supervised she doesn’t feed Piglet consistently. She hasn’t abandoned the kitten so we don't think anything is wrong with him. She has gone over to the place where she gave birth and cried out. She's possibly mourning her losses. It's hard to say. We’re praying that she adjusts to motherhood soon and/or that her mother, Laney, finally gives birth and will accept an extra kitten to care for.

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©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Winnie rests her head on a warmed rice-filled sock after her first day as a mom while Piglet enjoys his first day.

Laney is HUGE. I keep seeing photos of her and wonder how she walks and how many kittens she’s going to have. She’s been a mama many times before so we hope all her kittens will be big and thriving and maybe be willing to share their mom with Piglet if needed.

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©2014 Foster Mom Moe. Piglet. 2 ounces. Resting on a gently warmed sock filled with rice.

Tonight is the night of the Super Moon. It's big and peachy in color. It's been giving me strange dreams. My gut says this is the night when Laney will give birth because we are pulled by the unseen forces of nature and the moon's tug on us is one of them. Everyone will be all right and Piglet will survive. It just HAS to be that way. It just HAS TO. We’ve lost two kittens to the Heavens. The price has been paid. I hope the ones yet to be born as well as little Piglet will be all right so we can focus on celebrating our new arrivals and starting their story with joy in our hearts instead of the sting of disappointment and sadness over more who don't make it.

UPDATE: The super moon didn't work its magic on Laney. No kittens yet. We're still waiting for her to give birth. Piglet went from 2 ounces to 2.5 ounces. Moe is supplementing his food with extra syringes of formula. All we can do now is cross our fingers, toes, paws, whatever we've got. It's up to Piglet and Winnie now.

Another Fluffy Star is in the Heavens

Two years ago we rescued a kitty in Georgia we named King Arthur. I wanted him to have a regal name because he lived in squalid conditions with a deformity that robbed him of his back paws. He deserved a life of adoration and loving care after what he'd suffered and I was determined to find that for him.

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©2012 Bobby Stanford. Our super-amazing cat transporter and friend, Bobby told us about King and the rest was history. (You can read King's story HERE.)

When a lady named Judith read my blog post about King, she decided to offer him a forever home with her and her two cats. She didn't care that she couldn't meet him before she adopted him. She knew she would make it work. She lives far from Georgia in New Hampshire, but her love was not deterred by distance.

Over the years King has had a number of serious health issues that almost took his life, but with Judy on his side, he had nothing to fear. Judy is one of those special people who not only provides a loving home, but makes certain her cats always get the best care and appropriate food, too.

©2014 Judy. A very happy and well-loved, King.

You see Judy's had experience with cats who needed help. In fact they were her first two cats, Sassy and Yasmin who share Judy's home with King. While most first time cat parents opt to adopt kittens or easy-to-love cats, Judy chose adult cats that had been victims of a hoarder who faced serious health and behavioral issues.

Yasmin was so badly covered in fleas that she had to be quarantined for three months while she recovered from multiple issues beyond what the fleas did to her. When she was discovered, Yasmin had been protecting another cat in the home named Sassy. Sassy was terrified of everyone and Yasmin was her only friend. Yasmin, who was outgoing and affectionate, showed Sassy it was okay to be around humans. Because they were so bonded from their traumatic experience it was decided that the cats had to stay together.

Enter Judy.

Judy learned a lot about cats because of Yasmin's many health issues. Yasmin had almost no fur when she was adopted. Her coat was ratty and short, but eventually it grew and grew, surprising everyone that she was a long haired cat. Yasmin became diabetic and Judy gave her insulin and monitored her care. She did the research and found out with a diet change she could put Yasmin into remission. She did right by her sweet kitty by changing her diet, which worked on lowing her blood sugar levels to within normal limits.

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©2012 Robin AF Olson. Yasmin getting her belly brushed by Judy's sister.

Yasmin almost died during her spay surgery and had battles with URIs, dermatitis and painful dental problems, but she remained loving and affectionate throughout her challenges. I got to meet Yasmine when we brought King to his new home where she was completely at ease with us. I have a major soft spot for black and white long haired cats so when I met her I was instantly in love with her, too.

©2014 Judy. They ever lovely Yasmin.

I've kept in touch with Judy since King's adoption and I was very sad to find out that Yasmin recently passed away. Up until her last days when Judy's family came to visit, Yasmin would still come over and sit on Judy's lap so she could be the center of attention. Everyone who met her adored her.

I'm always very sad when another kitty crosses the Rainbow Bridge, but because she was part of our Kitten Associates family, it makes it even harder.

To our dear friend Judy and her family both furry and not, our deepest sympathies for your loss. Yasmin was a very special, very beautiful kitty who will add another star to the heavens. Fly free sweet girl. Fly free.


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ResQwalk to the Rescue.

ResQwalk, an innovative iOS app that enables animal lovers to raise
money for animal rescues and shelters just by going for a walk, is now
available for iPhone (with plans to expand to Android in the near future). It's available for FREE through the App Store.

Our vision, said Bailey Schroeder CEO and Founder of ResQwalk, is to create a platform that makes giving easy. People don't always have time to volunteer with their local animal rescue, or the space to welcome a dog or cat into their home. Now, with ResQwalk, they have a fun, easy way to contribute to a great cause while doing something they're already doing-walking.

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Each week ResQwalk announces a donation pool and, in order for an
organization to receive a portion of the pool, its supporters simply
need to check in to the app when they go for a walk with their dog. At
the end of the week donations are paid out to the various rescues
proportionally to the total distance walked. ResQwalk tracks both miles
and kilometers walked and currently works in the USA and Canada (with plans to expand to other countries).

Being the President & Founder of Kitten Associates, a non-profit cat rescue, I was uniquely qualified because I use the app and my rescue benefits from it.

I downloaded the app for my old iPhone and gave it a test drive. The interface is very simple and straightforward and I had no problem setting it up. Sam and I went for a walk around the block. As we walked, ResQwalk followed along ticking off every step. I found myself obsessively checking our progress every few minutes, glad to see we were approaching the first mile mark. Because we weren't signed up to be a recipient rescue, we walked for our friends at Kitten Rescue in LA.

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As we neared home, I noticed we walked .99 of a mile! I was tempted to continue walking up and down the stairs in my house so I'd hit the 1.0 mile mark, so perhaps you might be inspired to walk a bit further, depending on your results if you're as anal as I am!

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When you choose to complete your walk and send the results to ResQwalk HQ, you also have the option to Tweet or post your walk on Facebook. This certainly can get your friends to join you the next time you go, but they also know WHERE you are so if you're a celebrity or don't care for stalkers, be mindful about what you post. I shared my results because no one would believe that I actually went for a walk (I prefer sitting quietly-too bad there's not an app for sitting at the computer. I would so WIN that). Okay, it DOES make going for a walk fun because you know you're helping a rescue while you get the benefit of exercise.

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I recently went for a walk when I was out of town on a mini-break and got to share the results on Facebook.

A few days later I signed up our rescue and fairly soon thereafter I discovered Kitten Associates (KA) was listed on the app. Some of our friends went for a walk and at the close of the first week we got our first donation. It was $1.48, but we barely had anyone walking for us. Also, it cost us NOTHING to get that donation, so that's a win for rescues who are constantly looking for ways to increase donations. All they have to do is work on recruiting folks to walk for them. (Hey! This week we got $4.81! Thank you, walkers!)

I was contacted by Edward at ResQwalk about creating custom badges for both our uses and I thought that was a very helpful idea. This is not a one-sided operation. I truly felt as though they DO want to help rescues however they can and they were easy to work with.

The only thing that ruffled my feathers a little bit was that the app was designed around taking your dog for a walk. If you don't have a dog, as is in my case, just go for a walk! I even did a test walk when I did some shopping because the local Target store seems so big that I figured I must walk a decent distance. What surprised me was at the end of my walk was that ResQwalk reported I didn't walk far enough for it to count! I felt a bit embarrassed, but hey, I tried.

I love this idea. It promotes good health. It's FREE. There is an option to view and purchase extra goodies to support your local rescue if you like to do a bit of shopping. You can change out which rescue you support to spread the wealth or simply focus on your hometown favorite.

You can get ResQWalk FREE HERE and find them on Facebook and Twitter.

MAKE CERTAIN YOU CHOOSE KITTEN ASSOCIATES for your charity when you take your walk! Our kittens will certainly appreciate it even if they can't go outside.

And to those deep-pocketed pet brands out there-this is a great way to get some positive name recognition by sponsoring the weekly pot of money! Take heed!

Now get walkin'!

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After careful consideration, from time to time I write 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. In this case I will be reimbursed for writing this review, though I only write reviews about things I honestly like. This review is MY OPINION, ONLY. The result you experience using this product may differ.

The Accidental Feral. Ch 5. In this Moment.

It’s never easy to care for a cat when they fall ill. Regardless of your resources or skills, managing your own heart is probably the toughest part of seeing your dear companion weaken and eventually die. Perhaps it’s a blessing that cats live the moment. They don’t ponder the “what ifs” about their life or fret over the bad choices they’ve made. If they’re breathing and on the right side of the grass, it’s all good.

Sadly, we often know what lies ahead and that’s why it’s so difficult on us. It’s why I’ve found myself crying when I’m out running errands and I have a few moments to myself. A mournful song plays on the stereo and I think about what is yet to come for a very special cat named Big Daddy and my heart breaks.

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©2014 Warren Royal. Our first glimpse of Big Daddy.

I’ve followed Big Daddy’s journey from just after the moment his caretaker and BFF, Warren trapped him, to the long phone calls over the past few days discussing what should be done next for him—relieve his suffering from aggressive nasal cancer or find a way to fight the battle anew.

What began as a near-death scare a few months ago, going temporarily blind and having a lung collapse, was only the beginning of what has been one heartbreak after another for this soulful looking creature. For a young cat like Big Daddy, hearing the word “cancer” was a devastating blow even though Big D has plugged along as best he could whatever came his way. He’s just “that kind” of cat.

Big Daddy started chemo and did fairly well. There was a reduction in the spread of the cancer as the swelling in his lymph nodes went away, but what we didn’t know was the mass that was either removed or only partially removed months ago had come back and was growing dangerously large. More tests confirmed it was in his right sinus and pushing on his right eye and next…his brain.

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Last week's CT Scan. The dark area between Big Daddy's eyes is clear sinus and the gray area that is similar to the black is the mass located.

But Big Daddy didn’t know this. He couldn’t breathe very easily and his sense of smell was so weak he lost his taste for his favorite food. He still played, not as joyfully, but he didn’t let the mass completely stop his love for life. Warren knew that if something wasn’t done, Big Daddy’s time was almost up.

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©2014 Warren Royal. Warren & Big Daddy.

Warren and I had a long talk about giving him radiation. The truth is it may only be palliative. It’s not a cure. Big Daddy has terminal cancer. The question we don’t know the answer to is when he will die and how long we can put it off and keep him happy and comfortable in the meantime.

We reached out to professionals. Warren spoke with a radiologist who said that nasal cancer responds very well to radiation and, “knock wood” so far she’s never seen it NOT reduce the size of the mass. Dr. Gerald Post, our oncologist Vet who worked with Fred, also weighed in and agreed that Big Daddy’s treatment should be radiation along with chemo. The chemo would stop the spread of the cancer to his GI tract and the radiation would reduce the mass. It would mean 5 days in a row of radiation for Big Daddy and some discomfort, but the hope would be in a few weeks time, that Big Daddy would no longer be struggling to breathe and his vision would remain intact.

Warren’s only concern is quality of life for Big Daddy. He does not want him to suffer. Warren gave up on going to important business trips to stay home and make sure Big Daddy got to his Vet appointments and so he could continue to provide care. For a professed former dog lover, Warren’s tune has certainly changed. I have rarely ever seen anyone so dedicated to providing the right care, whatever that may mean, for a cat.

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©2014 Warren Royal. Taking a break to catch his breath.

Considering what the costs involve for the chemo, the CT scan, the radiation, I’m ever in awe that Warren just won’t give up. He knows if he doesn’t do something right now, Big Daddy is lost to us all.

We’ve “gone to the well” a few times very recently, asking for donations to help Big Daddy keep going. No one wants to ask for help but the truth is, Vet care is expensive, especially when you’re dealing with cancer.

The good news is that Warren has a surprise up his sleeve and I have one, too.

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Warren’s company, Royal Bobbles, produces custom bobbleheads. While he’s been busy researching and caring for Big Daddy, he and his team have been creating a Big Daddy bobblehead. The final design has just been approved and the exciting news is that EVERYONE who donates $50.00 (either as a sole donation OR if you’ve donated a few dollars in our last fundraiser and donate again to reach that $50.00 mark) will get a Big Daddy bobblehead of their own. It’s a special Thank You gift Warren wants as many folks as possible to have. They will start shipping in 90 days.

©2014 Warren Royal. Some special one-on-one time.

My surprise is that Chris C., a dedicated supporter of my rescue, Kitten Associates, has offered up a fundraiser challenge! She will match, dollar for dollar, every donation that comes in up to $500.00! That means if you donate $10, it will mean $20 for Big Daddy!

Our starting point for the matching funds challenge will be when the YouCaring fundraiser reaches $500.00 total.Thank you SO MUCH, Chris! You’re part of the team making a big difference in Big Daddy’s life.

You can donate via Big Daddy’s fundraiser below OR you can also call in a credit card to Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners at 404-459-0903 OR mail a check to them at: 455 Abernathy Road NE, Sandy Springs, GA 30328. MAKE SURE you put “For Big Daddy/KittenAssociates” on the note section of the check so they know to add your donation to the account.

Because we know what Big Daddy faces we choose to do something about it. Although the day to day struggle to not lose faith remains a big challenge, I’m proud to say that Warren will slay dragons for Big D. That much is clear. What else is clear is that Big Daddy is a Hell of a lucky cat, even with the darkest days yet to come. He could have been lost to us so long ago…alone…dead…behind that Home Depot where Warren first discovered him. Because of that I try to take some comfort in the joy that we all get to know a truly special cat through Warren’s photos and updates, instead.

Let’s try to be like Big Daddy. In this moment, everything is all right. That's what matters.

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What the Heart Knows: Ch 4 Wallace Returns

Read Wallace's Story from the Beginning: Chapter 1, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3.

Wallace has been in foster care for the past few weeks and from all the reports I got it sounded like he was doing well. The next step in his journey were to put him with Celeste and her kittens because as an orphan, Wallace hasn't learned his kitty manners yet and we don't want him to be adversely effected by only being around humans and his Great Dane friend, Nina.

At least that was the plan...

I brought Celeste's four kittens to the Vet for their first vaccination. After they had their exam they would meet Wallace for the first time. If I could mingle the smell of the kittens with Wallace's perhaps Celeste would be more inclined to accept him as one of her own. She wasn't at the Vet so this was a good time for me to be sneaky.

Except there was a problem...

Christine's young adult daughter brought Wallace into the exam room. I took one look at him and knew something was off. She reported that Wallace was being "violent" and that he really needed some help. As she spoke I could see him writhing in her hands, nipping at her fingers. She handed him to me and I realized his belly was enormous. I could feel the anxiety building in my chest. What the heck was I going to DO with this kitten? Did he have FIP? Violent? Last I saw Wallace he was purring, affectionate and now he was thrashing around in my hands. I needed to talk to the Vet about this.

We went over Wallace's condition. His fur was thin. Near the back of his ears he barely has any fur. I imagined Nina over grooming him and him suffering at the end of her big tongue. Was he held captive? Did she groom him too much? Why did he feel so DIRTY? What little coat he had was coarse. I started to worry that maybe he was really sick or had a skin disease at least.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. First look after returning from his foster home.

I knew I couldn't risk putting him with Celeste's kittens, but now what would I do with him? Where would I put him? I had no more spaces for foster kittens left.

I spoke with the Vet. He felt that although it was big Wallace didn't have any other clinical signs of FIP. He'd seen many kittens with fluid filled bellies when he'd done spay surgeries. He never found a cause for this or felt it was a problem. He did not feel it was safe to put Wallace with any other cats until he was a bit older and had more vetting done.

My heart sank. This is a critical time for Wallace. If we don't get him to be socialized he won't be adoptable. I decided to put him in our master bathroom. It's a small space but it was all I had left. I put a cat tree and some bedding in the room and Wallace already had his "mobile bachelor pad" (cat carrier with his blanket and stuffed bear friend). I let Wallace out of his carrier so I could observe him and he came at me swiping and hissing. He seemed more furious than scared. I tried to pick him up but he struggled and made odd sounds. I put him down. He was so weak he could barely stand. When he did walk, his belly was so big he wobbled...and this is an eight week old kitten. He should have full use of his limbs by now.

I started to wonder if this was the foster home's fault and not Wallace's. He was so sweet when I last saw him. What had they done to him?


I'm caring for two rooms of kittens, overseeing care of six sick cats in Georgia and now Wallace needs socialization. I'm also trying to work to make a living as a graphic designer, promote Kitten Associates so we can keep the doors open and keep writing my blog (and beg for Petties votes!). I was already staying up until 3AM just to make sure I was spending enough time with the kittens after trying to get some work done during the day. There never seems to be enough space to get anything done with calls, emails and texts always coming in. How the Hell was I going to get Wallace into a good place mentally and what if he had Feline Leukemia or FIV?

For the next day I went over how I was going to rip into Wallace's foster mom for not taking good care of him. I was so upset. How could this angry kitten be "my boy?"

I spent hours with him. First coaxing him to come to me with chicken baby food. He came right over and ate while he sat on my lap. We had play time until he was so tired he wanted to nap. Within a day he was not aggressive with me, but he definitely needed help understanding that hands were not for biting. He also began to relax around me and even ran out of his little bachelor pad to greet me on the second morning. There I saw the little guy I'd remembered. There was that little sweetness in him that mixed with how odd he looks adds up to a kitten with the power to melt the coldest heart.

Later that morning we were off to another Vet. This time we visited Dr Mary. I decided if Wallace would test negative for FIV and FeLV, then he could be with Mia, instead of Celeste. Her kittens are much bigger but they have been vetted already so they are at less risk of getting sick or making Wallace sick. I would crate Wallace if I wasn't in the room due to his small size (I want him to be safe from harm) and let him out to be with the kittens for as long as I could every day. Hopefully the interactions would help him learn about not biting and not attacking but it would take some time.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson. With Dr. Mary.

It was Friday morning and we were the only clients. Everyone in the office had to come see Wallace, coo over him, tell him they loved him and basically fuss over him. He was hilarious. He'd be sweet, then reach out and slap someone in the face or nip but not bite their hands. They kissed his big belly and talked baby talk to him, while he looked at them with those big owl eyes. We let him run around the exam room. I'd brought a toy with me so he was chasing after it. Dr. Mary did her exam while she chatted away, telling me that basically he was fine just the way he was, though she couldn't sort out what was going on with his strange striped coat. She was mesmerized by him as she tried to listen to his heart. He wriggled around so the intrepid Vet Tech (and friend of mine) Super-Deb helped keep him still so they could finish up. Deb had no problem holding him up by his front legs and talking to him as though he could understand her words. She'd quickly stretch him out so his belly was exposed, then kiss his belly over and over until he wanted to be put down.

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©2014 Robin AF Olson.

In the end Wallace got his clean bill of health. No FIV. No FeLV. He was de-wormed again and got his first FVRCP vaccination. Dr. Mary felt he should be with other cats and that it was safe to do so and then something unexpected happened.

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©2014 Super Deb. In da bachelor pad.

Super-Deb asked me if I like her to foster Wallace for a few days-just over the weekend. He could meet her maine coon kitties and her beloved doggie, Jayne. They'd get his kitten bootcamp started and I could pick him up on Monday. If it had been anyone else I would have said no, but with Deb, I knew he would be in good hands AND it gave me a little time to get his crate set up for when he returns.

The other thing I realized is that it wasn't the foster mom's fault that Wallace was so fractious. He really needs to be with other cats, BUT I also do wonder if they were using their hands as a toy. That's a big no-no especially with kittens who can't understand if a hand is a toy or a hand is for petting. When Wallace grows up we don't want him to be confused about that because a ten pound cat going after your fingers is not my idea of a good time.

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©2014 Super-Deb.


I've had a few updates about Wallace already. It seems he's having a blast at Super-Deb's house but hasn't had much interaction with Deb's pets yet. Last night he tucked himself in around 10pm when he got into his bachelor pad to go to sleep for the night. Deb was a bit miffed since she wanted him to hang out with her, but Wallace has to recharge his cuteness so he can continue to melt hearts wherever he goes.

It's Monday now and I was supposed to pick up Wallace, except for the fact that Super-Deb has a mad crush on him and asked to keep him until I get back from a quick out-of-town trip I'm going on for two days. I just hope I can get him back when I return.

And now it's time to enjoy this very special video featuring Wallace!

©2014 Robin AF Olson.

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Dogtime Petties Shocker-We're a Finalist After All!

There’s a tight knit community of folks who write cat blogs. Most of them are women and many of them are dear friends of mine. On Monday when the Dogtime Petties Awards finalists were announced I couldn't wait to see how many of my friends made the list. As I scanned the ballot, I was saddened to see that for the first time in all the years since awards have been given out, my blog, Covered in Cat Hair, did not made the cut.

In truth, I felt like the ugly girl who didn’t get invited to the Prom. I understand that I won’t always win things I enter, but I knew in my heart I’d really tried to get enough votes. I’d also been feeling sorry for myself that I wasn’t reaching a big enough audience for all the hard work I put into my blog posts. Many of my friends have well over 50,000 Facebook fans so how could I compete with that? I have just over 12,000 on Facebook. My reach is just too small.

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I realized that I shouldn't compare my work to what anyone else does. Not that I’m so special or awesome, but because if I focus on what others are doing, then it takes away from what I’m doing. I may perceive they have greater success than I do based on their fan base, but that’s their path, not mine and I want to be happy for my friend's success, not be a petty (pardon the pun) whiner. Although I may not have superstar status, I truly believe I have built something a lot better. I get a lot of LOVE from all of you and that is not only VERY HUMBLING, but it’s kept me going these 8 years I’ve been blogging. There have been many dark days and if I didn't have your friendship, I would be lost.

I looked over the finalist list and something struck me. It didn’t look “right.” I know the players and many of their names were absent. Some of the nominees puzzled me. As the next few days passed, I heard from more and more people that some folks got nominations but they NEVER ASKED FOR VOTES. Some got nominated for things they didn’t ASK to be nominated for. A blog post that was two years old, not promoted, won over another blog post from the same blogger that WAS promoted. Something wasn’t right.

I respectfully penned a letter to the folks at Dogtime and asked if something was possibly wrong. The reply shocked me. They indicated they were looking into the voting and would let me know what they found out. They could have said everything was fine as is but they didn’t. I respected them for that.

My partner, Sam told me he’d been able to vote twice in one day (which you should not be able to do). Sam does a lot of coding and he told me that something as minor as a comma in the wrong place in the code could completely destroy how a program functions. I asked him what he would have done if it happened to his website. He said it would be a tough situation to handle and if they didn’t keep good records there might never be a solution.

A few nights ago emails went out to the finalists indicating a complete list of finalists would be announced that night. Everyone held their breath waiting for the news. Would they lose their nomination or get more? In an unheard of move, supposedly due to a computer error, many of the finalists either lost their nomination or were moved to other categories. In some cases, a shocking surprise…

…Covered in Cat Hair DID earn a nomination after all! We received a nomination for Best Blog Post for our Miracle at Bridgeport Animal Control, our story about 75 cats at risk of being euthanized due to overcrowding, followed by the community-wide push to make sure EVERY one of those cats got out ALIVE over the course of two days. I was part of that rescue-an honor I will never forget.

What made me fall over in my chair was that we got a SECOND nomination.

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My non-profit cat rescue, Kitten Associates, got Best Rescue/Cause Blog nomination! That means YOU GUYS made it happen because I didn’t even ask for votes!
I can’t even express how thrilled I was to get this nomination, not only for the honor but for the chance that we will earn a $1000.00 donation if we win our category and $2000.00 if we win BOTH categories!

But then there was the realization that if we had gotten a finalist slot, then someone else lost theirs. I don’t have a record of the first list of finalists, but I know there are many people out there who are very upset. Some of them didn’t ask for votes once, let alone daily, as I did, yet they are still angry.

I get it. It’s humiliating to broadcast you're a finalist for an award, only to have it stripped away later. I would never want to win something by causing anyone else to suffer so this win is a double-edged sword. My rescue NEEDS the donations badly. We have more cats in our program than we’ve ever had before. Earning an award also helps fuel ME to keep writing stories that inspire and entertain. I don’t get a salary for what I do. I make a few dollars once in a blue moon doing a review, but geez, my car is 13 years old and I live month to month most of the time. This award means a lot to me personally.

For the record, I’m truly sorry about how this played out. I hope that going forward we can all try to understand that Dogtime was trying to do the right thing by making this change in Finalists and applaud them for doing that.

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©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Wallace is one of 26 reasons why I really hope we can WIN the Petties!

Karen Nichols summed it up best. I was standing behind her at an awards show a few years ago. She’d just won two awards and I had only reached finalist status. I teased her about winning two awards, acting petulant for not winning and she turned to me and laughed and said, “Hey, it’s an award for CAT BLOGS!”

However it shakes out there will be winners and losers. Does Dogtime need to be hung out to dry? No. They could have made an effort to letting the former finalists down more gently from what I heard and by the way, I NEVER WAS NOTIFIED THAT I WAS A FINALIST. My friends told me.

For someone who was initially robbed of their nomination I'm relieved that I was given a fair chance because of the re-count. Would it be fair that I don’t get the chance I worked for because the others, who didn’t do anything still deserve that slot? It's tough to answer because of all the hurt feelings on both sides.

I don’t have the perfect solution for this kerfuffle, but I'm very grateful to ALL of YOU for voting every day and for believing in what I do…because…

Until August 7th, 2014 I’m going to be bugging you to continue to vote for US AND PLEASE VOTE FOR SOME VERY SPECIAL FRIENDS OF OURS, WHO ARE ALSO ON THE BALLOT.

Each one of these blogs has chosen to donate their $1000.00 award to Kitten Associates. Support them and it could mean we win an additional $3000.00 or more!!


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Vote HERE DAILY! and don't forget to bookmark the page so you can go back and vote again!


How to Help Stray Cats: a #BlogPawsDIY Special Post

I found a friendly cat! What do I do now?

How many of you have had cats “find” you? You’re minding your own business and a skinny, sad little waif shows up at your patio door looking for something to eat or you’re doing yard work and hear kittens crying. A cat has given birth under your shed.

There are countless ways you might find a cat or vice versa, but what do you do next? You’ve got to help them!

First things First. Is the cat Friendly or Feral?

Do you think the cat is a lost house-cat or a wild child? Sometimes it’s tough to tell the difference. In this insightful article, Alley Cat Allies shares some great tips on how to make the determination The short answer is, if they come over to you and want to be petted, you know it’s a friendly stray. In a future post we’ll talk about what to do if the cat is feral. For now we’ll focus on friendly cats.

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A few weeks ago Sam spotted an unfamiliar cat outside on our deck so we began the process of finding out if he needed our help.

Friendly Cats

First, if the cat is NOT BADLY INJURED OR SERIOUSLY ILL* you MUST find out if this is someone else’s cat. It doesn’t matter if the cat appears to be in poor condition, very thin, dirty or not seriously injured. It may have lost its home a long time ago and it may still have a family looking for it. Call your local animal control and report a FOUND cat. Do not simply call them and ask them to take the cat away. Many municipalities do not take found cats and if they do they might euthanize the animal. What they might be able to do is scan the found cat for a microchip. Ask if they can help you with that. If they can’t do the scan, most vets can at least do that. If you can handle the cat and get it to a vet, finding that it has a chip may allow you to reunite it with its family.

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Poor Boots is lost in New Milford, CT.

Also, put flyers around your neighborhood and post photos and information on social media. In some states there are state-specific lost and found web sites for pets. Take a moment to search for those, too. You might be surprised at what you find. Here's a group dedicated to finding lost pets in northwestern CT.

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Keep your eyes peeled for signs in your town from folks looking for their lost cat. It might be the one you found!

If you can’t find their family, as you’re reaching out to get help from a rescue or shelter, be prepared to at least provide fresh food and water for the cat. Shelter is helpful especially if it’s very cold or hot where you live. A plastic storage bin turned on its side in a safe location without the lid works fine to keep the cat out of the elements. Add bedding but make sure to bag it and sanitize wash it after you’re done using it.

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This is a special area where we feed our feral kitty, Bronte. A few weeks ago we noticed she had a new friend with her.

Next, go on and do a search for shelters and rescues in your area. Call and email each one that handles cats.


• Describe the cat as best you can. Is it a specific breed? Is it Long or short haired? What Color is it? Boy or girl or you can’t tell. Is it injured or pregnant? If it’s a kitten or kittens describe if their eyes are open yet, if they are blue, if their ears are perky or flat, if they can walk on their own or just wobble. The more you can tell the rescue, the better they will know what they’re dealing with and be able to figure out if they can help that animal.

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Less than a day after posting this photo on Facebook a woman contacted me and said it might be the missing kitty, Boots. I contacted his family and they still need better images as they are not sure this is their boy, so I'm working on that right now. If it's not Boots, then this kitty is headed to our vet.

•Provide CLEAR photos of the cat’s face and body. Try to estimate age. Older cats lose muscle mass and have noticeable tooth wear and tear.

• Be willing to foster the found cat in your home for a short period of time. The space can be a spare room or bathroom, but do not let the new cat mix with your existing pets until that cat is completely vetted and treat the cat for fleas before you bring it inside unless they are less than 8 week old kittens. They'll need a bath if that's the case.

• If you can afford it, offer to provide whatever you can to make it easier on the rescue. Rescues often survive from day to day. They get calls all the time from people who need help but only want to dump a problem on them without being part of the rescue. THE MORE YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE IT EASY FOR A RESUCE TO SAY YES, DO IT BECAUSE IT WILL HELP YOU GET THE CAT A PLACEMENT.

• Offer a donation towards the care of the cat and you can get the cat its initial vetting. Have it tested for FIV and Feline Leukemia, have it de-wormed and de-flea’d and give him or her a Rabies vaccination. If the cat is intact, you can take it to a low cost clinic. You can find them listed by using the Petsmart & ASPCA locator below: The clinic can do the testing and vaccinations while the cat is being fixed usually all for under $100.00.

If you don’t have a low cost clinic in your area, talk to your own vet or call a local vet. Some will give a “good Samaritan” discount for services. Providing vet care for the cat will make most rescues take notice, because it's rarely ever done. You just saved them not only money, but time.

• Offer to transport the cat to their foster home or facility.

Be patient and be persistent. Expect not to get a call back right away, but don’t give up. You know the saying about the squeaky wheel…and GOOD LUCK!

Let’s save some lives!

Keep this post handy because some day you just might need it!



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


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