We began the year with a rescue, going beyond our comfort zone by taking on an adult, instead of an easy-to-place kitten. The cat was a huge, white, “biscuit head” tom-cat from Henry County Care & Control. I saw his photo and saw something about him that made me take action. I named him Jackson Galaxy in honor of the Cat Daddy/Cat Behaviorist on Animal Planet's hit show, “My Cat From Hell.”
©2012 Henry Co. Care & Control (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson was a miserable wreck when we first took him into Kitten Associates as our first rescue of 2012.
Jackson had a rough start. He frightened Maria but we realized later it was because he was in great pain. He had a terrible infection from his neutering and he needed emergency surgery to correct the problem and get him back on the road to good health. By the end of the month, Jackson was on the transport headed to Connecticut to find his forever home.
©2012 Bobby Stanford (inset). ©2012 Leesiateh.com. Miss Fluffy Pants shortly before being adopted.
Our friend and volunteer, Bobby Stanford, told me about two cats living outside a palette factory in McDonough, GA. They were living in poor conditions and in danger of being hit by any one of the numerous fork lifts that raced around the premises. One of the two cats, a dirty, thin tuxedo we named King Arthur, seemed to be missing his back paws. Completely horrified I decided we'd help him and the other cat on the premises, who we named Miss Fluffy Pants, because we worried she was pregnant.
©2012 Maria S. (inset). King's mama, Judy. King's journey has been quite amazing. I'll be doing a more in-depth update on him in January.
I was fostering a little orange tabby spitfire named Bobette, along with her two boys, the third had just been adopted. Bobette needed surgery to repair her luxated patella, so I sat in on the procedure and helped her in recovery and for the next few weeks while she healed.
February was a month of discovery. We learned that King's missing paws were due to a birth defect. He didn't need surgery or prosthetics. He could walk on carpeting, but who would adopt this cat? King began to clean himself and gain some weight. He loved being petted until Miss Fluffy Pants came to join him.
Miss FP was not pregnant. We thought the two cats were friends at the factory, but they were not happy to see each other. With some quick thinking and the donation of a cat tree, Miss FP could sit high up, away from King and both cats relaxed into their new foster home.
©2011 Henry Co. Care & Control (inset). ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bobette with one of her kittens while at the kill shelter and after surgery in Sam's loving arms.
We also learned the Miss FP was FIV+ which we knew would put a roadblock in our ability to find her a good forever home. With her taking up valuable foster care space I got to work trying to figure out what to do for her that didn't mean putting her in a sanctuary.
We were heartbroken to learn that after some behavior issues gave us a clue to trouble, Dr. Larry diagnosed Sam's cat, Nicky with Chronic Renal Failure. We began giving him sub Q fluids every few days and began to learn more about this condition and ways we could lengthen his life.
Jackson arrived in Connecticut and was placed with my friends at Animals in Distress, but fell ill after arriving there. They thought it was a mild upper respiratory infection and in time he was feeling better. By the second week of February, Jackson found his forever home with a loving family. We were all delighted.
©2011 Maria S. (inset) ©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Two of Bobette's boys, Jakey & Teddy.
Bobette continued her recovery, but was still limping. I had to separate her from her boys because she hissed and growled every time she saw them. The boys, Jakey & Teddy had a blast hanging out with my cats while I continued to try to find them a great home.
The saying is March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but this March was the opposite; quiet for a few weeks, then things started to go crazy.
Bobette had the staples taken out of her leg and due to a problem with the bandage removal she ended up biting my hand so badly I had to see a Doctor.
I found a blueish growth on my cat Gracie's abdomen. She had a dental done and had the cyst removed. It ended up being an Apocrine Gland Carcinoma, but was considered to be completely excised and of no further concern.
Jakey & Teddy were adopted together and Bobette was glad to see them leave.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me with Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy.
On March 26th, a few days before my birthday, Jackson Galaxy emailed me and asked me out to lunch (which ended up being dinner). It was one of the best days of my life, but that wasn't all that happened. That night in the frigid cold in nearby Trumbull, CT, six mostly black kittens were born to a gray mama named April. I didn't realize it at the time, but they would be my next foster family.
The next day, still buzzing from my visit with Jackson, I was honored by Freekibble.com with a donation of a full palette of Halo® canned cat food! The press came to document the event and I started to wonder if the foster cats would eat it (they loved it!).
The Worst Birthday Ever was followed by picking up April and meeting her mostly all black female kittens for the first time. Three kittens were polydactyl and there was no way I was going to be able to tell most of them apart for the next eight weeks.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. April and her kittens.
I rescued a senior cat named Leo who was an adorable long haired tuxedo. The poor cat was forced to live outside on scraps when his owner's wife had a baby. I begged my friend Katherine to take him into Animals in Distress if I paid the Vet bill. We worked something out and Leo was saved. A few months later, Leo and a second cat found an amazing home with a family I found for them here in town. They are doing GREAT.
A missing cat alert showed up in email with a very familiar name, Amberly. One of my former foster cats was MISSING and the family didn't have the nerve to tell me. I leapt into action. Thank GOODNESS Katherine has good instincts and lived nearby the family. By the next DAY Katherine found Amberly and the family promised to work harder to keep her inside.
©2012 Maria S. (inset) and Robin A.F. Olson. Coco, all grown up with siblings Choco and ChiChi (inset).
Maria contacted me about a tortie mom cat we named Cami and five kittens in her neighbors yard. She was very worried about them so I told her to find a place to put them and we'd take them on. By the time Maria got back to the home, two of the kittens were gone, never to be seen again. We named the surviving kittens Coco, ChiChi and Choco.
On May 1st a shelter called AnimalKind in upstate New York suffered the total loss of their facility after a small fire caused the sprinkler system to flood the 3-story building. Through my contacts a pet product companies I was able to provide them with palettes of food and litter. Later in 2012 I visited their facility and met with their Director, Katrin Hecker. You can read about my visit HERE.
I travelled to New Jersey to attend Bottle Baby Bootcamp at Tabby's Place. The timing was great because the black kittens needed help since poor April was having a tough time feeding all the kittens. I worried the littlest one wouldn't make it, but Cutie Pie surprised me and began to do well. I named her sisters Sabrina, Bon Bon, Beauty, Belly Holiday and Hello Dahlia (in honor of my friend, JaneA's cat Dahlia who had recently passed away).
Then a crazy thing happened.
JaneA came to visit us and instead of falling in love with her cat's namesake, she threw me a curveball, clearly falling in love with our little spitfire, Bobette. She adopted her the next morning before she left for her home in Maine. It was a one of the happiest adoptions I'd ever done.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. JaneA with her girl, Bobette (who she later named, Kissy)
By the end of the month there was more somber news. Jackson the cat lost his home and was being returned. Since I had space I offered to take him back since AID was full up.
June will forever be a tough month for me since it's the anniversary of my Father's passing and of my favorite cat's passing. I hoped that this June would not be under such a dark cloud but it was not meant to be.
Thankfully it wasn't all bad news. After months of searching, begging, dealing, I was able to get Miss Fluffy Pants transferred to Good Mews in Marietta, Georgia.
©2012 Maria S. (inset) and Robin A.F. Olson. Willow is still looking for her forever home! You can visit her Petfinder page HERE
Maria, our cat-magnet, rescued a cat from a tree. She named her Willow and we added her to our group of rescues in Georgia. Meanwhile, I got a curious email from a lady in New Hampshire inquiring about King. She had a fully carpeted home. She had two cats. Did I think King might be happy with her?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me, Jill Delzer (center) and Ingrid King (far right). Inset: Joanne McGonagle, Me with Gracie the cat.
And for the first time in many years, I took a fistful of Xanax and boarded a plane headed to Salt Lake City where Sam and I were Speakers at BlogPaws 2012. I was up for two awards that I did not win, but I had so much fun and made a great new friend. In those few days I was re-energized enough to keep doing rescue work once I got home.
Maria removed another cat from her neighbor (with his consent)- who NEVER spays or neuters his cats. Maria has tried repeatedly to get the cats taken care of but he just puts it off and his cats get pregnant. A nine month old kitten named Opal, who had become almost feral, was pregnant. Our new foster mom, Cyndie offered to take her in and help her along. Sadly, the stress of being in a home pushed Opal in to premature labor. Four kittens were born, but after extensive attempts to save their lives, only two survived. She named them Fred & Barney. We had their siblings Pebbles and Bam Bam cremated and their little wooden urn is here with me placed next to my cat, Bob's ashes.
NOTE TO READERS: It's been a week since I wrote this post, but I felt it was still worth sharing. This is a behind-the-scenes look at the birth “Kitties for Kids” and its initial flowering. I hope it inspires all of you that next time you get an idea that rises from your heart, you just go with it. You may change the world, or only a small part of it or just your own soul. Whatever comes of it, do it. The world needs you.
My Mother used to say to me: “Never wish for anything. You're liable to get it.”
A week ago I wished I could pay my mortgage, find more donations for Kitten Associates and get the kittens adopted so I could finally take a MUCH needed break from fostering. Things were looking up. I had good possible adopters for Coco, Fred & Barney, Nico and Willow. That left me with Latte and George & Bongo (who are still down in Georgia).
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The size of the memorial grew every day until the sidewalks were jammed with toys, flowers, candles and messages of love.
Then the world stopped spinning and the tears began to flow after the vicious rampage and mass murder at our local elementary school. The following day, Saturday the 15th of December, an idea blossomed. I'm not one to sit idly by when something bad happens. I need to take action on some level, in some way. Maybe running a cat rescue predisposes me to be the type of person to run TO trouble, instead of AWAY from it?
There are so many times when I believe I have a good idea, but never act on it. There's always a reason to watch more TV or to not bother because it would take too much time and keep me from other things I've made a commitment to already. Between tears I said to Sam that maybe we should open up the foster kitten room and invite the children of Newtown to come here and just pet the cats. We knew the effect playtime would have on the kids. I'd seen it many time before-their eyes lit up, twinkling, giggling like mad, their voices rising in glee. I thought if I could help them, even for a short while it would be worth it.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. So many candles. So many tears.
I knew I couldn't take away their pain-or frankly, anyone's here in Sandy Hook, CT for that matter, but I HAD to try. I feel very protective of the people in this town-which surprises me because often I feel like an outcast. Sam and I don't have any children together so we miss out on a lot of things since Newtown IS very family focused. Some times I resented living in a bedroom community where we didn't drive an SUV or go to soccer games. I found my way to fit in through my love of animals and now I get to do something with that love that might be of some benefit on a grand scale. I've always wanted to make a difference. Maybe with this little idea to help the children I COULD.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The note reads: “Sandy Hook Elementary. With all my love and lots of Hugs. Sandy Hook Class of 1972.
I called the program Kitties for Kids (though looking back on it I wish I called it Kitties for Kiddies, but it's too late now) and put together a mental picture of how it would work. I bounced the idea off Sam and he said; “Go for it.” He didn't find any serious issues with doing it and I was so energized by my need to help that I sat down and started making lists. I went online and added a number of plush cat toys to our Amazon WishList. As I do with every adoption event or promotion I went online and told my Facebook fans, both of Covered in Cat Hair and of Kitten Associates, my non-profit cat rescue organization.
I thought that after the kids came to visit, I'd give them a plush cat toy because I feared they would either not want to go home after 30 minutes OR not want to go home-EVER. Perhaps getting a parting gift of a plush cat would help soothe them and remind them of the nice time they had.
I got a text message from my foster mom down in Georgia. “Where were the plush cats on the list?” She didn't see anything.
Neither did I.
I added more and they, too, were gone in minutes!I began getting emails from folks asking how they could help. One woman, who created K.T. Cat, an adorable plush toy designed to help young children talk about their feelings, offered a donation of her plush.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Every day the UPS driver kept bringing us packages. It was like Christmas for days and days!
She offered 50 K.T. Cats and I gladly accepted. I knew a special therapeutic plush like this could REALLY make a difference.
I was stunned by all the sudden activity and interest in my idea. I started to worry about what-if's: What if I don't have enough space to store all these boxes of plush cats? What if no one shows up? What if TOO MANY people show up and I can't take them all on for fear of stressing my kittens? What if we have to rent a haul and a storage container? What if I RUN OUT OF FOSTER KITTENS?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Sorting out what we have and trying to keep it all away from inquisitive cats.
My dear friend Mary, of The Word Forge LOVED the idea and offered to help write a Press Release. Another friend, Irene, my super-volunteer offered to come over and help me clean out the foster room and go to Target so we could get some things to cheer the space up a bit (even though i really wanted to completely re-do the room there wasn't time). It seemed as though EVERYONE I told about Kitties for Kids LOVED the idea. Their enthusiasm kept me going.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. A huge box of plush ready for the children to take them home.
I got very little sleep and barely ate. There was a lot of time spent answering calls and emails. Kitten Associates was FINALLY starting to become known in Newtown, something we've been very weak on since being established in 2010 and the word is spreading about us beyond the borders of the USA.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen and his plush counterpart, both offering comfort to those effected by the Shooting in Sandy Hook.
And then the phone started to ring. The people I needed to reach were getting the message and wanted to book an appointment. Kitties for Kids was really happening. Now it was time to found out if my idea was a good one.
Next up-"Media Mayhem," followed by “Terror-tourists GO HOME!”, then we do a wrap up with an update on how the Kitties for Kids program is doing along with some very special photos.
For more information about Kitties for Kids, or to find out how you can visit our kitties visit Kitten Associates!
The first morning after Spencer's surgery I went over to his crate and opened the door so he could stretch his legs. I hated having to confine him, but it's only for a few days. There's a pen attached to his crate once the door is open. It gives him more space, but keeps him from running around. He's supposed to rest. He's supposed to wear that damn “cone of shame.” He's supposed to be feeling awful for a few days.
I started placing the dishes out onto the counter. I count to myself the numbers 1 through 9. I have enough plates. Next is to get the raw food thawed so I go over to the refrigerator and pull out a package of food that Sam made up a few days ago. I hear a weird sound and turn. I don't see anything so I go back to what I was doing but something caught my eye. It was Spencer. He was sitting in his “spot” where he usually waits to be fed. He looked up at me and gave me the ever-familiar silent meow, letting me know he was hungry. The sound I heard must have been him jumping over the pen when just the night before there was no way he could manage.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. “This is your cat on drugs.”
It would be a good hour before the food was warm and Jackson, too, was fussing about wanting to eat. Who am I to say no to them after the last day we had?
I grabbed a few cans of one of their favorite canned grain-free foods and scooped some out on a dish. I hid Spencer's antibiotics and Jackson's pile of pills into the food after I'd coated them in my favorite stuff-Flavor Doh. It really works to hide pills! I put the food down and within two seconds, pills and all, it was gone. Spencer ate normally for the first time in MONTHS. He'd been chewing out of once side of his mouth, a telltale sign of some sort of dental problem. Here he was, like nothing ever happened. Meanwhile, Jackson was chowing down, wanting more. I couldn't be happier.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Purple-buprenex-haze.
Later that morning, as I sat at my desk, Spencer ran over and jumped into his favorite cat bed which is at table top height and is right next to me. I was so glad to see him, even though he was supposed to be in his cage resting. He seemed very comfortable even though he was still on Buprenex and was a bit loopy. Blitzen and Nicky were also in my office fast asleep. I felt safe again with them here. I couldn't get over how dreadfully lost I felt without them less than 24 hours ago. We were a family again and everyone was basically okay.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Jackson, back to his old self.
I've said it many times before that my finances are in the shitter. Part of it was due to how much we spent trying to keep Bob Dole (my cat) alive, along with some other very costly Vet visits. I knew if Spencer had cancer I'd have a very very very hard time paying for his care. I would find a way, but when you're in a deep hole already, you don't have much energy or tools to dig deeper.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My lovely floor.
Meanwhile Jackson was back to his old ways. He was LOUD, meowing the second we went to bed, then starting up again very early in the morning. He wants his pills/snack at 7:20AM. I do not need an alarm clock with him. He's almost spritzed cat urine in the bedroom but I watch him like a hawk and have stopped him a number of times. It's exhausting. I don't know what it would take to get him to stop doing it. There's competition for the bedroom and he rarely stays the night. He's probably trying to scent the place so he can take over. Meanwhile it's pee pee pads by the front of the bed to protect the rug and a lot more policing then I'd like to do.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Yummy goodness, but naughty boy.
Jackson is not deaf. He MAY be hearing impaired to some degree, but I'm not sure how severe it is. He CAN hear me, especially if I YELL at him to NOT PEE on the BED. As for more subtle sounds, he may have a problem. More testing needs to be done.
For now it's simply watch and wait—make sure everyone stays out of trouble, eats their food, takes their medicine. Spencer's been very good about not picking at his sutures and for that I continue to be happy.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Spencer with the only Friskies I allow in the house.
I also have one more thing to be HAPPY about.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Soulful Jackson.
I could barely speak and I had to hold back my tears as I thanked her profusely and hung up the phone. I ran to Sam to tell him, the tears falling freely, before I could get the words out, leaving him to think it was the worst before he realized it was the BEST NEWS EVER!
Not only was Spencer just fine and dandy, but the weight of worrying about how I would pay for his care lifted. What a great gift! It was completely unexpected and so very very sincerely appreciated. My boys were back home with me, just where they belong. I wanted to hold each one tight and never let them go.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Me and my baby. It's going to be okay.
I may not have ever had human children, but I suddenly felt like I understood how the bond between a Mother and child-how it must feel to almost lose someone you love very much, then yank the back from the edge of the cliff at the very last second. It's been quite a week and this time we get a happy ending. I know it won't always be like this, but for now it's all good.
The past 24 hours have squeezed the life out of me. I could barely make it to my bed last night I was so tired.
The morning started off too early. I wanted to go back to bed as soon as I left it, but I pushed myself to get into the shower. Get dressed. Get going. I had to get ready to leave for Dr. Larry's with Spencer in tow. It was finally time for Spencer to get his MUCH NEEDED dental cleaning done, as well as the removal of an ugly black growth from the edge of his right ear. Spencer also had a small growth INSIDE his left ear that had to go, too. It was these two unwelcome guests that I was most worried about. Was it CANCER?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. My baby.
I got dressed and put on a new pair of jeans. I managed to get them half price on Cyber Monday. It was the first new pair of clothes I'd had since I could remember. They fit great but were a bit too long. As I walked I kept catching the ends under my feet, causing me to hike up my jeans as high as they could go, but then they'd slip back down. I'd get them hemmed later, but it made me crankier.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Growth highlighted. Was VERY difficult to notice this until it was bigger due to Spencer's coloring.
Spencer was a dream to get into his cat carrier, but once we got into the car, his pupils dilated and he started to, well, not meow, per se, but sort of squeak. Spencer doesn't meow. He never has. I call what he does "air meow" because he WILL look at me, then open his mouth; it's just that nothing comes out but some air from his lungs.
I took the back roads instead of the highway, determined to keep Spencer as comfortable as possible. Just before we reached the Clinic, a cop car whizzed past us, lights and sirens blaring. I knew from the days when I volunteered with EMS that it had to be bad news, the more noise and fuss the car was making, the worse the situation. I wondered where he was going as a sense of dread filled my heart. I hoped this wasn't a bad sign of things to come.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This is Spencer's favorite spot, right next to me when I'm working at my desk.
It was quiet at the Clinic so I asked if I could set Spencer up in his cage and to spend a few minutes saying goodbye. I've been a client of Dr Larry's for over 15 years so I get to go in the back where client's aren't usually allowed.
There were two big dogs barking loudly. The Tech got them to quiet down, but it ticked up my anxiety wanting to protect Spencer from these beasts. Spencer didn't want to come out of his carrier. I couldn't blame him. I ended up having to tip the carrier up on its edge hoping gravity would do the trick and it did.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Dirty, yucky, teeth and gums.
I spent a few minutes talking to Spencer, petting him, kissing him, somehow trying to capture this moment because of the fear under all the other fears—that I would never see Spencer again. I realize it may sound dramatic, but over the past few weeks so many cats have died that I just felt this sense of impending doom. I kept thinking about Bobette and how we all thought she was going to be fine and she didn't survive her surgery. I pushed back my fears as best I could, but I wasn't raised to have faith, my parents feeling we should decide our own path to religion (if we had one at all). It left me struggling with my feelings.
I didn't go straight home. I decided to go grocery shopping, get just a few things. I was tired of being hungry and broke, but I certainly had enough to buy some bread and eggs, maybe some soup. The store was not crowded, being that it was not even 9AM. I enjoyed the meditative quality of walking up and down the aisles, looking at all the food, wondering what was on sale and what would make for an inexpensive meal while my tummy rumbled reminding me I'd skipped breakfast.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Not comin' out!
As usual, I bought more than I anticipated, but took advantage of the sales and saved $40.00, for which I felt quite proud. I distracted myself long enough to forget my worries about Spencer. He was in good hands. I had to wait and see how things would unfold, but I couldn't fool myself completely. I was really cranky from being tired and from struggling to not to be worried. By the time I got home I was in a bad mood.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Too fluffy for feet? Spencer in his cage.
I got the car unloaded and Sam helped me put the groceries away. He didn't say anything to me until we were done.
“I need to talk to you about Jackson.”
I felt a ice pick in my gut and my legs go wobbly.
“He didn't eat this morning and is hiding in your office. I can't get him to eat. Something's wrong.”
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This makes me sick-I think of all the “urgent” cats who need to get out of shelters and I look at this photo and see my sweet kitty-how much I love him-how easy it could be for him to be one of those cats.
I began rattling off questions as we walked into my office. Sure enough there was Jackson with his front legs tucked under him. It's called “meatloafing” and it's an indicator that Jackson was in pain. I squatted down and petted Jax. He didn't respond. Normally Jackson would press his head back into my hand and start purring right away. He just sat there in stone silence.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The day before he was a bit “off.”
I hustled back into the kitchen, my jeans getting caught up under my feet. I wanted to rip them off and throw them out. My mind racing, I thought of things I had on hand to tempt Jackson to eat. Nothing worked. I even brought out the big guns-DRY FOOD. He wouldn't even sniff it.
Once at the Vet we wouldn't be able to do anything to him other than an exam because the stress, again, could push him into heart failure. Jackson was only to have home visits from Dr. Larry, not trips to see him!
We started to get ready, then I stopped Sam. We both sat down in the living room, looking at Jackson, who'd relocated along with us. I didn't want to rush a decision. He'd only missed ONE meal and we were running him to the Vet. How nutty did that sound? Maybe we should wait a day and see how he does? Maybe he's in trouble and we need to bring him in right away?
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. We chose to risk the trip to the Vet. It was up to Jackson if it could make it.
We went back and forth weighing the pros and cons.
We offered him the cat carrier and he got up and went right inside it-no fuss-no stress. It was a good start, but would we MAKE it to the Vet?
I asked Sam to drive slowly, to take the back road I'd just been on an hour before with Spencer. We stopped part way into the trip because Jackson started to cry. I was sitting next to his carrier with the door open, my arm snaked around the door so I could offer him what comfort I could. He was sitting awkwardly, crying as I scratched his neck. I wondered if I'd made a terrible mistake and if this trip was sending Jackson's heart into dangerous rhythm.
The day has come at last. We begin with the end of the story. Adoption. The time to say farewell to our foster cat, Tater Tot. Along this journey, there were many fear-filled weeks when I wondered if this tale had any chance of ending with happy tears.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The goofy big lug we'll never forget.
Tater's rescue began when our uber-foster-mom-Maria spotted kittens in her neighbor's yard. It was a hot summer day in Georgia, too hot for tiny kittens to be in the sun. Seeing such tiny kittens gave Maria pause. She knew her neighbor wasn't paying much, if any, attention to the many offspring of his unsprayed female cats. Each year he promised to do something about it, giving Maria lip-service, saying some of the cats were placed with friends and the others "he would get around to fixing" one of these days. Maria offered to help, but she had to tread lightly. In the meantime, the cats continued to give birth to more litters.
©2012 Maria S. Too weak to stand, our first glimpse of Tater Tot.
She asked me if we could take the kittens into our Program and I agreed, in some way grateful they weren't coming from the local kill shelter we usually get our cats. At least these kittens wouldn't have upper respiratory infections, which is so common in shelter cats.
In total we planned to help ten cats from this one home. On one of the rescue days, two of the kittens were gone, never to be seen again. The remaining cats, two mamas and six kittens became Kitten Associates' wards.
©2012 Maria S. Not happy about getting a bath, but Tater was full of fleas.
What I didn't plan on was how SICK these kittens would be. As Maria fired off photos to me 1000 miles away, she was assessing how serious the situation was. A buff tabby kitten was laying on the pavement, barely able to stand. He was riddled with fleas. His left eye was swollen. He was grossly underweight.
©2012 Maria S. Our sick sweetheart.
Maria spent weeks sleeping on a tiny cot in the room with Tater and his sister, Latte. I was going crazy from the stress, jumping if the chime on my iPhone indicated I'd gotten a text message or if Maria called me. From afar I did as much as I could. I did research, spent money on weird homeopathic treatments, did fundraisers for more and more Vet visits because this kitten was VERY VERY SICK.
©2012 Maria S. Another trip to the Vet.
©2012 Maria S. Getting used to car rides.
…until Maria saw that he had tapeworm and that changed everything.
The parasites bloated his abdomen, just as we would expect to see from the "wet" form of FIP. Once we began treatment, Tater began to improve.
©2012 Maria S. This time we fear we'll be getting very bad news.
Over the weeks Tater's condition waxed and wanted. He finally began to have more good days than bad, but his left eye continued to run and his breathing was very loud. Tater also retained his big belly which made him look pregnant and was an odd mix with his long, skinny tail.
©2012 Maria S. With new medications on board, Tater finally sleeps comfortably in Maria's lap.
As Tater grew stronger, his personality began to shine. He'd been handled so much by Maria that nothing phased him. He just wanted to be loved and enjoy life.
He was finally well enough to be transported to my home, along with his cohorts and sibling a few months later.
©2012 Maria S. Feeling better, growing bigger!
I remember seeing Tater for the first time in person. I gasped when I saw him. His eyes were the color of ripe pumpkins and so large and round. With his angular face it gave him a comical look. Tater also made funny noises almost constantly. He was confident, friendly and wanted OUT of the big dog crate we used for the transport. I knew I was going to enjoy my time with this stunning, yet silly cat and couldn't wait to get him home.
©2012 Maria S. With buddy, Sammy, one of Maria's cats.
Tater's been here for four months. I haven't gotten a single adoption application for him. No one wanted him. I couldn't imagine why. Over the months I've come to know Tater as a real charmer, laid back, anything goes. He got on well with all the other cats. Nothing phased him. Life was good. The sad thing was that Tater never stopped sneezing and his eye wouldn't heal properly, either.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Chillin' in Connecticut.
We invested in a PCR DNA test of Tater's mucus and determined it was mycoplasma, which is a bacterial parasitic microorganism. We started treatment and he got better right away. After 30 days we stopped for two days and he began to get sick again, so we went for another 30 days (which will be done just before Christmas).
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Growing big and strong.
Initially it was Willow who was supposed to be adopted three days ago. A family came to meet her and it went well, but it was Tater they had eyes for-Tater was "the one" for them. Though I tried to convince them to adopt Tater and Willow, they wanted to start slow and just adopt the one cat.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Realizing it's tougher to get off the ground the bigger you are.
This one cat who was near death in the road last June is going to live in a 5000 sq ft plus sized home with his own "in-law suite" to start, then full access to the house. Tater will have big windows to watch birdies. He'll have two little girls to be friends with. Tater's Mom and Dad are doctors and I may have been pushy, but I made his Mom promise me that she'd stay on top of Tater's health issues and that his runny eyes and sneezing would be taken care of right away. She easily agreed and had no problem continuing Tater's medication and making sure he was fed a good grain-free canned diet for the rest of his life.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Tater's family.
Although I wish Tater would have a kitty-friend, he may yet, one day. Until then he'll have plenty of human friends who will love him and protect him, just as Maria and I did. They will continue our good work and will keep him safe. They will care for him, not with indifference, but with loving kindness and respect.
Tater Tot was our first poster boy in a series we did based on before and after rescue images showing what we do best. You can visit Kitten Associates to learn more about our programs.
I was finally well enough to sit at my desk and try to string together a few cohesive thoughts. Three days of a cliché cold: sore throat, stuffy head, lungs loaded and tight were in the rear view mirror now. The only thing remaining was the kind of headache that makes you wish you didn't have a head. I couldn't spend another day in bed watching episodes of Upstairs, Downstairs on my small iPad screen. I would muddle along.
I tried to catch up on e-mails and sort out what I needed to get done. I didn't want to do too much right away because relapse is not an option, especially this time of year. As I sat at my desk, the late morning sun was bright and warmed my feet. Cats came and went, searching for the prime spot to nap away the afternoon. I heard Bandit and Honeydew running around the house, chasing each other, wrestling, but eventually they, too, couldn't resist my warm office full of soft cat beds.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bandit keeps me company while I'm in bed with a cold.
I happened to glance down to my left. Bandit was belly up, apparently asleep. She was trembling. Amused, I thought she was dreaming, but her movements weren't the quirky-jerky shifts I've seen other cats do. I shot a video of her, at first trying not to wake her, then worried something was wrong. I woke her up and she was still shaking. I wondered if she was cold so I cradled her in my arms as her body continued to quake.
I petted her and talked to her. For a second or two she'd stop, then start up again. She seemed sleepy so I sat back in my chair and held her, falling ever deeper in love with this tiny little kitten. She's half the size of her brother and light as a feather. She would wake slightly, but the shaking didn't stop. I called the Vet and they said to watch her, keep her warm, let them know if it keeps going on.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. If you're not in love with Bandit there's something wrong with you.
I called out to Sam and the two of us began to set up a heated bed for her. I worried she was feverish so I took her temperature. It was 100.6°F which is normal.
After fifteen minutes passed, with Bandit still shaking, I called my Vet again. They could see her at 5pm. It was barely 12:30pm. Something in my gut said not to wait. I asked if I could bring her and leave her in case they could see her sooner and they agreed, offering I could see Dr. Mary right away if I didn't want to wait to see Dr. Larry.
As I raced to the Vet, I started to run through what could be troubling Bandit. Was she fighting off an infection? Was a toxin coursing through her? Did she get hurt? I said a silent prayer for Bandit to please be all right. Not Bandit. Not this sweet angel of a kitten. I also hoped this wouldn't cost too much. Our finances aren't the best and I knew too well how one Vet visit could easily break the bank.
Thankfully it was quiet at my Vet's office. They immediately took Bandit in the back room to check her temperature. It had gone up to 101.4°F which is still normal, but on the rise. I felt panicked and weak. I realized I hadn't eaten anything and my stomach growled loudly. I didn't care about eating, but the stress and low blood sugar was making me feel faint.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bandit appeared to be dreaming, but then I realized she was awake and shaking badly. I rushed her to the Vet shortly after this was shot.
Dr. Mary and Super Deb began a careful examination. Dr. Mary talked about everything she was doing and what she was or wasn't finding. “Her heart and lungs sound normal. I'm palpating her abdomen and she's not complaining so there's no pain there. I don't feel anything abnormal.” Dr. Mary continued on as Super Deb comforted Bandit and kept her from wiggling off the table. She put Bandit on the floor and we watched her walk. I called to her and she ran over to me with her tail up high.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
They ran a complete blood panel and re-did her snap test. I sat in the waiting room with my heart pounding. Every time a door opened I jumped-wondering what the news would reveal. Those fifteen minutes passed, taking a few years off my life as I worried. When Dr. Mary came to discuss the results I almost jumped out of my skin.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Super Deb comforts Bandit.
Dr. Mary began researching toxins. The only thing I could think of were a few plants-none were an issue and an open (empty) bottle of Dayquil that I remembered I'd left on the counter. Dr. Mary was very worried about that and said that the blood work wouldn't show if Bandit had been poisoned, depending on what she ingested and when. My heart sank. Surely this kitten wasn't going to DIE?!
We discussed everything from epilepsy to birth defects to the dry form of FIP. Red-faced, I told her that earlier that morning Bandit almost jumped into an open toilet and I'd had no other choice but to pin her against the vanity with my leg to keep her from falling in. I felt terrible. Did I cause her internal damage? What the HELL was going on?
I had to leave Bandit with Dr. Mary. They gave her pain meds and sub q fluids. Dr. Mary felt if she could calm Bandit down and soothe her pain she would stop shaking, then hopefully it would not resume once the pain meds wore off. If not, Bandit would have to see a neurologist and get a CT scan. I knew if that happened we were done for-the costs-$1200 to $1400 just for the scan. Bandit had to get better.
It was a long afternoon. I kept running things over in my head. What did I do? What did she get into? Facebook friends gave suggestions or left supportive comments, praying for Bandit to be ok.
I had the difficult task of calling Donna, Bandit's rescuer and first foster mama to tell her the news. I knew she'd be just as upset as I was and I struggled, trying to be calm and not burst into tears. She took the news well, but I knew it was killing her, too.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Bandit says goodbye the to the staff at Dr. Larry's.
I felt so happy and light, not bothered by anything as I drove along the crowded highway, a journey I've probably taken a thousand times over the years. This was a good trip. I couldn't wait to see Bandit. I got to the Clinic, smiling and anxious. One of the staff told me that Dr. Mary wanted to talk to me. I said I'd just spoken to her on the phone and she said she knew that, but that the doctor still wanted to talk about something. My heart sank.
I went in the back room where only staff were usually allowed. The walls are lined with varying sizes of stainless steel cages. It's brightly lit and spotlessly clean. I zeroed in on Bandit. She was far off to the left, curled up on a heated pad in the back of her 2' x 2' cage.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. After a long, difficult day, finally some rest.
Whatever joy I may have felt evaporated into the frosty night air. The drive home in the darkness did nothing to soothe either myself or Bandit, who cried, desperate to get out of her carrier. We set up a dog crate for her, hoping she would rest and do nothing else. I offered her a litter pan and she peed away all the sub q fluids. I gave her something to eat and she didn't hesitate to enjoy her dinner. I shut the door to the crate and she sat there, mild tremors coursing through her body. I resigned myself to it being a long night and began my hyper-vigilant watch of her every move.
Over the next hour or two it was clear that Bandit was not happy being confined. Each time I opened the crate door she'd slip past me and dash around the living room. I decided to bring her to my bedroom and close the door so I could watch her and she'd have space to move around and not feel stressed. I offered her toys and she wanted to play. She jumped on the bed. She chased her brother, then her brother chased her. She wouldn't sit still long enough for me to see if she was shaking. She seemed like her old self, yet I couldn't believe she was suddenly just fine.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
I didn't want to believe it, but she seemed fine. This morning she was playful, hungry and just as loving as ever. As I sat at my desk, trying to put this story together, she climbed into my arms, fussing about until she found a comfortable position. I cradled her just as I had a day before, but this time the only vibration I felt was from her deep, blissful purr.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. This morning with Bandit in my arms.
With all the shopping madness ramping up and the rush to get ready for the Holidays, it's lovely that organizations who really need the help, have their chance today with Giving Tuesday.
My Non-profit rescue group, Kitten Associates, has been blessed with an early number of donations of food, treats and toys that came in after we broke the news about our Amazon Wishlist two weeks ago.
What I love about our Wishlist is it allows YOU to choose what we get and there are items at just about every price point. We'd love your help and you'll see, below, how our kittens feel about your donations, too!
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Woah! This is WAY bigger than what we even asked for! Yipee!
There are few feelings that are as precious as giving help to someone who needs it. Thank you for helping us be part of Giving Tuesday. I hope you'll enjoy the special video I created to honor today.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Not even the DOOD is sure how to put it together, though.
This is a riot!
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. The energy in the room increased tenfold after the cat tree was in place. The kittens LOVE IT! Thank you Tereza & Larry for donating it to us!
It’s been less than a day since our former foster girl Bobette, who was named Kissy after she was adopted in May, passed away. Just typing those letters, “p-a-s-s-e-d” makes me cry. I’m still in shock and still hoping someone will call me and tell me it was just a bad dream, that the Vets figured out a way to save our sweet pumpkin girl and she’s going to be okay—but no one calls.
The events leading up to Kissy’s death, I’ll leave to her “mama,” JaneA Kelley of Paws & Effect to write about. This is her story to tell, with her cat. My post is about my reflections about a foster cat who just barely a year ago arrived in my home, with her three young sons. They’d reached the part of their rescue-story where all the shots are done, they are spayed or neutered, and all that’s left is for them to just have fun and wait for their adopters to find them. It’s usually the part of the story where we all can relax, knowing the worst is over and the best is yet to come.
©2011 Betsy Merchant. A stray cat dumped at a Kill Shelter with her six newborn kittens waits for rescue.
Kissy didn’t have an easy life. I wrote a great deal about her and her boys, Jakey, Mikey & Teddy…and their three siblings, who passed away a few days after we rescued them from a Kill Shelter in Georgia. If you do a search on Covered in Cat Hair using the phrase: “Bobette” you can read all the stories, but here are a few: Life in the Pumpkin Patch
Bobette's Secret Pain
Harvest Time for Bob's Pumpkin Patch
and the Cat Writers' Association Certificate of Excellence winning: It Had to be You about Kissy's adoption.
Kissy was rescued in honor of my cat, Bob Dole, after he passed away in September of 2011. He was a beautiful, brilliant orange Maine Coon tabby mix with piercing green eyes. When I saw Kissy’s photo and her brilliant orange coat and piercing green eyes, I knew I had to rescue her and her family...which also explains why she was originally named, Bobette.
©2011 Betsy Merchant. Not eating for four days, Bobette was in dire straights.
Thanks to Maria, I had a foster home for the family until they were ready to come to Connecticut. Thanks to Bobby Stanford, I had someone to go bust this kitty and her babies out of the shelter before they got sick or were euthanized. The pieces fell in place. It was meant to be.
Kissy was far too thin and far too young to bear the burden of having six kittens. She began to recover and eat again, but after the loss of three of her kittens perhaps part of her shut down. She was a good mother for a time, but as the remaining boys grew, her love for them waned. She taught me that not all mothers and kittens suffer being separated. In fact, Kissy did better without her boys, though I know they missed her a lot.
©2011 Bobby Stanford. Moments after rescue.
Kissy was just 9 months old when she had her kittens. I couldn’t blame her for wanting to be away from them, as she was barely a kitten herself.
©2011 Maria S. Safe in Maria's home Kissy can finally relax.
The pain I was feeling was why many people can’t foster cats. They fall in love with them along the way and they can’t bear to be parted from them when the time comes. I realized that all these years of fostering cats that I truly do love each and everyone just the same and just as much as I love the cats who live with me for their entire lives, not just for a few months.
©2011 Maria S. Kissy and her boys.
Each foster cat charms me, delights me, challenges me to learn more, to make fewer mistakes, to remember to cherish each day. I fall in love with each foster cat, not just a little, but fully, completely. I can’t build a wall to protect myself from how I feel about them. Instead of running away from that fear, I push into it. It does me no good to hide from feelings. In facing them head on, perhaps I gain some gentleness about saying goodbye when they get adopted.
©2011 Maria S. Her spay surgery over, Kissy relaxes in a comfy bed at Maria's.
When I go for a drive, I often pass homes where my foster cats now live. They are still my cats, they just live with other families. I still feel the tether that connects us. I sense they’re out there and they’re okay and because of that, I’m okay, too.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Finally in my home, Kissy and I get to know each other.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Family portrait with proud mama.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Kissy and son, Churchy (formerly Mikey).
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Lap time with Sam as Kissy recovers from her corrective surgery. In the end, the surgery didn't help Kissy live more comfortably. Her leg was too deformed to be corrected.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Such a good girl.
Kissy’s short life will not be in vain. I don’t know what I’m going to do right now, but I’ll be doing something to honor her. Kissy taught me a lot and made me realize I was foolish to think that love could be restricted or spooned out in measured amounts. It’s all or nothing and I loved that cat completely. I will never forget her and I thank her for what she taught me. Maybe we’ll meet again one day? I can only hope so.
For now I share my grief with those of us who fought hard to give her a great life and who will keep fighting for other cats so that they may have the same chance Kissy did. She will never be forgotten and always be in my heart.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Fly free, my sweet. No more pain.
Bongo is seven months old. In that time he’s made friends, learned to play and met some very nice people, all while his right front leg didn’t function properly. We rescued him before he was going to be euthanized at a shelter not knowing much about him other than something was wrong with his leg. They noted his paw was crushed, but that turned out not the case.
©2012 Maria S. Bongo.
We did tests and x-rays. Bongo met with noted Orthopedic Vet, Dr. Alan Cross of Georgia Veterinary Specialists. Dr. Cross felt that Bongo, while happy and otherwise healthy, could not feel anything in his right front paw and that he had severe nerve damage that was either not repairable or would be very costly to repair with very little hope for success. He suggested the best course would be to remove the leg since it was only getting in the way and slowing Bongo down.
©2012 Maria S. Favoring his leg.
We work with a great Vet who helps rescue groups. Her nickname is Doc Thomas and she really knows her stuff. During our rescue of Bongo, Doc had taken a few weeks off-a rare vacation for her and certainly well deserved.
©2012 Maria S. Getting some lovin' from foster sister, Bunny Boo Boo (who needs a home, too!)
We knew she could do the surgery for far less than the $2000. Dr. Cross quoted us, but we had to wait a few weeks to talk to Doc T about whether she could do it. Dr. Cross felt it was not a rush to do the surgery because Bongo wasn’t in any pain.
In the meantime, Maria, Bongo’s foster mom noticed Bongo using his leg as a crutch. He couldn’t bear weight on it, but he did push litter around and use it to help him balance. He did this by swinging his leg from his shoulder.
©2012 Maria S. Bongo with his new BFF-George who we rescued from an apartment complex in GA.
When I heard about this I thought the same thing Maria did; “Maybe we should talk to Dr. Cross again? Maybe Bongo is getting feeling back?” The last thing any of us want to do is amputate this cat’s leg unnecessarily.
Maria contacted Dr. Cross. He felt that it would be very unusual for nerves to begin to work again and that Bongo didn’t have to have the surgery–ever, as long as he wasn’t dragging the limb. Dragging the limb meant he’d get infections in it eventually and that’s dangerous especially because he can’t feel if something is wrong.
©2012 Maria S. Bongo with catnip banana.
Maria took Bongo to meet Doc Thomas today who has done plenty of amputations for other rescue groups. She looked at Bongo’s x-rays and examined him and came to the same opinion—Bongo does not need to lose his leg at this time. If it’s not bothering him, then leave it.
We worried that as Bongo ages he would have arthritis in his shoulder or as he grows larger and gains weight, that the constant pull of his “dead” leg would give him back pain.
©2012 Maria S. His leg problem doesn't stop him from climbing.
Both Vets agreed that he should be just fine. If he drags the leg it has to go, but as long as he’s holding it up, running around and having fun, then for now it can stay. It’s really up to us if we feel he would be better without it in the way.
So again, Maria and I are wondering what to do. Neither of us want to take Bongo’s leg, but how will that effect his future? Would he be better off if we amputated his leg now so he could adjust and so we can oversee his care before he gets adopted or is he more adoptable with a leg that doesn’t function? What if he got his leg stuck somewhere because he couldn’t feel it and was home alone and did worse damage to himself?
©2012 Maria S. Brothers from other mothers.
Fortunately, Bongo is adorable and affectionate. Leg or no leg we’ll find him a wonderful home one day. It would be easy to leave the leg alone because we don’t want him to lose it, but what is best for Bongo? He has to be considered first and last…not us…not our ideas of what might not be as appealing to adopters or what might make us feel sad for Bongo’s sake.
Choosing what’s best for Bongo is very difficult. Perhaps we have our answer now and just have to accept it? Perhaps we need to do something more difficult and have the amputation done?
©2012 Maria S. Da boyz.
I don’t know, but I’m grateful we have the luxury of seeing how it goes and waiting on making any firm decisions.
It’s (s)Not All Right
Poor Tater and Willow. They’ve been chronically sick. Willow shoots snots across the room and Tater’s eye is always running and he sounds stuffed up. I decided it was worth the risk of not getting any information (some times these tests don't tell you much) to get an expensive DNA test on Tater’s eye goop called a PCR for URI. With any luck we’d find out what was causing Tater his misery.
It took a week, then the news: Mycoplasma.
My reaction, duh, of course. Tater’s constant runny eye is definitely indicative of mycoplasma (but it's also a symptom of other issues which is why we do the PCR test).
Latte and Fred and Coco started to get sick. They’d all been in the same room for a month. I had the kittens examined. Only Coco was running a mild fever in addition to a runny eye and sneezing. It was bizarre the ALL the cats had an issue in their right eye, except for Tater. We decided that the best course of treatment would be to hit the kittens hard with antibiotics for 30 days because mycoplasma is bacterial, not viral.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Re-check for fleas. None were found. Whew!
I’d heard from a lecture by Dr. Hurley at UC Davis, that they will go to a 60 day protocol to really infiltrate the fine bones of the nose. My Vet hadn't heard of this so I thought we'd start at 30 and see how it goes.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow waits while the other cats get examined.
Medicating cats is never fun, BUT with Doxycycline as the medicine of choice, I had a scary task ahead of me. I learned the HARD WAY that…
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor Coco.
Having to pill 6 cats X 2/day for a month means 360 chances for me to screw up and cause multiple strictures in the kittens.
I’m determined, as always, to do right by these cats. While some scratched their head at me for not opting to use a liquid version of the antibiotic, I opted for ¼ of a tablet per cat. Each pill is coated in Flavor Doh. I like it much better than Pill Pockets® and the cats do, too. THEN I sprinkle dehydrated chicken over the pea-sized coated pill and feed as a treat, making SURE the cats are HUNGRY and more apt to eat what I put in front of them.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Willow weighs in at just five pounds.
The new problem I made for myself is they will eat anything and charge me at the door when they're really hungry. Entering the room is a comedic farce. I try to balance a plate with six tiny pill-peas on it, the cats push past me and run down the hall, unleashing their snottiness and frustration about being hungry all over the vicinity. In a panic, I put the plate down. With the cats corralled (and my blood pressure soaring), I turn to retrieve the plate only to find Latte had eaten all but the last remaining pill.
The Vet said she would have “GI upset” and not to pill her again that day (DUH!).
Meanwhile I had to go back and prep more pills, make sure they eat just one, then syringe them with 3mLs of water, then feed them. All this to make sure that pill doesn’t sit in their throat. All this while they are racing around the room in a panic because they’re so hungry.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. Staying on track with a chart.
Today marks one full week of medicating the cats. It’s amazing that I can even do this when previously this would have freaked me out to the point where I’d just be upset all the time. Now I grab the cats unceremoniously and do what I need to do. I give them love afterwards so they don’t hate me forever and I move on. I think I’m finally getting the hang of (some of) this rescue stuff.
Part three is up next…what about Jackson? What about the DOOD? What about that bigass Hurricane Sandy headed my way?