All the Ts

A couple of days after Henderson died we were contacted about two young cats who needed to come into rescue. The owner was unable to continue to care for them. They’d been born to her female cat along with several siblings. She’d done the responsible thing in getting them neutered but unfortunately due to her health issues we were told that they had not been handled or socialised.

They were really scared when they arrived here and understandably went to hide. Presumably, apart from a visit to the vet to be neutered they’d never seen anywhere other than the home they’d been born and lived in.

Tiktok & Timtam arrive

They quickly found the highest and most difficult to access spot in the room and set up camp there. Every time I went into their room that’s where I found them. I know they weren’t always up there as the food disappeared, the litter tray was used … and I’d hear one almighty scramble of fluffy feet as I approached the bedroom door.

On day two they were still there but I think looked a wee bit more relaxed.

I decided it was time to get the step stool and climb up to speak to them. I was uncertain how welcome visitors would be so thought it best to ascend armed with a can of mackerel. I was regarded very warily but thankfully not spat at or swiped at … and the mackerel was well received.

The following couple of days were mainly about thinking of risking leaving the shelf whilst I was in the room. So I sat on their bedroom floor, playing sounds of cats purring to them and chattering randomly to them. It was out of the gibberish that the names presented themselves. [If I’d imagined myself calling the vets about them, I may have chosen differently – it feels a bit like a warm up exercise for choir .. back in the day when community choir was possible]. Tiktok descended …. tempted by food and the lure of a toy, but his sister was much more reluctant. Timtam relocated to the bed/cat carrier whilst I was out the room, but hasn’t been seen without cover whilst I’ve been in there.

We were hoping to delay the visit to the vets for health check etc until they were a little more confident, but unfortunately they were vomitting multiple times a day, and on one particularly sicky day we decided to grasp the nettle and go sooner rather than later. Our poor long suffering vet was confronted with the challenge of not even knowing which of them was his patient … as I’d not caught either of them in the act.

I thought at first that the vet appointment had set us back hugely. They dashed straight back to base camp when they got home.

But then, not many minutes later, this happened …

You can see on the video that Tiktok has quite a bit of fur missing or just very thin. It appears to be flea allergy. They were both scratching like crazy when they arrived but this has stopped since having flea and worm treatments. Timtam’s fur seems in better condition … or perhaps we’ve just not had quite such a good look at her yet.

They’re both continuing to progress but at very different rates. Timtam will now take chicken out of my hand, and has gradually built up her confidence to be able to put her head beyond the cover of the carrier to retrieve chicken. I hasten to add that the bandaged finger was entirely unrelated to felines, and was a result of an unfortunate “butternut squash / veg peeler interface” incident.

Tiktok meanwhile, is tons more confident and often climbs on my back whilst I’m leaning over to speak to his sister in the carrier. His learning curve is currently focused on getting used to being picked up and cuddled … oh and not being an arse when I’m trying to encourage Timtam …. see next video 😉

They’ve been back to the vet again this week to be microchipped and start their vaccinations. The sickness has settled with steroids and a sensitive tummy diet. They’re not advertised for adoption as yet. Now we have another space available we’re going to separate them for a while to see if Timtam comes on in confidence more if she’s away from her brother.

Part 2

TimTam moved into my office space at the weekend., leaving Tiktok behind in the cat room. So she had a couple of days to settle in there before starting work on Monday. She’s been a very different kind of work companion. She’s sat in her basket on top of the filing cabinet, in complete silence … all day. It’s made working much easier than sharing with some of the others, but I’ve been worried that she’s not moved at all. I put a few pieces of dried food in for her between meetings, and made sure I left the room for a while in case she was bursting for a wee.

By Monday evening I was getting quite worried. I’m not sure she’s like anyone I’ve ever met before. Normally cats respond positively to a fuss or there’s a bit of a fight or flight reaction – they walk/run off or hiss / swipe etc. Right from the day after their arrival she’s been allowing me to stroke her but showing no response at all. Was this a freeze response? Was she sooo frightened she daren’t run or fight? Then again she’d eaten treats and chicken whilst I was stroking .. so surely she couldn’t be that scared. It reminded me of how Henderson often was when he was poorly and not really responding to affection. However she’d seen two different vets by then and neither thought there was anything seriously wrong. I’d really hoped that a few days away from her brother, and a full day of us working together would have made some change … that at least she’d have come out of hiding for a snack or a wee.

Feeling quite despondent, I started thinking about who I might talk to about behaviour for any more advice and begining to frame a message in my head. I climbed up [I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time standing on chairs since these two arrived] to give her one last stroke before leaving her for the night and going to write messages. It felt a little different. I thought maybe I’d imagined her jaw leaning into my hand a little as I stroked her chin. Wishful thinking. Then I thought I heard something, very slight, like the echo of something that might have been.

It took a few minutes to believe it, but Timtam was purring and enjoying a snuggle. That felt such good news and even better that it was repeated each time I reached up for a little head rub during Tuesday. After work on Tuesday when I climbed back up for a proper stroke she was shuffling around a bit and I was concerned maybe she was trying to get away …. until she settled herself on her back for a tummy rub! ! !

Today has been a non work day so she’s had a bit more time to herself. However there has been more progress. Today is the first time that she’s jumped down onto the floor whilst I’ve been in her room. She was excited about the toy she was watching and in the end couldn’t resist coming down. We tried to play but we kept catching each other’s eye and realising we were both watching each other more than the toy.

After nearly four weeks it’s feeling much more hopeful with Timtam. Meanwhile, Tiktok is just kind of like your regular friendly crazy destructive ‘kitten’. He’s stopped being sick, his fur is growing back, and it’s difficult to remember how timid he was at first.

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Goodnight Uncle Henderson

Our precious Henderson died on Tuesday, a week shy of the fourth anniversary of him arriving here. When we picked him up back in 2017 he was seriously dehydrated and collapsed. We believe he’d been dumped at the side of the road as there was no sign of an accident and he wasn’t strong enough to have walked there. He was taken immediately to the vets and was named on the way after the old Henderson’s factory that we passed, because he needed to be a someone by the time he arrived there and not just an unwanted poorly old cat.

henderson arrival at vets 2017

He laid on the examination table, unable to stand, but purring so loudly. In a rush of emotion I said to Dr Tim that if he survived the night he would be staying here with us. I like to think that he recognised that he was being offered a good deal. I stood by my promise and he stayed around for another four years to fully take advantage of it.

setttling into rescue 2017

Dr Tim guesstimated him to be fourteen when he arrived, though he could well have been quite a bit older, or maybe it was just having a rough life that had aged him

The other residents here decided that they liked him immediately, and all subsequent guests and residents have loved him too. There are always some squabbles and factions in a multi cat household, but Uncle Henderson was everyone’s friend. Everyone wanted to sit with him and do head bumps with him. He was a great favourite with any small kittens that we fostered, a lovely steady furry presence to snuggle up to.

After a few months here he was diagnosed with hyperthryoid and then a couple of years ago with chronic kidney disease. He steadfastly refused to read the text books about either of these conditions and resisted conforming to any expectations of the courses they would follow or the impact of the various medications he was given.

We celebrated Christmas 2019 believing that neither he nor his friend Jango would be with us for Christmas 2020. Henderson pursued a new lockdown hobby of collecting diagnoses and early in 2020 he added high blood pressure to the list. He started to drink more and more during lockdown (only water – unlike the rest of us!). We feared his kidney disease was getting the better of him. Then one dreadful week in May he was very poorly and we decided that despite the vets only being open for emergencies, he needed to be seen. The next day Jango died very suddenly. The following day Henderson was admitted as an inpatient and we thought we were going to lose him too.

The next day was Flipper’s birthday and we usually make a bit of a do of it because she’s the only one of the residents who’s birthday we know for certain. The celebratory ham was put on hold in the freezer and we sat and waited for news. We had that awful conversation with the vet about needing improvement in the next 24 hours or we’d need to be thinking about saying goodbye. Hendo had other ideas though … as usual. Instead of saying goodbye he had a nice week being pampered by his favourite nurse, Sam, and arrived home for a delayed birthday party … with a diagnosis of diabetes.

Of course he didn’t read the textbook about diabetes either. His blood tests (both the blood glucose ones we did at home AND the more comprehensive tests done at the vets) were all over the place. I suspect he simply didn’t revise properly and then just guessed at random numbers when it came to the test. The vet team have been brilliant with him but often the interpretation of the results just seemed to be that he shouldn’t actually be alive with whichever levels he was running. He was though … and we adored him for it.

He chose the anniversary of my father’s death in July to throw himself at death’s door again, occasioning yet another sleepless night on the sofa with him, followed by another inpatient stay. He returned from that one with a diagnosis of anaemia ticked off in his collection.

We bought a heat pad at the beginning of last year mainly to help with Jango’s achey joints. It was so popular that we bought a second one, and Henderson claimed that. He found he had lots of friends keen to share that with him.

As he became more frail, he spent almost all his time on the heat pad, only leaving it for food and litter tray. When it got too difficult to jump up onto the sofa where his heat pad was, we put a footstool there to give him a step up. When it got too difficult to get onto the footstool we put some boxes there to give him a step up to the footstool. When he started to get a bit muddled (or maybe his eyesight was failing) and sometimes set of over the side of the footstool rather than down the step, we set up a crash pad of blankets on the floor. By that stage I spent most of my time sitting next to him and lifting him up and down as required.

drying off from his bath

Each day for many months has brought it’s worries about him. Each day has largely revolved around him. Each morning we’d be up in time for his injection and each evening not settle down while he’d had his second injection. As time has gone on I’ve found that I’m watching him and checking on him most of the time: lifting him, cleaning him, doing medication, injections, blood tests, eye drops, encouraging him to eat, taking him to the vets, making and keeping him safe and comfortable. It’s completely been worth it, I don’t regret a minute of it. I wasn’t on my own caring for him … the others sat with him, purred to him and washed his head.

His popularity within the family soared as we fussed around him, opening one pouch after another to tempt him to eat. He liked to take just one or two mouthfuls before moving on to the next dish. We called it the ‘Hender-buffet’ and the others flocked behind him to eat what he left. I’m amazed by how generous they were. They waited while he’d finished before tucking in, and if he wanted what they were eating they dropped back and let him. You could knock him over with a friendly head bump so it would have been no effort to stop him if they’d wanted to. We established a family tradition of serving chicken or other treats after his evening injection. Very soon, like Pavlov’s dogs, a queue of hopeful cats began to form at the sight of syringes and insulin bottles.

We were amazed and delighted to still have him with us for Christmas 2020, though I wept when I saw the difference between his Christmas photos of the two years.

On Tuesday morning he really wasn’t himself. He’s gradually got more and more frail to the point where it’s hard to imagine how much more frail he could be whilst still staying with us. He refused to eat at all, not even his favourite foods, not even when they were hand fed on his heat pad. Thankfully that day I could just bring work downstairs and sit with him on the sofa. Although we called the vets for advice we decided not to take the appointment that was offered. There was no treatment that was going to make him well again, he was warm and comfy on the sofa and showed no signs of distress. I’d said to him a couple of days previously that if he wanted to go and be with his friend Jango that that would be ok. I think he’d decided now was the time.

He passed to rainbow bridge lying on his heat pad on the sofa next to me, with some of his feline friends around him. We cleaned him up and wrapped a blanket round him and he stayed here overnight for lots more cuddles and so that the rest of the fur family could visit him and pay their respects. Then a final journey to the vet and a tearful handover to nurse Sam on the car park. He’ll be home next week and sitting on the shelf with his mate Jango.

Thank you the team at Millhouses Vets4Pets for your care of him (and us!), especially nurse Sam and Dr Tim. Huge thanks to my lovely friends who have dared to ask regularly “How’s Henderson today?” Thanks also to our wonderful supporters who enabled us to give this lovely old boy some love and happiness in his twlight years.

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The first week of Piper’s new life

[Piper came into rescue in mid October. She was quite handful here to say the least. Full of boisterous kitten energy, very loving and wanting attention but clumsy and lacking in socialisation having left her mum too young. It took a while to find the right home for her … somewhere that could give her sufficient attention and who had enough patience and cat experience to continue the process of socialising her. A couple of weeks ago though we found a fabulous, purrfect home for her and her adoptive mum has sent this update to share]

Piper working from home in rescue

Piper has been with us a week now, but from the get-go she was confident and comfortable with us. First contact was with our daughter (14y/o), who was thrilled. We let her have the run of the house up to the attic and she soon discovered a small crocheted ladybug I’d made on the stairs; this and the subsequent small crocheted balls I made her are her favourite toys. The game is to throw it up in the air, play a bit of football then bat it under one of the sofas. If we are not fast enough to get them out, she discovered if she jumped down the back of the sofa she could retrieve them herself 😹. She is a clever kitty.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is piper-blog-2.jpg

Piper’s week days start by having breakfast with my partner and our daughter, then when daughter goes to school she comes up to my attic office. We play a bit (while I work; cats cradle tied to my wrist is great entertainment) then she jumps onto the bookshelf to look out of the window, tips a few books off (clearly to read later) then has a snooze on the futon, joining me in any Teams meetings I have.

In the afternoon she will go downstairs and either sleep in her bed by the radiator in my partner’s dining room office, or on the sofa in the lounge. I’ve made a nest in an open bedroom cupboard for when she needs some Piper time, but she mainly likes it on the sofa. She will run to us if we call her name (and rattle a box of treats) and likes playing with the various small crocheted things on the stairs (many an Xmas 🌲 has been felled…). 

At night she firstly slept on my partner’s lap after I went to bed, but now she will snuggle with me and we fall asleep together, until her dad makes her supper and she goes downstairs. She has her big fluffy blanket by the dining room radiator and sleeps to about 6am ish, though our daughter said she started mewing at 5.45 one day!! 

We love everything about her; her purr, the teeny mews she makes, the chirrups, putting her paw on your shoulder to say hi when she is on the back of the sofa, her rapid ninja swiftness (I’m on my own, look down and there is Piper looking up at you with her beautiful eyes), her intelligence and her beauty. We all love Piper and are glad 8 lives made us a family 😻. 🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈

Huge thanks to Piper’s new family for giving her such a lovely home .. and to Piper’s adoptive mum for guest writing this blog post.

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Adapting and Adopting

Along with the rest of the world, Covid has changed the way we do everything. As a small rescue we’ve only ever been able to rehome a small number of cats, but we’ve aimed to make the process supportive and fun and above all safe and comfortable for the cats.

Our pre covid process was to arrange a friendly informal homecheck then assuming that was all ok, invite you over to meet the cat/s you were interested in so you could spent time getting to know them and they you. Once they were reserved we’d send all the information you needed to prepare your home for them. Then on adoption day we’d take them to their new home, along with all their paperwork, and stay a litte while to support then in settling in and to answer any questions. I have to admit, this was one of my favourite bits – a lovely reward for weeks or even months of caring for the cat/s and preparing them for adoption.

Covid has changed a lot of this process. We need to obseserve safe social distancing whilst balancing it against the well being of the cats and support of potential adopters.

We’re gradually evolving a new way of doing things, based on our previous practice, advice from Cat Chat and discussions with other rescues.

  1. The first part of the process is for you to spot a cat you wish to adopt on our Cat Chat page.

2. When you contact us we’ll send an adoption enquiry form to get a bit more informaiton about the home you’re able to offer.

3. If that matches the needs of the cat we’ll arrange a virtual homecheck on Zoom. Some of the cats have been happy to attend the Zoom meeting in purrson to check out their potential adopters. They shyer ones have preferred to send more photos and videos.

Becket waiting for his zoom call

4. If you decide to wish to adopt the cat we then send out all the information about how to create a welcoming safe space for the cat when they arrive, what food they’re eating, litter they’re using, how the microchip gets changed, how to make the adoption donation. This is one bit of the process that hasn’t changed.

5. On adoption day we still take the cat to their new home. We wipe them with leucillin and wipe the carrier with Safe4 disinfectant wipes. We wear face masks and use hand sanitiser as appropriate. You’re then able to take the cat/s indoors in the carrier/s to their safe space and allow them to come out of the carrier in their own time. It’s not a rush … we can wait … in the car. Once they’re out the carrier we ask that you shut them safely in their room and return the carrier to us. Then we’re able to run through the paperwork outdooors. [Thankfully so far it’s either been fine or there has been a shelter to stand under.]

6. Pre covid we’ve taken a blanket with the cat’s familar smell on it that the cat can keep to help them settle in. This is still an option and you’ll be asked prior to the adoption day whether you’re happy to do this.

7. We normally keep in touch with adopters regularly during the first few days/weeks just to check that all is well and to answer any questions … and to share photos because there’s nothing nicer than seeing them settling in and enjoying their new life. This is all the more important when contact prior to adoption has been limited.

Although this system isn’t ideal we’ve found that it works well. Regardless of Covid, cats still need to find homes of their own. The confident cats who are able to attend Zoom meetings have had no difficulty purrsuading their adopters that they’re the right ones for them. The less confident cats have gone to their new homes on a “foster with a view to adoption” agreement where we’ve kept in closer contact with adopters until the cats are settled and adopters are confident that this is the right cat for them.

Hissy & Spitty not going to their zoom call

We’re working hard to make this process as good as it can be, and are happy to listen to feedback from adopters about how we can improve the process. We’ve had this feedback from the adoptive mum of little Dolly:

“We adopted 6 month old Dolly through a virtual adoption process and it was absolutely brilliant: swift replies to emails, clear communication, photos, a homecheck over Zoom and then a pretty much contactless and entirely socially distanced handover when our new cat arrived. But throughout the whole thing, Dolly’s welfare was still paramount and always put first too. We felt that we had everything we needed by the time she came to live with us and we had plenty of information about how to keep her happy and safe in her new home as well as microchipping and first vaccinations, advice about vets etc. It was all incredibly stress free, friendly and safe. We now have the most beautiful, playful, friendly, confident little cat in our lives and we can’t imagine being without her. Thank you 8 Lives for doing the work you do and for continuing it in such difficult circumstances. We feel very happy to have found you and found Dolly! You’ve really gone the extra mile.”

Dolly settling in her new home
Hissy & Spitty settling in their new home
and Beckett settling into his ..

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Beckett: Building a CV

Followers of office politics around here may remember that ‘Becky’ had to be called in as a temp at short notice a few weeks ago, when our regular office manager Flipper shut herself in the wardrobe refusing to come to work and the other residents were unable to step in and cover for her.

Becky was pretty nonplussed and didn’t have a clue what to do.  They’d clearly never managed an office before and weren’t familar with IT systems.  They started morosely at some files for a while and then went to sit on the windowsill to watch the birds.

We’ve realised later that some of their unease may have been down to non-work related issues. We were at the time referring to them as “Becky” and using “she/her” pronouns, because we’d been told by the people bringing her into rescue that she was female, and we’d not felt it necessary to get close up and purrsonal to check.   It was later that evening that Becky opened up about having struggled with a lifetime of being referred to as ‘she’ and being a laughing stock with local tomcats. Whilst grooming on my lap ‘she’ revealed his evidence to prove his point!

It took us a little while to adjust, but it suddenly everything made a lot more sense. We’d kind of thought she was a rather chunky, muscular girl but hadn’t wanted to mention it and cause any offence. Also, her voice when crying in the night had sounded rather masculine, and the tune a familiar tomcat lament. Again we tried not to judge … she’d been through a dificult time and a significant bereavement. She’d also been exceptionally snuggly and easy going … for a girl cat …. and we really did wonder …

He emerged from his room the following day as Beckett, a happier more confident cat who was better understood, and from that moment set his mind to learning the job.

First he got to grips with the mouse, and then the laptop.

He started to love being in the office, and has gained a thorough understanding of all the important elements of the job … and moves around sitting on each of them in turn.

“You’d like to make an appointment? Ok, let me just move the cat.”

He makes an awesome giant paperweight for files.

He’s taken Flipper’s place at team meetings. I’m not sure how she’ll feel about that if she decides to come back. In some ways Beckett makes a much better assistant at meetings than Flipper did (!) and has more of the qualities of Flipper’s predecessor Jango:

1) He may have an opinion on what’s being discussed but he never voices it whilst the microphone is on.

2) Whilst Flipper would spend half the meeting mooning at my colleagues, with me trying to preserve her dignity, Beckett stands quietly showing his best side to the camera and providing me with a comfortable chin rest.

In the space of a few weeks he’s moved from reluctant and bewildered temp to a very competent office assistant. Sadly we’re not able to offer him a purrmanent contract – now he’s finished his vaccinations he’s ready to apply for other positions. However we agreed to help him put his CV together and will be pleased to give him a glowing reference.

If you’re able to offer him a suitable position, excellent terms and conditions, his adoption advert is here

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A decade of cats!

This week – 25 September to be precise – marks our tenth anniversary of cat rescue …. well … cat rescue as we now know it.  I suppose in a different sense, the anniversary will be 19 years in November … the date when we accidentally rescued a stray cat and had a taste of what was to come.  

Midge

It was a gloomy Sunday lunchtime towards the end of November 2001 when I looked out the window to see a small tabby cat looking back at me.  If I’d known then what I know now, I’d have quickly assessed that she was about 6-8 months old, but back then she was just a small tabby cat.   I knew enough to know that she looked lost though.  I’d moved in with my partner earlier that year and desperately wanted to have a cat, but he didn’t understand what cats were for, so I’d not wanted to push the subject.  However, here was a cat, lost and perhaps waiting to move in, quite a different proposition from suggesting we set out to “get” a cat  … my brain flew through so many thoughts and hopes.   Normally veggie but a rare eater of fish, I didn’t hesitate when the question “what do you fancy for lunch?” came up.   Tuna sandwiches … just had to be.   One thing led to another … strangely there was “just a bit of tuna left” … and it was shame to waste it.   Then one of the neighbourhood cats jumped over the gate and scared her and the next thing I knew I’d pulled her into the kitchen for safety.   She spent most of the rest of the day “safely” curled up on my lap.  It came to bedtime and we had no litter tray and no cat flap … and maybe she belonged to someone anyway, so we put her back outside (gulp …. I hate to think of this now).   I was so disappointed that there was no sign of her during the following day however she turned up at tea time.  I went to the corner shop and bought just one can of cat food .. only one … because of course this was only temporary … just until we found who she belonged to.   

Midge

The details  of days and times blur after nearly 20 years.   We’d no idea what to do about stray cats really,  and the internet wasn’t so busy back then … there was no facebook lost and found pets pages, and I’d never even heard of a microchip.  We put notes in the windows of the two closest shops and I held my breath every time the phone rang. 

No one claimed her.   I found out where there was a pet shop and went to buy a litter tray.   We found out where the nearest vet was and booked her in for an appointment.  It was a strange thing to us to come across a stray cat but the words of the vet stuck with me forever “oh there’s hundreds of them ….  this one has just dropped lucky”.  In every life there are a few moments or words, that stand out as turning points for what is to come.  This was one of mine.  

Midge

She was spayed shortly after, and after much research and trepidation was also microchipped.   Midgecat was ours … or rather mine.   The relationship with the partner didn’t last …. though it lasted long enough for him to work out what cats were for.   I sold my flat and bought a house when we separated …. because Midge couldn’t go to live in the flat.

Midge

She was the most loving, chatty, beautiful cat you can imagine.  She was with me through so much change, of splitting with my partner, moving house .. twice!, my dad becoming ill, going into a nursing home, dying.  Midge was  a purry constant.  We learned about the internet and facebook together.  We had nine years … and I dared to hope we’d have another nine years … but then she started behaving oddly, seeming lost in familiar places, licking paving slabs.  I took her to the vet and they dismissed my concerns (I’ll probably never forgive that vet!)  A few weeks later she was definitely not ok and when I took her back to the vet she was admitted.   It was a Monday evening.  She spent the week there having various tests, culminating in them opening her up on the Friday and finding lots of lumps on her liver and recommending they put her to sleep whilst still under the anaesthetic.   That week was one of the worst weeks of my life, and images of bringing her home, digging a grave in the garden and burying her willl be with me forever.

Midge

I’d had a week of not having a cat around whilst she was at the vets and it felt unbearable.  I looked at RSPCA website … it’s the only rescue I knew of … but the thought of choosing another cat felt equally unbearable.  Then I remembered someone I’d met who had fostered a dog for a rescue … and I wondered if there might be a similar thing for cats.  I’d no idea if cat fostering was “a thing” but posted on a local forum to ask if anyone knew of anything like that.  Within minutes I had a reply confirming that  yes it was a thing, and a direct message from a rescue confirming that not only was it a thing, but they had a cat right there and then who needed a foster home.

Midge

Seeing a way through the pain of bereavement I jumped at the chance to foster her.  Then realised I knew nothing about her, and what if she looked like Midge and it was all to painful?  I naiively asked the question that I now realise is taboo in rescue … “what colour is she?”  and got a bit of a tetchy answer …. which I now understand.  Anyway, I brought her home later that day.  I feel some guilt that I brought in another cat just over 24 hours after I’d buried Midge, but Mog needed somewhere to stay, and I can honestly say that several hundred wonderful cats later, there has never been another like Midge, and no one has ever replaced her.

Midge

A week later I brought home our second foster cat.  That felt strange, I’d never had more than one cat in the house before.  I remember asking if they needed separate food and water bowls and feeling a little overwhelmed at having two animals to keep an eye on.  I don’t know what I’d have thought if I’d known then that at our peaks we’d have over 20 in the house.   After that arrivals and departures followed thick and fast.  Mum’s with kittens, smelly old tom cats, scaredy cats, badly neglected pedigree cats. poorly cats, feral kittens.   

Midge

I can’t help wonder what might have been.  If Midgecat had lived, she’d be a very old lady now, but probably only the same age as Henderson.  Of course if Midge had lived we wouldn’t have known Henderson.  Midge hated other cats so we’d have been a one cat household for all these years.  We wouldn’t have known all the beautiful, precious cats who have come into our lives over the last ten years.  We wouldn’t have all these stories to tell.  We wouldn’t have the friends that we have … so many of them made because of connections with cats.  We might have carpets and curtains, and furniture that wasn’t clawed to bits.  We might have more money in the bank and a lower stress level.  

For better or worse … this is our life.  I’m glad in many ways that the choice wasn’t mine to make and am minded of CS Lewis reading from childhood.  His Narnia series more than once touches on the notion of what might have been:

“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.”
― C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

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disciplinary proceedings

We’re having a bit of a staffing crisis in our working from home office at present.   You may remember that following the death of our first office manager Jango in May this year, Flipper took up the post.  It was a rather left field appointment however she’s worked surprisingly hard and with dedication, sometimes working well into the night and sleeping at her desk.

 

She’s become so much of a fixture that colleagues expect her to be present at meetings, and clients have even asked after her  by name.

So it was a shock last week when she suddenly didn’t turn in to work one morning.  I found her sitting downstairs in Henderson’s favourite igloo.  That’s a whole other issue which needs to be dealt with outside of work.  Long and short of it is that I washed the igloo, and maintain that I did this with good reason, however it’s upset the whole eco system of the house.   Despite it having been one of Henderson’s favourite hang outs, second only to the heat pad on the sofa, he now refuses to set foot in it.  Turf wars between Rowan and Flipper have ensued.  Anyway, I digress.  She claimed to be off sick with hairballs.

The following day she was simply absent.   She didn’t call in sick, she just wasn’t there.  She wasn’t in the igloo, or on her perch in the bedroom window, or out in the garden, or nudging Hendo off his heat pad on the sofa.  She wasn’t on the shelf near the treats waiting hopefully, she wasn’t on the bed with Honey.   She wasn’t even under the bed, which is favourite spot for coughing up hair balls.  I’m not sure what made me think to open the wardrobe door … but …

To be fair, she’s aways had a bit of a thing about wardrobes.  I put it down to us watching The Lion the witch and the wardrobe when she was a kitten.  If I leave the door open she’s in there dreaming of Narnia.    When I raised the issue of work she simply said she didn’t want to.   I reminded her of the number of days I’d said that I didn’t really want to go to work, but had gone anyway.  She couldn’t get her fluffy head around why on earth anyone would do something they didn’t want to do.   Anyway, she said, she’d been to work nearly a hundred times now and was  getting bored with it.   I began trying to work out how many hundred times I’d been to work since starting in the early 1980s … but quickly realised the futility of this.

Obviously we then had to get cover in at short notice.  No one felt able to cover a full shift, so it was a bit of a patchwork.  Henderson put in a couple of hours, snuggled on my lap so I couldn’t move to reach anything.

Henderson

Rowan came in later but unilaterally declared it was “bring your kitten to work” day.  He then crashed out in his nest, leaving his kitten to run riot around the office.

There were limited options after that.  Kevin & Dasher were engaged in re enacting scenes from DH Lawrence

Dasher & Kevin

Rolo and Amber were in the garden doing semi feral things.

 

Honey, being “extremely upper management” was hardly going to drop everything to cover a shift at short notice.

Honey

So we were left with the only option of calling in a temp.  Becky had only been with us a few days and had mainy been self isolating in her bedroom.  [Unbeknown to us at that time she’d been struggling with gender issues … or at least our perception of them ….. and later that day revealed herself to be a boy cat …. and changed her name to Beckett … but again I digress]

S/he wasn’t entirely pleased to be pulled away from her nap

Becky / Beckett

and didn’t really understand anything about the job or what she needed to do.  However she set about trying to organise my diary

took over supervising Rowan’s kitten

and then gave him a telling off for his negligence

The situation will need to be discussed with Flipper ahead of her appraisal.  Her behaviour may have scuppered her chances of promotion to extremely upper management.  It may even result in disciplinary proceedings.  Take a guess at how bovvvered she is by this.

Categories: cat, cat rescue, kittens, Sheffield | Leave a comment

In which we experience stress, fame, hope and some ordinary-ness

Some weeks in cat rescue there is a very clear “headline news” kind of story.  Mostly though, it’s moving from day to day, doing our best, watching how things change and thinking how to respond.

In some ways the most imminent stress this week has been about vet appointments and perusading anxious cats and kittens to attend them.

First up was Hissy & Spitty on Thursday for their second vaccinations.  Thankfully when the time came to round them up for their appointment, Spitty was snoozing in their carrier (which stategically doubles as a cosy bed) and Hissy was easily picked up and popped in with her.

This photo shows their different purrsonalities sooo clearly … those flat anxious Spitty ears x

Slightly more stressful was the Friday appointment.  Kevin, Rolo and Rowan were all due their boosters.  They’re all timid kitties … very loving if they approach you, but if you approach them it’s a different story.  To be fair, Rowan has blossomed in recent months and was less of a worry.  His sister Rolo is very timid still though, and Kevin, though bolder than Rolo, is huge!  … and couldn’t easily be folded into one of our usual carriers.

We booked Rowan and Rolo in for this week, and Kev in for next.  The plan for making that happen was well stressed about … but also a bit vague.   The plan included:

  1. a very large, very sturdy carrier which was donated to us after someone moved to the UK with a couple of cats.   We set this up in the lounge back in June, with a comfy bit of vet bed and regular spinklings of cat nip … so it could come to be seen as a cool place to hang out.
  2. their favourite fishing rod toy, an exciting game with the toy ever so casuallly landing at the entrance to the carrier, and then a little further inside it … and then …
  3. my foot … carefully positioned by the door to the carrier …

Kevin fell for it, so after a quick call to the vet it was Rowan and Kev on their way and Rolo booked for next week in what had been Kev’s space.  Two down, one to go!

We like to encourage all our cats to live their best lives, and reach for the stars … if that’s their ambition.  So we were utterly delighted when Howard messaged to say he’d become famous.  The step from scruffy street cat to most pampered foster puss in the history of 8 Lives simply wasn’t enough for him and he needed to go on to be Susan Calman’s cat of the day with over a thousand likes!  Has it gone to his head?  You decide.

 

Henderson has managed to rollercoaster us through the whole spectrum of emotions over the last week.   Thursday last week he had a quick check up with the vet and we felt he was doing fairly ok.  He’d put a little weight on and his glucose level was fine for the time of day it was taken.  At bedtime he was sick and collapsed in a heap.  Fearing he was hypo we checked his glucose … but again it was fine for the time of day.  I sat up all night with him fearing he was dying.  Traumatic memories of losing Jango still very fresh in my mind.  He was a tiny bit better in the morning but not much.  We made a vet appointment and cancelled work, fearing that this was the end.   This kind of appointment is agonising at the best of times, but since COVID and being unable to go in with them it’s even worse.  Sitting baking in a hot car on the car park, waiting for that call, and the news of what’s to happen next.

What did happen next took me totally by suprise.  The vet admitted him and put him on fluids for 24 hours and started him on a steroid.   More blood tests confirm anaemia as the next serious health issue he’s added to his collection.  So now, in order of diagnosis, we have “weird blood results that we’re not sure what’s going on”, hyperthyroid, chonic kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and anaemia.   That said, since this little episode, and starting the steroids, he seems better than he has been since before lockdown.  He’s cuddling again,  interacting with the other cats more and generally seeming more like the old Hendo.

Things settled back to ‘normal’ after that episode.   The kittens got over their vet visit … eventually … and went back to playing.  The others went and flopped in the garden in the sunshine.

 

Categories: cat, cat rescue, kittens, Sheffield | Leave a comment

Howard’s 6 month probation review

[We’re delighted to have guest authors on our blog this week:  Howard and his foster mum Sara!  Howard is one of our long term foster cats, due to chronic health issues, and is celebrating six months in his foster home this weekend.  We messaged to ask how things were going and here’s the reply we got.  Many thanks to Howard and his mum (and dad) for this blog and for everything x ]

Memo to: 8 Lives Cat Rescue
Re: Howard’s six-month probation review

Thanks for your e-mail asking us to complete Howard’s six-month probation review. Here’s our assessment:

Overall rating: significantly exceeds expectations, probationary period passed with flying colours

Strengths: Cuddles, purrs, paw-crossing and cute sleeping positions

Areas for development: None identified

 

As requested, we’ve forwarded your e-mail to Howard for him to complete his own assessment.

 

Memo to: 8 Lives Cat Rescue
Re: The Hoomans’ six-month probation review

The hoomans have passed on your e-mail.

Overall rating: Satisfactory. They will do.

Strengths: No small hoomans or other animals.

Areas for development: At first, I was surprised at the extent of their training needs. It was obvious that the position of top cat had been vacant for some time. First, they expected me to eat out of metal bowls. But I found that by taking the food out of the bowls, eating some of it off the floor and leaving the rest there they quickly repurposed some nice ceramic bowls. And I did not like my litter tray, but enthusiastic digging and spreading of the small silicon granules around the kitchen resulted in a new toilet and a return to my litter of choice. So at least they learn quickly.

The hoomans live in a place without any stairs so it’s easy for me to get about. I have four blankets – the yellow one for looking out of the window, the blue one for sunning myself on my king-size bed in the afternoon, the white one for bedtime and the green one on my day bed. But of course, I go to sleep wherever I want. I am disappointed that my electric blanket seems to be broken since the beginning of July though.

They bought me a ramp, which I don’t use for getting on the sofa, because although I’m not as young as I was, I can still jump up and down when I feel like it. Now they’ve hidden it under the sofa – they don’t know I know it’s there.

I like sitting on the table looking out of the front window at everyone going past, but my BEST THING is my tunnel, which has The Flower Shop Marks & Spencer written on the side. It is made of brown cardboard and is about a metre long and looks lovely in their sitting room. I go in my tunnel when it’s too hot, or if I’ve been running around, which I do, sometimes.

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I have a garden, which is the BEST PLACE, but the hoomans never let me go out by myself. Sometimes I sit looking at the top of the 6ft fence. It’s too high for me to get up there, but the hoomans don’t know that, so it spooks them which is fun. Outside I have lots of places to sit – some in the sun and some in the shade. I wish the hoomans would bring my tunnel outside, but they don’t. That’s disappointing, and I must talk to them about it. Another training need.

I’ve lived rough and of course I’m a really hard cat, but I quite like it here so I have to play along sometimes – I try to remember to purr very loudly during Mummy Sara cuddles and I sit on my Dad’s lap for hours……..They are two of the BEST TIMES of my their day.

I know that I’m not very well, because the hoomans give me medicine every day. They try to hide it in my cat yogurt. They think they are fooling me, but I just like cat yogurt. I have a special diet to help my kidneys. Mostly, I’m quite good at eating it, but sometimes I want a change, and then it’s fun watching them opening lots of different things to tempt me. Sometimes when I’m really cute I get some fresh chicken or a prawn – they are the BEST FOOD ever. 

In the evening, Mummy Sara shares my armchair – we have half each, which I think is a bit greedy on her part. I pretend to be asleep, while she strokes me and last thing at night, I get a cuddle and a goodnight kiss. Sometimes I go and lie on the bed until they put the lights out, but I like my own space and quiet – they snore and wriggle a lot when they’re asleep.

The best thing about going to sleep is knowing that in the morning, I’ll be able to do all my favourite things all over again. After all, that’s what the hoomans are here for.

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Lockdown, trapped and the way forward

As lockdown restrictions ease we’re reflecting on what’s happened and the way forward.   It’s been a strange few months for us as it has been for more or less everyone else on the planet.   A couple of weeks before lockdown, as the threat of COVID began to rumble louder, Rolo & Rowan returned from their foster home.  It looked like it would be a while until we could safely rehome them, and they were bouncing off the walls in their foster room.  At least here they could have the run of the house and a cat proof garden. 

Rolo & Rowan

Once they were home we battened down the hatches; their foster carers were the last visitors to come into our home.  We closed to all other admissions or adoptions.   

We’ve documented much of life in lockdown in other blog posts. It’s been a real joy to be home with them all pretty much 24/7. I hope that feeling is at least a little mutual.   In some respects (and only some!) it’s kind of been a happy little timeless bubble.  

We have to wake up and emerge at some point though. So when a friend asked if we could take a couple of feral kittens we decided the time might be right.

trapped

It was the first arrival since February so it caused quite a lot of interest.

welcome committee

We put them in a large dog crate. If I’m honest, I don’t like putting kittens in crates/cages. However, it’s a short term means to an end. If they’re just loose in the house they’ll obviously hide, not have interaction, and if they don’t interact whilst they’re young they’ll not be socialised. If they’re not socialised they’ll not find a home, and either they’ll stay here “bed blocking” or have to be rehomed to an outdoor home.

We draped another fleece over the side of the crate so they could hide a bit, and they huddled behind the litter tray, not eating or really moving at all for about 24 hours.  We put small amounts of fresh food in at regular intervals, and rtttttttt999 tried tempting with chicken, ham, sardines, with some small success.   They stayed huddled and hissed and spitted as we tried to interact.

We feel it’s important that cats have a name and aren’t just “the stray from Smith Street” “the black and white one”.  Often naming gets stuck when we don’t know genders.  You can run out of unisex names after the first 300.  In messages with friends I jokingly referred to them as Hissy & Spitty, fully intending to find other more appropriate names in due course.  However these names seem to have stuck for now.  I’m hoping they will be entirely inappopriate in a few weeks and they will have nice furever names.

Gaining the trust of terrified kittens isn’t entirely easy.  We know that they were born outdoors and have lived outdoors all their lives.  We know that mum is feral.   e4444448.  In fact we believe that mum is the younger sister of “Albie the Feral” who was with us a few years ago.   

albie

We’ve had help from a suprising quarter.  Young Rowan, our sacked office apprentice, has found his true vocation in health and social care.   The little ones were starting to relax and play a little, but when Rowan joined them things really started to change.

Rowan meets Hissy

He started to play with them and show them how things were done and they began to blossom. 

 

Hissy particularly benefitted from his mentorship.  I’m sorry these photos are a bit blurred (it’s hard to waggle a toy with one hand and keep the other hand steady with the camera … a bit like tapping your head and rubbing your tummy) but I love them.

It looks to me like he’s showing her how to grab the toy:  “no .. do it this way”  ” that’s it, hold it with your right paw and then pick it up with your left … look … like this …” 

It went so well that after a few days he was allowed to bring his kittens out to play in the rest of the room.

 

He was proud as punch and did an awesome job managing them.  He may not have been cut out for office work … but he rocks it with the childcare.  His sister Rolo was somewhat put out that her brother was spending all his time with them rather than out in the garden with her.

Rolo

Even from day one there has been a difference between these two. The difference between a hiss and a spit I guess. Day one Hissy hissed but I could stroke her gently, whilst Spitty spat and did an impression of an exploding ball of fluff when I tried to touch her. They’re both making progress though from different starting points. By week two I’ve been getting loud purrs regularly from Hissy when I stroke her. She’s growing out of her name by the day. It’s Rowan who can get purrs from Spitty.

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We had a bit of a setback on Thursday … two weeks and two days after they arrived here.   They went to the vet to meet the lovely Dr Molly for a health check, microchip, start their vaccinations etc.   Our vets have done a wonderful job of managing care throughout lockdown.   It’s been wretchedly painful on occasions to not be able to go in to consults with cats though; handing Henderson over on the car park or at the door has been tough.  However on this occasion there were positives from the doorstep handover “Yes, it’s the one with white on who is more likely to bite you … good luck … speak later”.   Normally I’d be in the consult room helping to hold them, but here I was, sitting in the car, playing Candy Crush on my phone 😉      Very impressed that Dr Molly managed them.  The debrief later indicated that Hissy, although scared, had agreed to examination and procedures.  Spitty had done the wall of death around the consult room but eventually submitted to procedures, albeit with limited examination.  Perhaps her feisty chase around the room can confirm healthy heart and lungs as convincingly as having her chest listened to.

 

They were both very subdued for the rest of the day.   Spitty attempted to work through her trauma by sitting back in the cat carrier, podding and purring gently.   Hissy emerged the next day, and picked up where she’d left off.  Growing in confidence by the hour, chasing around with Rowan.   The vet run, though necessary, has set Spitty back quite a bit.  She’s mostly hidden in her cat caves since, reluctant to even come out to eat.  Last night I spent half an hour feeding her pieces of kibble into there, one at a time, until she’s full and until she’s not felt the need to spit every time I’ve put my hand in her cave.

Hissy is much more confident, enough to start to be naughty.  Aunty Honey alerted me earlier to a breech of the sacred rule!  Hissy had lodged herself in Uncle Henderson’s igloo. She had to be gently but firmly removed.

You may also have noticed some odd typos through this blog.  They represent the moments where I’ve moved away from the laptop for a few minutes, and Hissy has been taking her first steps into IT.  Normally we’d edit stuff like that out … but since it feels important to record their first steps 😉 

Now we need to work out how to safely rehome them!    We normally homecheck, then have people to visit the kittens (or cats), then when the time comes take them to their new homes and stay a while to help them to settle in.  It’s perhaps more than many rescues do, but has worked well for many years.   It will have to change and I imagine it’s going to involve Zoom or similar … most things do these days.  Whatever we work out we will continue to work to find the best homes and support our adopters in settling their cats into their furever homes.

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