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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Situations Vacant!

The death of Jango, our office manager and chief solar tracking expert, at the beginning of May left me stunned and heartbroken.  I took some days off work to manage his funeral, and of course to focus on Henderson whilst he was very poorly as an inpatient at the vets.

Jango with a now no longer vulnerable mouse

I dreaded going back into the “office” and being without Jango.  His steady, snoozing presence had made the transition to home working and lockdown manageable.  I didn’t know how I could bear to work without him.  Just going back and sitting at the desk and feeling his absence was sooo painful.  All his “reasonable adjustments” to manage his disability due to arthritis were still in place – the graduated steps created by what had been an underbed storage box … now covered in a fleece, which enabled him to step up onto the ottoman, thence onto a chair by my desk chair … and thence onto my lap.  The barricade of cushions and cardboard still in place on the floor to stop him chewing the cables to the laptop and charging cables for phone and headphones.  I wept yet again when I realised I no longer needed to protect the cable to the mouse.

snoozing on the ‘reasonable adjustments’

Who knows what the other cats know and understand about this situation?  Moreover, who would believe they give a flying f@ck about any of it even if they do?  Nevertheless on my first morning back I was flanked by Honey and Flipper.   They’d obviously popped into the office before when Jango was in charge, had a look round and a nap and left again.  This time though they stayed all day, and all day the days after too.

It felt strange, working with them, but I was so very grateful to them.  Whilst I set about catching up with my admin, they started the process of advertising and interviewing for new office posts.

If I’d thought about it, I think I’d have assumed that Honey would have taken on the office manager role.  She’s generally in charge around the house, and it seemed a natural progression to take charge of the office too.  However, having taken some time to reflect on it she felt  that she had to address her work /life balance … washing everyone’s heads and generally keeping up standards was sufficient and she wanted time to relax in the garden.

work / life balance

In the end she accepted an extremely senior supervisory role, though only on a very part time basis, and to my horrror amazement … Flipper was appointed as office manager!

Flipper office manager

She was a strong candidate in some respects, showing great enthusiasm to investigate all aspects of the work – and that hole in the desk just had to be checked out.

seeking the source of the cables

She may have bigged up her solar tracking skills on her CV though.

5/10 for solar tracking

Then she and Honey decided, rather foolishly in my opinion, that we should take on an apprentice.

kevin’s interview

Honey interviewed Kevin and was disappointed to find that he was unable to stay awake beyond her 47th question.  Flipper made the first big mistake of her career by appointing Rowan.

 

I think she was seduced by his desire to imitate her, and didn’t think it through properly.   He alternated  swinging on the curtains, over-enthusiastic shuffling of papers and batting pens onto the floor with simply sleeping on the job.

rowan the apprentice

By lunchtime we decided we’d have to ‘let him go’ and he returned to digging up the garden with the other teenagers.

Rowan … sacked

It can be tricky adjusting to new management styles … and this has been no exception.  Jango had a very laid back, mostly unconscious, style …. so apart from the odd wire chewing incident was very hands (teeth) off.  Flipper on the other hand, younger, enthusiastic, keen to make a name for herself (and we have indeed made a few names for her … none of them permitted by Word Press) has been a bit of a micro manager.  She’s on the desk early each morning, going through my diary, checking the keyboard is working, shuffling my paperwork.

She’s a keen participant in Microsoft Teams meetings too.   I think everyone in our in Team is now familiar with the sight of her bottom.   The week we decided to use virtual backgrounds she chose to sit in that liminal space which allowed her to appear and disppear like the flippin Cheshire cat, randomly waving a disembodied tail in my face.

It’s one thing having her participate in meetings with colleagues.  We all have our own crosses to bear with pets or kids showing us up.  The more tricky part has been phone conversations with clients.   She has an opinion on everything that’s discussed ….  from care provision at the other side of the county to employment law overseas … and is determined to put in her two penneth.   At times it can be an amusing, levelling experience … at others it’s deeply embarassing.   It’s not easy to remain professional with one hand clamped around her muzzle.   Late afternoon appointments are often interupted by her shouting loudly into the microphone  … “I wont my T now!”.   In over 25 years experience I thought I’d encountered just about everything this job could throw at me.   However a hungry and very vocal cat is something I never bargained for.

 

I wont my T!

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A tail I don’t quite know how to tell (2)

I returned from taking Jango on his final journey, to see if Henderson had managed to produce a urine sample for me.  He hadn’t but must have realised how stressed and upset I was because when I said “please Hendo just do me a wee” he popped straight in the litter tray and obliged.   Thus, after several weeks of not driving at all, I made two trips to the vet in the space of a couple of hours.  

Sat outside the vets for an hour in the car whilst they tested the sample to see if there was protein in it so that I could then take relevant medication home with me.  What they found in his urine though wasn’t protein, but sugar! … lots of it!  Henderson had added another diagnosis to his list – now he had hyperthyroid, chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure AND diabetes!  And It was serious enough to need admission.  Lockdown hours meant that the vets were closing soon and we agreed it was best to wait and admit him first thing the following morning.

Thus on Tuesday morning we repeated the nightmare journey to the vets that we’d had with Jango on Monday morning.  Another very tearful car park handover with another lovely lovely vet nurse.  Henderson, unlike Jango, was alive but I feared I’d never see him again.  Conversations with vets had been kind and practical, planning what to do next …. but I’d noted the comments: “he is a very old cat”  “this isn’t a good diagnosis to have”.   Normally I’d have spent time visiting him whilst he was an in patient, and certainly would have been there if it came to him being put to sleep … but it seemed none of this could be possible.   I tentatively asked what would happen if it came to the worst but couldn’t quite bear to hear the answer … so may have misunderstood ….  it might be possible to do it on the car park.  This is in no way a criticism of the vet practice who I believe are doing their absolute best to make a terribly difficult situation as human and bearable as possible.  It’s more an acknowledgement of how agonising it’s been for all of us in these circumstances …. both with poorly animals and poorly humans.

I came home and wept … and waited.  We now had two fewer cats in the house than we’d had a couple of days previously.   The four “teenagers” continued to play out in the garden oblivious (I hope) to all the stress.  Amber our semi feral does her own thing, and I’m guessing dealt with it in her own way.  However Honey and to a slightly lesser extent Flipper were seriously distressed.  Flipper, a vocal cat at any time,  went around the house calling for her lost friends.   Honey paced the house and the garden for several hours – round and round the same circuits.   I’ve not quite seen anything like it before.  It wasn’t randomly roaming around, she was on a route march, feet stomping on the floor …. in through the cat flap, through the kitchen, round the lounge, back through the kitchen, into the conservatory, round the conservatory, back into the kitchen, out the cat flap, into the garden, along the wall, back the other way on the wall, up the garden, back down the garden, in through the cat flap … and repeat, and again … exactly the same circuit … and again …. and again …. and again.   To my horror I found myself feeling quite annoyed with her … I was exhausted, stressed and heartbroken and to watch her in her own way expressing similar (I think) sort of feelings but be completely unable to comfort her was almost more than I could bear.  

Wednesday was Flipper’s birthday … our kitten was 8!  We’ve always made a big deal of her birthday because she’s the only one of the residents who’s exact birthday we know.   She was born here on 6 May 2012 early in the morning.   With the “teenagers” here we at least know the year they were born and the younger ones we can pinpoint within about 2 weeks.  The other older cats though we don’t even know which years they were born.   Jango had been guessed to be 5 years old by the vet when he arrived here 10 years ago – but he could have been anything between about 3 and 9.  Henderson was guessed at 14 three years ago but again there’s a decent margin of error in these things.   This is why we try to make some sort of treat every day …. because you never know when it might be someone’s birthday x

Anyway … Flipper … we’d managed to get some boiled ham … one of her (and Henderson’s) favourites, a few new toys and some cat nip seeds to plant.  I’d looked forward to it … well what else is there during lockdown?   On the day it just wasn’t right though.  How on earth could we celebrate with Jango on his way to the crem and Henderson hooked up to a drip at the vets.  So we put it on hold.

Thursday arrived.  “We need to see what happens in the next 48 hours” were words I dwelled on after Hendo was admitted.  Here we were 48 hours later, each day bracing myself for a death sentence.  And the verdict? … “He can come home later this afternoon”.   Whilst it had been desperately painful to be away from Henderson,  once the prospect of his return was on the horizon my feelings did a double shuffle …. there was delight obviously, but also panic and a realisation of the extent to which him being in someone else’s care had been a relief.   Now it was going to be down to me again to watch him and make day to day, hour to hour decisions.  And of course it had to be a bank holiday the following day.  Can someone explain why when I’m exhausted with work and desperate for a break there isn’t a bank holiday in sight … but the minute we have a poorly cat they are always plentiful and imminent 😦  

Anyway, we arrived home with a slightly better looking Henderson, insulin, syringes, sharps box … and a jar of honey (thanks Aunty Jenny) in case of hypos.  We had a glucometer on order … which arrived Saturday … and were plunged into a world where sticking needles into cats several times a day had to become the new normal.   

All the cats seemed pleased to see him home, and we celebrated Flipper’s birthday just one day late.   

henderson with belated birthday ham

We had to be careful with the “teenagers” who were a little over enthusiastic with the head bumps and nearly knocked him off his feet.  At one point I think he only stayed upright through Dasher’s head bump because Kevin was doing the same on the other side …. equal and opposite forces and all that.  Everyone was pleased to have him home … he’s a very popular cat.

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In typical Henderson fashion, he’s been pretty much impervious to the insulin, as he is to the other meds he’s taking.  Despite being tiny and frail he seems to need a dose large enough to floor a rhinoceros to have any impact on him.  We’ve spend the last 6 weeks returning to the vet every couple of weeks for more blood tests and having his insulin dose increased based on the results.

It’s all been pretty daunting and scary, especially while the grief of losing Jango is still so terribly raw.  However he’s still here, he’s enjoying life and is a good patient in terms of tolerating the needles.   I’ve reached the point where I don’t feel stressed at all about doing his injections … it’s something I can do whilst the kettle is boiling in a morning and whilst tea is cooking at night.  I still get anxious about doing the blood tests … it’s not nice trying to make him bleed, even though thankfully it’s a only a very tiny drop of blood that’s needed. 

It’s been hard working from home since we lost Jango … our main office manager and sun tracker.  However it’s been a relief to still be home and be able to check on Henderson multiple times during the day.  There has been a big shake up in the office of course.   We’ve had to advertise for some of the key posts.  There have been applications, appointments, redeployments … some promotions and disappointments.   Catch up on all the office gossip in our next post 😉

 

Categories: cat, cat rescue, CKD cats, Sheffield | 2 Comments

A tail I don’t quite know how to tell (1)

And can hardly bear to tell.

Our regular readers will know that amongst the many cats we have here, we’ve have a couple of older lads.

Henderson & Jango

 

They’ve both had health issues over the last few years but have plodded along. We’ve said before that despite the awfulness of COVID 19 and lockdown we’ve loved working from home and being able to be with them for more of the time. Jango really embraced WFH with zoom and telephone calls and snoozed & snuggled through hours and hours of online work. Practically he didn’t make it easy … with his tendency to chew any electic cable in sight, or just blocking the way to the keyboard … but emotionally … through the early weeks of lockdown his solid snoring presence got me through. His poor mobility due to arthritis was a concern. He doesn’t eat a lot but lack of exercise had led to him being overweight.

Henderson has tended to stay downstairs and not get involved in work as my office is upstairs. In the three years he’s been with us he’s made it his mission to collect diagnoses. He was diagnosed with hyperthyroid in 2017, chronic kidney disease in 2019, and high blood pressure early this year. Being home and observing him more closely I realised just how much he was drinking. He’d had a check up just before lockdown … and no major new worries. His drinking seemed more extreme though … but vets were only open for emergencies … and worries about drinking a bit more in a cat with kidney disease didn’t seems like an emergency. It kept getting worse though.

I started trying to tell this tail in the first week of May, but it was too painful to tell.  I’ve come back to it a few times … and a few more times …  but still found to too painful, but until it’s shared no other tails can be told.

On Saturday 2 May despite vet services being very limited due to lockdown we decided we had to talk to the vet about Henderson.  He was drinking more and more water and getting increasingly unsteady on his feet.  He’d been due to review in May anyway.  In spite of or maybe because of lockdown, I got to speak to Henderson’s vet within an hour or so of calling the surgery.  We agreed I’d get a urine sample from him on the Monday as an intial step to seeing how much his kidneys had detriorated, if there was protein in his urine.  We got our lovely cat sitter on standby for Monday to run it down to the vets, whilst I was working.

Sunday came and Henderson seemed even worse, not wanting to eat despite my cooking up every possible thing that might tempt a poorly cat.  We spent most of the morning trying, mashed, gently warmed, smelly foods. scrambled egg, sardines, tuna ….. and nothing was working.   I’d carried Jango downstairs for breakfast earlier.  Sometimes he chooses to eat upstairs, sometimes he goes to the top of the stairs when we get up in a morning (which I assume means he wants to come down) and so I carry him down.  He can get down under his own steam but I like to protect his sore joints.  He had breakfast with the rest of the family, and lounged around downstairs whilst I tried to feed Henderson.  Then he sat at the bottom of the stairs …. which is my cue to carry him back up.   I put him on the bed on his heat pad where he loves to sleep (often sharing it with his friends) easing his achey bones.

Flipper & Jango on the heat pad

I flopped on the bed, sobbing about Henderson being poorly.  Comforted by my inner circle of Jango, Honey and Flipper, all purring and snuggling.  Suddenly … I’ll spare you the traumatic details which will be etched on my memory for the rest of my life … Jango had some kind of attack/seizure and died.   Within moments our world turned upside down.

Everyone who knows us at all knows that we love all our cats and don’t have favourites.   Anyone who knows us more closely knows that Jango is my favourite.   He’s lived with us longer than any of the others … it would have been 10 years in December.   He stayed with us rather than being adopted because of all sorts of weird and awkward behaviour.  He was a bit of a nightmare for a whole series of vets and cat sitters … and for me sometimes too … but I worshipped the ground he walked on.

Lockdown added to the agony of this of course, as it has added to the pain of so many other bereaved people.  I wasn’t able to take him to the crematorium myself … which is what we normally do.  Even taking him to the vets to then be taken to the crem wasn’t “normal”.   On Monday morning I had to cancel work and take emergency leave because I couldn’t stop crying.  I had to call the vets from the car park, and the nurse come out to collect him from the car.  She’s a lovely nurse that both Jango and I have known for many years and has cared well for both of us when he’s been poorly.   She was so kind and allowed us plenty of time to say our final goodbyes …. but I’ll never forget the sight of her carrying him away, his tail flopping out of the fleece we’d wrapped him in.

And then of course we had to go home and get Henderson’s urine sample ….

 

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WFH (3) .. my new colleagues

So we’re settling into working from home now.   Bizarre as it all felt on our first WFH blog, just 3 weeks ago, we’re now settling into a new sort of (ab) normal.   Seriously was that three weeks ago?   It feels simultaneously like only yesterday and at least a decade ago.

We’ve installed several new work stations, carefully stepped so that our older work colleagues can comfortably access them.  And close to the desk to save travel time for cuddles.

morning shift

This is still all quite surreal.  We’re very very fortunate to still have a job and be able to work from home.   We’re enjoying the positives of that, being home with the cats, missing the rush hour traffic and struggle to find a parking space.  There are day to day improvements in the IT set up, and a growing experience and confidence with working remotely.  At the same time we’re painfully aware of the hardships others are going through, desperately grateful to the key workers who keep the whole show on the road, and guiltily trying to avoid the full awfulness of watching the news.

afternoon shift

Our lighthearted comments about some of the joys of lockdown can only be be viewed through the lens of this being a traumatic nightmare to many.  Nevertheless … we hope to share a little fun and the lighter side of lockdown.

Having worked pretty much alone in the ‘office’ for the first couple of weeks … other than Jango popping in to chew the electric cables … I’m now regularly joined by fur people who I think of as my new team mates.  I like to think of this as being a new routine and sense of solidarity & support around the hosue … but suspect that the sun coming out and my office being the sunniest room in the house has rather more to do with it.

Patch of sunshine …. well used

Jango has emerged as my most faithful, hard working colleague.  He’s usually first in the office in a morning and last to leave at night.  He even turned up over bank holiday weekend as he got mixed up with days …. as we all do in times like this.  He’s taken on the role of senior solar tracking consultant … and gradually shuffles his way between litter tray and my desk as the sun moves.

 

Jango solar tracking consultant

 

There are times he’s not able to focus and just needs a cuddle.   That’s not a problem  … regular hugs have been written up as part of his professional development plan.   The plan has also taken account of a necessary adjustment to using wireless headphones … this has been quickly actioned to prevent “chewed through” hang ups on work calls.  His current learning objectives are mainly focused around understanding the importance of my being able to use my right hand for typing and the mouse and the impact of him trying to use it as a pillow.   We’ve set this as fairly low priority though and are balancing it against his skills in stress reduction.

He’s calmly sat through a 3 hour training course on Zoom this afternoon … resassuring me and amusing the other participants ….  and earning himself a bonus can of tasty Applaws for his supper.

Flipper has set herself up as security and wildlife monitor.  She takes her job seriously on the odd occasions when she’s awake and not thinking about something else.  From her windowsill viewpoint she comments on any activity in the surrounding gardens, and prevents anything coming in through the window.   She was devastated yesterday to find that she’d missed the heron that flew over and landed on next door’s fence.   Mr Heron sat there for quite some time and I was desperate to take a photo and/or go to fetch her to see it … but I was on a work call … and was concerned how my human colleagues might evaluate my mental health if I were to say “sorry, I’ve just got to fetch my cat to see this”

Flipper in charge of security and the environment

 

Apparently she’s also taken on a research project involving wardrobes.   This has clearly been set up through another department  as I don’t have one single clue what the method or objectives are.

Rowan, our office junior, reports to Jango.   His duties are best described as “miscellaneous”.    He’s certainly enthusiastic … I can’t fault him on that.

Rowan in supervision with Jango

I suspect his job description was written whilst the residents were a bit high on the nip.    They seem to consist of digging loudly and vigorously in the litter tray whilst I’m on phone calls, but also leaping from the top of the filing cabinet and crashing onto the desk during video calls.  I understand he’s also being given an out of hours payment for rearranging the room in the middle of the night.   I personally haven’t sanctioned this … and will raise it as an issue at the next team meeting.

One of the other joys of WFH is that we can sit out in the garden for lunch breaks.   I was impressed to find that the rest of the team were appropriately socially distancing.

team social distancing

Though it didn’t last long.  Kevin is far too needy of other feline contact to hold out for long.   He was soon snuggled up to his best friend Dasher.

 

Honey remains in overall charge.   She’s the go to purrson if any issues arise, and is on top of remembering what day it is and whether its tea time.  I’ve been a little disappointed in her actual engagement with work.   She did briefly pop into a microsoft teams meeting but found her attention quickly wandering …. and went to sit in the garden instead.

Honey … Chief Exec

To be fair, I miss my human colleagues lots.   I’m loving my new fur team though.

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Working from home! WTF! (2)

The last couple of weeks have been an interesting learning curve in many ways, both for me and the nine cats we’re in lockdown with.   I’ve learned more about IT and working remotely, and in a sense that has been the easiest part of the learning.  The tricky bits have been:

a) For me: “they don’t miss you half so much as you’ve imagined over the past years!”  That’s a hard one.  I’ve always felt bad about leaving them to go to work in a morning, kissed each of them on the head and promised to be back soon.  I now find that during most the day they don’t give a f@ck … they go off outside (the younger ones) or settle on the bed (older ones) and pretty much leave me to get on with it until tea time.

Dasher Rowan Kevin … view from the office

b) For them:  On the occasions where they decide to come to find me with some demand or other – I can’t always be immediately available.  THIS IS HARD.  Usually when they ask me to jump … I immediately ask “how high?”.  The notion of waiting is as new to them as Zoom and Microsoft Teams are to me.  Also there is the issue of rights to space on their bed. To date the understanding has been that I’m allowed to share it overnight but … a little like a B&B … need to vacate it during the day so they can stretch and relax and do what they need to do. Comments have been made, even the threat of a formal complaint, if I’ve decided to flop on the bed for a few minutes at lunch time.

No space for you!

I love that our cats are innocent of the current COVID-19 crisis.  They know something is different though.  I see them looking at me in a morning, looking at each other, looking at the clock, then the car, and rolling their eyes.  I ‘hear’ them muttering: “aren’t you going to get in the big silver mouse and drive away for a while? … give us some time to get on with  stuff?”

Little Rowan helped created a nice ‘atmosphere’ for my first call of the morning.

thanks Rowan

Flipper came in later to preside over Rowan’s home schooling.  She felt that as another tabby she should take charge of him.

Sadly it didn’t go well. Flipper felt that little Rowan was wearing his stripes and dots all wrong …. apparently . There was only one way to do it … and of course it was hers. Although Flipper had sat in with me on the Microsoft Teams training, she’d unfortunately skipped the Equality and Diversity training …. and we had to run through some of the key points later in a 1:1.

I’ve had more attention during the sunny days whilst it was comfortable to snooze in the office, but on non sunny days I’ve been more or less left to get on with it. With the exception of Jango of course.

Many of you know Jango well. He’s one of our long standing residents. Now quite elderly, deaf, very arthritic and a little confused. In recent months he’s learned that if he howls loudly (or maybe as he’s deaf he just thinks its normal volume) I’ll run to his aid. I’m more than happy to do this. His requests are usually for me to be a human stairlift as going up and down is manageable but painful for him. Or for food … which again can easily be provided. During isolation though he’s got into the habit of coming into my office in the afternoon for some love and attention.

His first foray into the office was to go under the desk and start chewing the cable to my work lap top! Tricky on many counts! My work depends on it and its NHS property. Add to that the fact that I was on a call to a patient at the time, dealing with my phone phobia, and an ill fitting pair of head phones (or mis-shapen ears – depending on your perspective). We’ve now blocked access to the area using cushions and the kittens’ play cube.

His second, and now regular approach, is to ask to be picked up. That’s kind of ok. I can more or less do that without losing concentration or earphones coming loose. However he then sits purring loudly on my lap. On one level I love that!  There’s a lot of comfort in a Jag hug during difficult times.   On another I had to check with my supervisor yesterday whether the purrs could be heard through the microcphone. Whilst many of Jag’s issues are about older age, he’s always had a wire chewing issue, leading to us having had to cover every wire in the house with cable tidy or other protection. You’ll have guessed what happened next … as I gently tried to push him away from the microphone, he swung round and clamped his teeth on the cable.

We have securely fitting, ‘over the ear’ wifi/without cables headphones on order from a well known online supplier.  Let’s hope that brings us an easier week next week.

Flipper has offered herself as an oddly shaped kind of mouse mat come wrist support  …

I don’t want to be unkind … but …  it’s not entirely helpful if I’m honest.

Aunty Honey has sensibly got on with what she’s best at … looking after everyone.  If you need your head washing and a bit of reassurance …. Aunty Hon is the place to go.

I go to Aunty Honey quite often x

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WFH? WTF! (1)

Whilst many of our canine friends have been overjoyed to have their beloved humans working from home, spare a thought for the poor felines who suddenly find themselves with no peace and unable to get on with anything because there is a human lumbering around in their space.

 

And if you have a second thought to spare … spare one for me, living under the disapproving gaze of 18 feline eyes.  I see them chuntering to each other, looking at me, looking at the clock.  I’m aware I’m cramping their style and feel guilty taking up so much space in their home.

 

It’s been a steep learning curve these last couple of weeks.   We have a whole new vocabulary: self isolating, social distancing, Zoom, mircosoft teams, Tesco delivery.  Terms never previously uttered but now part of every day conversations.  Tricky for all of us to realise that I can’t simply be sent to the shop when we run out of chicken.  I have asthma and need to try to play this one safe.

I’m heartbroken, if I give myself chance to think about it, that we’ve had to close to admissions and adoptions.  It’s been my life for the past (almost) 10 years.  Pretty much every non-work day had an admission, homecheck, potential adopters visiting, taking cats to their new homes – often multiples of these.   Work days ended with a vet run usually once or twice a week.  Then of course there’s all the admin, messages, accounts, ordering, advertising.  It’s a shock for it to end so suddenly … or “be put on pause” as I see it in my more positive moments.

Henderson & Rowan

We still have rescue cats here.  We have our own four resident cats, plus Henderson who is long term foster (please don’t anyone mention that to him … he believes he’s a resident and we want to keep it that way).   Plus Kevin & Dasher, who were taking some time to find a home due to their shyness around others.   Then on Saturday 14 March,  anticipating changes due to COVID-19, Rolo & Rowan returned to us from foster care.  We also have Howard and Oscar in long term foster care placements.   So nine cats in this household, plus two in foster placements.

We took Rolo & Rowan in, and  put them in the back bedroom where they’d lived with their family when they first arrived last summer.

Squig with all the kits

 

We thought it would be a good plan to let them have a bit of time to settle back in here before re introducing to the other residents.   Unfortunately only a couple of days later, by the Monday morning I was having to turf them out to make their bedroom into my office.    That room used to be my study … and in some of the more grouchy moments over the last few years I’ve fantasised about reclaiming it.  I never in a million years expected the process to happen so suddenly, in the space of half an hour following a text message from my manager.   Our team were WFH .. sort it.

Thankfully they’re sweet kits, and accepted sharing space quite readily and soon got to know their pals in the rest of the house again.

One thing I’ve given thanks for is that this dreadful situation didn’t hit when these two arrived, with their two mums and 7 siblings, and their aunty who gave birth to 5 more kittens.  On top of our 5 residents, plus Kevin and Dasher, I don’t know what on earth we would have done.  It was chaos even then, but at least more or less manageable chaos as  the rest of them were adopted.

Imagine lockdown in a small house with 20+ cats and growing kittens, and trying to WFH! I’ve heard mixed reports of whether vets are able to offer routine neuter ops at the moment …  I’m so anxious about how that  will impact on this year’s kitten season … though completely understand the issues.

It’s not been easy just with the 9 of us … and I’ll tell you more about that in the next blog ….  then again it’s not been easy for anyone!

Stay Safe .. Stay Sane x

 

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Things are getting a little heated around here

We mentioned in our previous blog about having bought a heat pad for the cats, mainly to help ease some aching old bones for our very senior cats.  It’s proved a huge …. and fascinating …. success.   It’s possible that if you’re a follower of our facebook page you’re already fed up of posts about it … apologies for that 😉

Henderson (a bit underweight and definitely the most senior cat in the household) and Flipper (the youngest of our purrmanent residents … but the first to complain about being cold) are the main users of it.

It’s made me review my sense of importance to them.   Since the purchase I’ve been very aware of having to share Hendo’s affections with his blossoming relaitonship with the heat pad.  It hurts sometimes to find that the pad his chosen above me …though slightly reassured that although he purrs like crazy when he’s on my organically heated lap, there are no purrs for the electric one.  I’ve also been conscious of being chosen for a cuddle because the heat pad is taken by someone else 😦   It puts me in my place for sure.

However the really interesting thing for me has been watching the interactions of how they share it.  I’m so proud of my gorgeous cats and their ability to get along together and work things out.  I’ve watched various cats visiting and revisiting the chair the heat pad is in and looking to see if it’s free … and then walking away if it’s already occupied.

Amber disappointed on this occasion

There have been no fights … just subtle negotiations.  Henderson’s Achilles heel is that as a renal cat he needs to drink frequently.  I’ve watched Flipper hanging around either on the sofa or the windowsill, watching for the moment his thirst gets the better of him.  Then she’s in!

The really cure moments are the times they find a way to share.  I watched this careful shuffling with Flipper & Henderson over a period of about 15 minutes.

Although they get along ok I’ve not witnessed these two sitting so close to each other before.  I love the last photo where they’re pretty much holding hands.

The other sweet interaction was with Dasher and Hendo.  Dasher used to snuggle with Henderson when he was little but hasn’t done for a while.   I think he thought he could snuggle again … but then realised he was too big to fit.  Dasher had been playing out in the cold though … so at least wanted to warm his hands and feet.

 

In case you’re wondering … both Amber and Dasher have had their turn.

Albeit with Hendo waiting in the wings

We’ve given in to pressure this weekend and ordered a second one.

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Aids and Adaptations

We’ve reached a stage where all the purrmanent residents at 8 Lives, apart from the infamous Flipper, are teenagers. I mean teenagers in human years …. so in feline terms senior kitizens – as opposed to defiant adolescent /teenage stage felines.

Oldies have a charm that needs to be experienced to be appreciated.   They’re slower, quieter, less destructive, more and more gorgeous and snuggly every day that comes.   The challenge is that older age (as with humans) often brings health issues and challenges.  This is the time you might start to be glad that you took out good pet insurance whilst they were younger … though sadly some of ours were too old or had too many pre-existing conditions when they arrived in rescue to make insurance a viable option.

We don’t know for sure how old any of them are as we don’t have full histories ….. actually we don’t even have sketchy histories.   Apart from Jango they were found as strays.   We know that Amber is Honey’s kitten so is a little younger than Honey … though probably not much.  Jango came from the dog pound but sadly we have no history of how he came to be there or his life before that.

So our official guesstimates are that Amber is 13, Honey & Jango 14 and Henderson 17.

Honey & Amber

The girls, Honey & Amber are kind of doing ok.   Honey went for her health check yesterday and we were concerned that she’s lost a bit of weight, but mostly things checked out fine so we’re just keeping an eye on her weight and see how things go.  Amber is trickier to care for.  Whilst her mum had clearly been a pet cat before becoming a stray, Amber was born outdoors, and didn’t have enough socialising early enough for her to be confident with humans.  So when Honey came into rescue she quickly settled back into being a happy snuggle puss, whilst Amber has remained wary despite the number of years she’s lived here.  Don’t get me wrong, Amber is setttled and happy, she purrs and plays and relaxes …. until you approach her.  Then she’s scared.  She’ll allow some strokes but is very stressed by any other intervention …  so any trip to the vet is a major trauma.  She’s a bit snuffly from time to time … we assume she had cat flu before coming to us.  We keep an eye on it … mix in some meds with her food to help with that sometimes … but mostly try to avoid stressing her by doing anything else.

 

Amber & Honey with Flipper

 

The boys have had more health issues.   Looking back on it, Jango was less active than you might expect even when he arrived here nine years ago, but at the time we put it down to him being a lazy ginger tom cat … and maybe he was.  He’s also always bunny hopped down the stairs … again we put it down to not being used to stairs or just one of those quirks of his (he has many!).  As time went on though he became more apparently stiff in his joints.  The lazy spilling out of his bed, and flopping on his back  came to an end.

We worked our way through joint supplements … which helped a bit.  Then moved to daily metacam …. and more recently have needed to add other drugs to manage his pain.  He can just about still manage the stairs under his own steam … but prefers to sit at the top or the bottom and wait for a human stair lift to scoop him up and carry him … or howl to request assistance.

Our bed is one of his favourite places to sleep but we realised he was beyond being able to jump … or even scramble up.   So we rigged up a stairway using a low footstool, which led onto a bedside cabinet which was lower than the bed, and then a final step to the bed.  That also started to get tricky for him …. so we invested in a ramp.

 

That’s proved to be a great success. The other cats like it too and it serves well as a scratch post.

The arthritis sadly isn’t his only problem. He howls very loudly … pretty often. Sometimes it’s clear what the problem is …. he’s waiting at the bottom of the stairs and getting impatient for someone to carry him up. Other times, and often in the middle of the night he’ll howl and there is no apparent reason. The first time I heard this sound I flew out of bed thinking something dreadful had happened … he’d trapped his hand in something, fallen, hurt himself on something. But no … he was standing on the landing …. just howling.

We’re fairly confident he’s not howling in pain .. for one thing he’s on lots of pain meds and for another it’s just not what cats do … they hide their pain rather than shout about it. However we’re pretty certain he’s very deaf, and that may explain why he’s so loud. Deaf cats just like their human counterparts tend to shout. I know with cats it’s tricky to be sure about the quality of their hearing as they’re masters of selective deafness …. but he regularly sleeps while I hoover round him. Another reason for the howling could be dementia. Sadly it affects cats as it does humans. Having watched my father suffer with it, I’m reluctant to accept that it’s happening to Jango too. I do think some of the howling is deaf shouting and impatience. However after experiencing several nights of having to get out of bed 8+ times to find him standing howling on the landing for no apparent reason I think we have to accept that there’s an element of dementia. Thankfully when he’s picked up and snuggled into bed he settles for a while and purrs very happily.

Despite being unsure of their ages we’re pretty sure Henderson is the eldest.  He was guessed to be 14 when he arrived here 3 years ago.  He’s been collecting ailments ever since.   All the usual elderly cat things – hyperthyroid, then chronic kidney disease and most recently high blood pressure.  His mobility isn’t what it was though he’s thankfully not as stiff in his joints as Jango.  He can’t jump too well but what he’s lost in agility he more than makes up for with strategy.   These beds on the table are popular with the residents as the table is against the radiator so the back of the beds are heated.  Hendo can’t jump but has worked out a route: onto the spokes of the chair on the right of the table, onto the spokes of the table, then to the seat of the chair on the left of the table, and from there onto the table and into a cosy igloo.

We decided to invest in a heat pad for them all.  Jango has aching joints that would benefit from some warmth, Hendo is a skinny old chap who needs some extra insulation.   We weren’t sure if any of them would use it.

Henderson looked a bit uncertain when I first put him on it but after a few seconds it dawned on him that there was lovely warmth coming up through his feet.  He’s scarcely left it since then.

Jango also had a go

Flipper has also been a major user of it.  She’s not old and thankfully not poorly either … but she’s very often complaining about being cold.

She absolutely loves it

Really pleased to have found some things that make their lives easier and more comfortable.

Big thanks to Howard’s adoptive parents for prompting us to get them.

Our oldies are so precious.

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