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.

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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.

 

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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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