Zoltan: a six week rollercoaster journey

It’s six weeks ago today that we brough Zoltan into rescue. She settled in quickly and remarkably well. Such a sweet old lady. We knew she had some health issues, she’d been having seizures for some time, but she made herself comfortable and we started to get to know her, to care for her and love her. She made the end of the sofa her main hang out place.

As with every other new arrival, she was off to the vets for a health check in her first week here. Because she’s 18 and had health issues, she had a blood test. That revealed that she had early stages of renal failure. She took to her renal diet pretty well. As her hips weren’t too good we often fed her in her spot at the end of the sofa, and hand fed the renal dry food. Somehow word got around that Z was getting extra treats, and everyone started lining up for them. In return Zoltan noticed that these ‘treats’ were desirable … and became keen to eat them.

Soon her appetite dropped off though and she became quite poorly. She was admitted as an in patient and put on IV fluids for a few days. During this time she was diagnosed with high blood pressure as well as kidney disease, on top of her epilepsy.

Four weeks ago today we picked her up from the vets after her 3 day admission and she was like a new cat. Before I’d got her bandage off (needs to stay on a little while after coming off the drip) she’d pottered out the door and up the garden. It’s all safely cat fenced, so perfect for elderly and vulnerable cats. She headed straight for the cat mint area, accompanied by her friend Rowan. She rolled around in the sunshine and catnip, loving every moment. It was so lovely to see her happy. She’d been quite subdued since she arrived but this was a true moment of being alive and happy.

At that stage Zoltan had only had one seizure whilst with us so hadn’t been started on medication for epilepsy. The vets explained that they wanted us to witness another seizure so that we could have some idea of how frequently she had them …. so then we could know whether the medication, once started, was actually reducing the frequency. She had the second later that week. That was quite a low point. Although I was next to her when she had it, it took me so much by surprise and the thrashing was so violent, that I wasn’t able to stop her from falling from the sofa onto the footstool and then onto the floor. She seemed to recover from it quicker than I did, and was off to get something to eat whilst I was still berating myself for not having caught her.

The upside of this though was that she was able to start medication and so far as we are aware, had no further seizures.

Zoltan went back to the vets for her second vaccination and a blood pressure check 10 days ago and all was well. Blood pressure back to normal and putting a little bit of weight back on. It was Flipper’s birthday that day and Zoltan joined in their special birthday tea.

The weather has been a bit rubbish, but every time it was nice we’d have the door open and as soon as she smelled the fresh air she was off up the garden to the nip.

Last Sunday she went into the garden but on Monday she seemed more unsteady on her feet and it looked like it might be time to introduce the extra step between the footstool and the floor that we’d created for Henderson. Tuesday her appetite wasn’t too great. I thought I was maybe over reacting, but called the vet and booked her in for Thursday. By Wednesday evening she was struggling to stand up but her appetite improved and she was purring to me for the first time since she arrived. Then her tummy started to be upset …. very upset. I stayed up with her so I could carry her to the litter tray and clean her.

feeling poorly

We had a little carry around the garden to the catmint on Thursday morning but she didn’t seem interested. The vets admitted her following her appointment. Anaemia was added to her list of diagnoses, her kidneys had deteriorated more and there were some other worrying blood results. She didn’t pick up on fluids like she had done last time. Her tummy continued to be very upset. It became clear that it was more likely that it was whatever was happening in her brain that was causing these issues rather than renal failure. We kept hoping … a little …. and made preparations for her being discharged today. I got all the cleaning done so she wouldn’t be disturbed by it, and had a bit stack of vet bed and puppy pads ready for nursing her. She’d eaten fairly well thus far, but the lunchtime call today said that her appetite had dropped off and she still had a very upset tum. It was clear that she wasn’t going to get better at home if she hadn’t made any improvement at the vets. We were assured that she wasn’t suffering as such, but wasn’t really aware of or interested in anything. It was clear that in reality the choice was between letting her go now or bringing her home to potentially suffer and then face going to the emergency vets or our vets early next week to say goodbye.

Such a rollercoaster six weeks. Such heartbreak seeing her unable to stand and having to “say goodbye” without actually being able to say goodbye … because it’s still not possible to go into the vet surgery. Such joy watching her make renal food into a value treat for the whole family and seeing her rolling around in the catmint with Rowan.

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Introducing our newest purrmanent resident … Zoltan

A couple of Saturdays ago I noticed a post on a rescue friend’s facebook page: “Urgent place needed for two elderly cats … more details to follow”. The details that followed were sad: an 18 year old with epilepsy and a 16 year old with a cataract … about to be made homeless as a result of their family’s own health issues. I couldn’t get them out of my mind. There was no way we could accomodate two elderly cats with health issues who were unlikely to be adopted. I still couldn’t get them out of my mind. We were full and the couple of people I mentioned them too reminded me of that, and pointed out how stressful it would be to have elderly poorly cats. I still couldn’t get them out of my mind.

I tried hard to ignore further posts about them, even when I was tagged. Even I could see that we wouldn’t be able to integrate two elderly poorly cats into the family, and even more so when I learned they were both tortie ladies! Then I learned that although the two cats tolerated each other they weren’t close .. and the situation was pretty desperate. After discussions we decided to offer a space to the older and more poorly of the pair in the hope that someone else would feel able to take the other.

It felt a bit of a risk because Zoltan would have to live in the main living area with the other cats a) because the private rooms were taken by Hollie and Timtam and b) because we couldn’t shut a cat with serious health issues away in a room on her own.

We set up the big dog crate in the lounge as we had done with Henderson when he first arrived, made it as comfortable as possible. We draped sheets over it for some privacy and so that introductions could be made fairy gradually, and last Saturday we went off to collect Zoltan and bring her home.

Rowan welcomes Zoltan

In the end she wasn’t in the crate long enough to even get round to taking a photo in there. The residents flocked round to have a look at her, and she looked at them. There was none of the usual hissing and grumbling with introductions. Whilst there were only a couple of other cats in the room, I let her have a little potter around. Rowan was very excited … he loves to make friends with everyone.

Zol tried out a few little sleeping spots on the rug but very soon spotted what has become her favourite space on the sofa.

favourite place

I’ve never seen a cat settle in somewhere so fast. The photo above was taken less than 4 hours after she arrived here!

We set up nice raised bowls for her so she could eat and drink in comfort but the first night Rowan wanted her to come into the kitchen for tea with everyone else. He even let her share his bowl.

Easter Sunday was nice and sunny and we had the doors open whilst outside gardening. Thankful again to have a secure cat fenced garden because it meant that Zoltan was able to go outside into the sunshine briefly.

We were obviously anxious about her health issues. Unfortunately it hadn’t been possible to get a clear history of her epilepsy so we didn’t know what to expect in terms of frequency or severity of seizures or what might trigger them. It was a relief to get to the vet after the holiday and start to find out a bit more and make a plan for treatment. There are some things to be positive about: her basic health check was pretty good for an 18 year old, and her blood results revealed nothing very serious other than early stages of renal failure. Unfortunately of course, our vet couldn’t tell us how often she would have seizures so that’s a “wait and see”. She’s been quite twitchy on and off all week but late Friday night had the first full seizure that we’ve witnessed. She will be started on medication to help with this shortly.

It’s another steep leaning curve and we’re anticipating heartbreak along the way … but for now she’s happy and settling in with her new friends.

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Several steps forward and several other steps back

I’ve debated about the title of this. Should it be two steps forward, three steps back? Three steps forward, two steps back? Two steps forward, two steps back? I think the ratio of steps has changed over the two weeks I’ve been writing this … we’re moving forwards again 🙂

As many of you know, we’re a tiny rescue with just two rescue rooms. The story since just before Christmas described very simply is: Oliver moved in, Hamish moved in, Oliver moved out, Timtam & Tiktok moved in, Hamish moved out, Albie moved in, Albie moved out. Timtam and Tiktok weren’t getting on so moved into separate rooms. Room turnarounds have been pretty much like a hotel so out at lunch time, cleaning done and new occupants in at tea time.

If you’ve read our previous blog you’ll know that Tiktok and Timtam had been progressing with their confidence slowly but surely. Once we were able to separate them, Timtam’s confidence took many steps forward. Timtam had my office, so had more contact time and after a few days of holding her bladder and appetite during my entire working day, began to venture out of her hidey holes. Firstly she had to be enticed out with a toy, but soon she was coming out of her own accord and was happy to sit at a safe distance, snoozing and making squeezy eyes at me. Tiktok spent some time in his own bedroom to give the rest of us a break from his boisterous antics, but also was invited into the office to attend selected zoom meetings, have cuddles and see his sister. We were (still are) carefully observing their interactions as part of the difficult decision as to whether to home them separately or together.

A further step forward came when little Rowan befriended Tiktok and began to introduce him to the other residents and the rest of the house. It meant Timtam & I could have more time alone in the office and Tiktok could play with the other youngsters downstairs.

It was all going so well, then we had a message from Hamish’s family to say that one of the children was really allergic to him, They’d tried a few things to manage it but it wasn’t improving and he had to come back to us. We were devastated for him. He’d found a lovely home and settled so well into it. For a cat who was only about a year old he’d had so much upheaval. We’re assuming he was born in one home and given/sold to another home as a kitten. He was then found as a stray by someone who ascertained that he’d been abandoned by the previous owner when they moved house. That person took him in and he lived there a little while before they decided they couldn’t keep him permanently. That’s when he first came to us. He was very withdrawn when he arrived here but gradually came out of his shell and started to trust people. He went off to his new home very confidently and settled well. It was heartbreaking that he had to go through another change.

Hamish in new home

It was a major step back for us too. It’s part of all our adoption agreements that we will take cats back if they’re unable to stay in their adoptive homes for any reason, and naturally we wanted to be there for Ham at a difficult time, but essentially we were having to fit him back into a space that didn’t exist. Those of you who know us know that we have two rescue rooms, one of which (since covid) doubles as my office. Let’s call them A & B .. B is the one that’s slightly bigger and is my office. Tiktok had A, Timtam had B. The seven resident cats have the rest of the house. I laid awake for two nights (not for the first time in rescue experience) trying to work out where to find a room we hadn’t got, turning over the following considerations:

  1. Hamish cannot share with Timtam or Tiktok, or indeed any of the other cats as he doesn’t like them.
  2. Tiktok & Timtam ideally need to be separate because he bullies her and they fight in the night … I did should mention that my bedroom … let’s call it C .. is between A and B … and ideally in the night (when I’m not trying to work out who to put where) I need to sleep rather than listen to feline arguments.
  3. Hamish is going to come back stressed and need support so may be better in B where he has more contact time.
  4. If we put Hamish in B then Timtam and Tiktok end up sharing the smaller room A which doesn’t seem fair.
  5. Timtam needs more contact to grow her confidence so may be better in B.
  6. Timtam and Hamish can’t both have B!
  7. We could separate Timtam and Tiktok by putting one of them in a large dog crate in the same room. Timtam would be better having more freedom but Tiktok will make more noise if confined. But it’s not fair to confine Timtam simply because she protests less.
  8. Perhaps whoever is in the crate woud be better in a different part of the house. Would they get enough attention? How would the resident cats feel if they were in their part of the house? How would the crate resident feel about having resident cats observing them like they were in a zoo? And where would the crate resident be able to exercise?
  9. How/what do we prioritise? The most needy? The one we can rehome most quickly in order to get back to something more manageable?
  10. Are were going to try to rehome Tiktok and Timtam together or separately? That dilemma pre-dates the return of Hamish, but is relevant to choices now.
  11. Would it be possible to build on Tiktok’s friendship with Rowan and move Tiktok downstairs with the other residents? But Rowan is only one of seven residents and experience suggests that not all of them are as keen to play as Rowan. It’s also true that Rowan bullies his sister Rolo in the same way that Tik bullies Tim … so how would that pan out if Rolo has to deal with both of them bullying her?
  12. What if I add C to the equation and put one of them in my bedroom and move downstairs to sleep on the sofa? It’s certainly something we’ve done many times in the past but as I get older my bones grumble more. And who would the bedroom occupant be? And how would the resident cats feel about another cat in their bedroom? And might they start peeing on the bed when they get back in there? I try to protect them from that kind of disruption … this is their home after all.

It rolled round and round my head. How do we get everyone in a space they feel safe, that they have enough contact time to keep making progress and enough room to be able to exercise. How do I ensure I get enough sleep to be able to function in the day job?

In the end we opted to put Hamish in the smaller room and Tiktok & Timtam in my office. We moved most of the office furniture into my bedroom so that there was room to put in a large dog crate in the office. The plan .. and it’s kind of worked … was for Timtam to spend some time safe in her crate, some time free in the room with Tiktok and some time free in the room whilst Tiktok is out playing with Rowan et al. What we’d not quite bargained for is Tiktok wanting to go back into the smaller room because that’s what he’s been used to, and Rowan knocking on that door … mistakenly … loooking to see if Tiktok is playing out.

Hamish gutted to be back in rescue

The other big step back that we’d not anticipated is how stressed and distressed Hamish was on his return. I’d (stupidly with hindsight) anticipated that he might need lots of cuddles and comfort on his return. What I hadn’t anticipated was that he’d spend 48 hours hissing and growling at me, and lashing out if I tried to touch him. I’m fairly certain that apart from the general stress of change, the main issue is that he can smell Tiktok and Timtam in the room.

Should we have put T&T in A and given Hamish the office space? Should we do this now? Will it help settle things or just cause more traumatic disruption.

It’s been more difficult for Hamish than we expected, but the plan seems to have worked better than expected for T&T. Tiktok has built on his friendship with Rowan and managed if not to be best buddies, at least not sworn enemies with the other residents. He’s played a lot downstairs with the others, learned how to use the cat flap and enjoyed chasing around the garden with the other youngsters. He’s confident now with being scooped up and hugged.

Timtam has got braver by the day. Small but noticeable steps. This week has seen the first time she’s run to the food bowl at meal times rather than hiding away and the first time she’s ventured out of her room. She plays more confidently, sits watching me work, still scuttles away when I approach her but when I’m actually touching her she purrs and squirms around really enjoying a snuggle.

Timtam watching me work

It took a week or so before Hamish started to seem like himself again, and he’s not quite there yet, but he’s getting there. Almost exactly a week after he arrived back here he conducted some interviews for new staff on Zoom and has appointed someone/s who he feels will be suitable. Their contract will commence shortly … and we’ll be able to get back to ‘normal’.

Hamish feeling better … and hopeful
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All the Ts

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

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

Tiktok & Timtam arrive

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then, not many minutes later, this happened …

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

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

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

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

Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Goodnight Uncle Henderson

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

henderson arrival at vets 2017

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

setttling into rescue 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

drying off from his bath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The first week of Piper’s new life

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

Piper working from home in rescue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: cat, cat rescue | Leave a comment

disciplinary proceedings

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Henderson

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

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

Dasher & Kevin

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

 

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

Honey

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

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

Becky / Beckett

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

took over supervising Rowan’s kitten

and then gave him a telling off for his negligence

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

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

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