Author Archives: accidental fosterer

There and back again (3)

I said I was looking forward to missing the cats here whilst away .. and I did!  Oddly enough it put me in mind of people who give up smoking and say part of the problem is just not knowing what to do with their hands if they don’t have a cigarette.   What DO you do if there aren’t any ears to scratch or toys to wave? and when you don’t have to protect your food / drink / keyboard / pen from being messed around with?

 Jess our cat sitter was really good at keeping in touch.  I think she pitched it just about right.  If there’s too little communication its easy to worry what’s happening, too much communication and it doesn’t feel like a break.   I loved that each message started with “all is well” or some variation on that theme, so I could enjoy reading the message without worrying.  There were a few messages just checking out the best way to do something which gave the reassurance that things were getting done and she was thinking about and caring about what she was doing.   Most messages were just day to day sort of updates about what the cats were up to.  I loved them!  They were so obviously from someone who was taking her time with the cats and making a point of getting to know them.  About Honey grooming Flipper, and Flipper barging in on a snuggle session with Honey.   About Henderson and methods for giving him his thyroid tablets.   About Amber and her wariness of strangers, and of course the crazy kittens and their antics.

We heard about who had been sick … its strange what you miss when you’re away from home.   And who had stolen a packet of treats and ripped the plastic packet all over the floor (no mystery who that was … Flipper!).   Jango had staged a battle with his usual opening tactic … sitting on the stairs and not allowing anyone past.  Well done for managing that one Jess!  it takes a brave and gentle soul to diffuse that situation.

Jango spoiling for a fight

What made me giggle was the little Fs.  Much as I’d tried to plan things around the holiday it was only after I’d booked Felix & Fritz in for their first vaccination that I realised their second would be due while I was away.   Aunty Jenny volunteered to come over and take them for that.   They were very timid at that point so I wondered how she’d manage with catching them.  I logged into kitty cam at some point and their bed was on the floor and the cat carrier gone.   It doesn’t take much imagination to picture the scuffle in the scenario.

Well done aunty Jenny! Not the easiest task to have delegated to you x Delighted to arrive home to find little Fs had grown in confidence and although still a bit hand shy now love it when they’re stroked and purr like little helicopters (ok ok helicopters don’t purr .. you know what I mean!)

Sadly (and perhaps just a little happily) the day came to return home. Another long long flight in the direction of multiple breakfasts, a stressy drive home over the snake in quite thick fog and we were back! Jet lagged and exhausted we prepared ourselves for the mess that would await us. …… and ……….. well …. it wasn’t there! No dirty dishes in the sink, no grubby litter trays … not even the ever present carpet of cat litter on the floor.  Just a collection of happy cats waiting for cuddles and to help unpack.

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I’ve always been fortunate to have cats who are pleased to see me come home rather than ones who sulk that I’ve been away. Not sure who I thought would be first on my lap for a cuddle (I kind of hoped it would be Jango no no no I didn’t say that …. I don’t have favourites) but wasn’t quite expecting it to be Flipper. She makes out she’s big and tough most of the time. Rufus thought about fighting her for first place but then opted to exchanging scents with his penfriend Mr T on the suitcase. Honey and Henderson piled on for hugs. Amber waved shyly from a distance. Jango firmly planted himself on top of the case and announced that the human would not be going anyway again for a long time.

Very grateful to Jess for caring for them and keeping them in order and for not running away with Raffles or Henderson who both fell in love with her. Once we were safely home and she’d had chance to get over the shock of them all she posted on her 3 Strings page about having cared for the 10 cats in our household. A lovely post about getting to know their different purrsonalities and the joy of caring for kittens. But also something that made me think:

So that’s been 208 litter trays de-lumped; 130 bowls of water changed, and 130 packets of cat food opened, 26 tablets administered and 1 litter tray washed out due to a ‘pebble-dashing’ incident…. Phew!

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There and back again (2)

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has complicated feelings about holidays.   On a superficial level of course we think of them as whole heartedly positive; they’re the cure for feeling tired, fed up, stressed, and conjure images of sunshine, relaxation and fun.   They also occasion chasing around tying ends up at work, preparation and packing, airport car parking options and a mild obsession regarding the whereabouts of one’s passport.   We stockpiled so much cat food it will keep us going until Xmas, sent poor Jess our cat sitter so many notes she must have rued the day she met us, and labelled half the house showing where there was spare bedding, litter trays, medication, batteries for the cat flap.

 

Rufus helping to pack

On balance we concluded that we were looking forward to missing the felines for a while. A break from cleaning litter trays, vet runs, medication, playing silly kitten games (yes .. really … you can have enough of this)

Finally the day came. Did the short hop from Manchester to Zurich and got reassuring message from Jess saying she there for first visit. Then the long joint aching flight to Singapore. Arrived shattered and all movied-out … there’s time to watch at least 5 films. So lovely to be met by my friend at the other end and go home with her. Her feline residents are the purrfect hosts. Mr T met me at the door and checked over my luggage.

Ms F meanwhile was putting the final furry touches to my bed

Ms F

Oddly enough I don’t think we saw any other cats during the time in Singapore, though spotted several once in Bangkok. These guys were hanging out near the flower market and looked like they’d dropped lucky with finding someone to care for them.

While these has opted for a more spiritual life at Wat Pho.

However a rather more earthly drama seemed to unfold as what I assume to be mum assertively discussed the lack of child support payments from dad and explained in very plain language that there would be no more children until he’d got his act together.

The photo I was disappointed to miss was the puss who moments ago walked along this row of Buddhas and stopped to sharpen his claws on one of the pedestals. No disrespect intended towards the Buddha …. I just love the way cats have no sense of what is significant to us and do their own thing regardless.

These guys demonstrated another way of getting by, living close to a small street market. There were several more cats hanging around. No one seemed to making a great fuss of them, but no one pushing them away either.

It made me go to google to try to find out more about cats in Thailand and what the situation is with rescue there.  I was interested to read a comment that said that whilst in many countries the stray cats and dogs would be rounded up and if not claimed or adopted would be euthanased, the Buddhist culture in Thailand forbids killing of any living creature, so they’re left to roam and breed.    It’s between a rock and a hard place I guess.   Sobering to think that however tough rescue is here it’s nothing compared to what rescues in some other countries face.

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There and back again (1)

Yay! In spite of all the odds we’ve had a holiday! Those of you who have known us for a while will know that we are blessed to have friends in Singapore whom we visit every year or two.

Ms F & Mr T our friends in Singapore

We booked a flight back in June this year for October and then every twist and turn has threatened to scupper it. It’s painful now to think back on some of the causes of our anxiety. The first concern was little Sparkle who arrived days after we booked. So vulnerable and needy. Deep down I think I knew she wouldn’t still be with us in October but at the same time we still stressed about who would care for her and how we could manage things when she was needing round the clock care.

What we missed in the turmoil of caring for Spark was an outbreak of tummy upsets. I think it probably came in through her and her siblings as it affected both the upstairs cats (where her siblings were) and the downstairs ones (where we were caring for Sparkle). At the height of it we were barrier nursing 4 different groups of cats, hand washing, clothes changing, disinfecting +++++ between every contact with every cat.  My eczema still hasn’t quite got over it 😦 It persisted for weeks and weeks despite worming, probiotics, special diets, poo samples, antibiotics, blood samples – the works!  No way could we ask any cat sitter to deal with it and I could see the holiday being cancelled. Finally it started to resolve though Karis, Charlie and Henderson were still affected. Thankfully Karis and Charlie found lovely adoptive parents who are helping them through this.

Henderson is still here of course as he’s a purrmanent resident.  His thyroid issues have been up and down making me anxious about leaving him … right up to a blood test result arriving the day before I left.

Then our regular cat sitter said she’d not been well and was reducing her work and we had to find someone else.   We were so lucky with this.  Just as we heard she wouldn’t be able to do it, a friend announced her new business .   We know Jess through local community stuff and through her incredible work with Cinnamon Trust.  She took on walking a dog for an elderly person locally a few years ago.  We got involved in a small way when the dog developed health issues and needed twice a day injections and then other medications.  Jess recruited volunteers and organised a rota of people to help him and kept everyone up to date with exactly what he needed.  It was an administrative feat and a labour of love.  She was clearly the person to manage the rabble of cats we had here!!

We’d absolutely and wholeheartedly recommend this woman.   She arrived with her forms and had made plenty of time to make sure she had all the relevant info about them.  She spent time getting to know them.   She accepted our weakness when we said we wouldn’t take in any more cats before going away, and then caved in and took Relish … and then Raffles.

She came over again and took up to date info just prior to our leaving.   In the end we left her with 6 purrmanent residents: 0ne of whom had a tummy upset and was on twice a day meds, another is semi feral, another is elderly but fancies himself as a guard cat and in his time has pinned workmen against the wall.  Two very timid kittens who needed ongoing support with being socialised, and two older kittens who are adorable but just little bit crazy.

If she was anxious about all that she didn’t show it and just reassured us that all would be well …

to see if it was ….  check out episode 2 🙂

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a brief tail of revenge

We love our little Rufus to bits … of course we do.   Hand reared from just over a week old  and recently had his first birthday.  He’s just a little spoiled, very much loved and a serious pain in the hind quarters.  Typical teenager … wearing his ears according to the latest fashion which he thinks is cool …….. the rest of us just glance and smirk.

 

 

Obviously he’s still just a kitten and wants to play but he’s  been a nightmare with the more nervous resident adults.  Poor Amber our semi feral just hides away/stays outside, but I have some very distressing mental images of old Uncle Henderson cowering in front of him.   No photographic images … standing photographing an old man being mugged rather than running to his aid just isn’t acceptable.

When little Karis was at her worst with her tummy bug and had to be in a crate to stop spread of infection he was a little horror! Sticking his hands through the bars to steal the digestive support food that he’d previously point blank refused to eat when he’d got an upset tum.

Thankfully people like Flipper will turn on him and put him in his place, and the normally mild mannered Honey has found it in herself to swear loudly at him.  Honey’s disapproval of the way I’ve brought him up is very evident some nights when he’s being a brat.

 

Now the nights are drawing in and its getting colder its a less acceptable option to sit down the bottom of the garden to avoid him, so for Amber and Hendo’s sake, after a few ‘incidents’ we put him in the ‘time out’ crate for a little while the other night.

Ru having time out

It’s not an awful space …there’s a comfy bed, litter tray, water, food and toys. The serious revenge though was when Flipper did exactly what he’d done to Karis and stole his food through the bars.

It meant that for once Henderson could settle himself on the back of the sofa and not worry about being ambushed.

Hendo safe & settled

Serious followers of our blog may be wondering where the other purrmanent resident is in this story. Really serious followers will know that the only place Jango would be is IN BED. Somehow he appears to have cut a line between being bullied and slapping Rufus around the head. Perhaps Jag has beaten him up whilst I’ve not been watching .. but my theory is that Ru sees his Uncle Jag as a role model and has simply agreed to lay down and sleep.

Ru learning to do mega sleeps

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adopting kittens – one family’s experience

This weekend I’m having a rest from blogging and am delighted to introduce our guest blogger – Simon & Minnie’s mum.  For our less avid readers, a little background:  Last Spring we took in two heavily pregnant semi feral / farm cats who were closely bonded to each other – Tabbytha & Mowse.  They gave birth within a week of each other and brought up their 7 kittens as one big family group.  A few weeks later a 5 (ish) week old Simon was found alone in a garden.  Long story short, Tabbytha & Mowse adopted him as part of their big family.

Now over to Minnie & Simon’s mum: 

It’s been a year since Minnie and Simon came to their forever home here and so much has happened. We first approached 8 lives in July last year asking advice about adopting. We’d finished building work on our house and were keen to share it with a couple of cats. However I had visited bigger rescues in the past and was dreading walking down corridors of doors with felines begging us to pick them. We were also trying for a family and I wasn’t sure how that was going to work with adopting cats.

mowse & tabbytha: minnie’s mum and aunty and simon’s adoptive feline parents

From my first tentative email explaining our situation I received a lovely message explaining that kittens adopted now would have time to settle before any baby arrived and linking me to more information about introducing babies to cats. There were also links to the up for adoption pages for the current litters of kittens.

simon adopted by minnie’s family

By the next Saturday we were having our home visit! Despite our nerves beforehand this was a positive experience where we felt able to ask advice on kittens and had a chance to talk about the previous felines in our lives before arranging a time to come and meet the kittens and see who we clicked with.

a very young minnie with her family

Driving to the house we weren’t sure what to expect but sure enough it was the one with a cat at the window and another on the step. We were ushered into the ‘airlock’ of the hall and heard the patter of small paws behind the door to the stairs and then we were on the landing surrounded by a positive sea of kittens. I’d never even seen that many kittens together before never mind had them scampering around me. The two mother cats were more cautious; Mowse stayed safely in her box but Tabs had a look at us from a shelf as the kittens decided whether to approach.

minnie

We were given tips on how to tell the different black and white kittens apart, I know the black fur round the noses was often important but I never entirely got the hang of it. However when it came to the two black kittens we were told ‘stroke him, if he purrs its Simon! Simon certainly knew how to make a good first impression carefully pulling his claws playing with my husband and purring his huge purr.

We were introduced to the important art of ‘waving a feather’ which is even more exciting when there are at least six kittens hunting it and the string on the other end of the rod at any one time. Eventually a small black and white lady got tired of the ruckus and hid behind me for a break. Knowing her now I suspect Minnie needed to check we could wave a feather properly before considering coming to live with us. It is her very favourite thing in the world.

So that was it, I was set on Minnie and my husband on Simon and since we had been the first to pick the pairings got rearranged to place them together. It was hard to leave them but it had been agreed that they would come home when we were back from our holiday so they had plenty of time to settle. We visited another couple of times getting to know them better and playing with the whole rabble of kittens and in between we had messages about how they were getting on.

rabble of kittens

By the time they were due to arrive we had had our best shot at kitten proofing the house, bought a number of toys, a water fountain, a scratching post and a cat tree and tried them all out and my husband had built a castle out of two big cardboard boxes. This got well used through into this summer with a few modifications!

The day Simon and Minnie were coming was also the day when I could do a pregnancy test. We got up early planning to get it done so we’d know I wasn’t pregnant this month and could put it aside and focus on the cats. Sure enough there I was staring at a test strip going ‘er that isn’t actually negative…’ It was an exciting day all round!

Minnie and Simon arrived snuggled up together in the carrier having spent the journey looking around. Minnie began her explorations by climbing the scratching post and batting the cat nip ball my husband had balanced off the top. She also had some fun chasing feather although we soon used our voucher to get her favourite kind of feather and rod. Simon also had a look round and a sit on the lap of the person who looked after him when he was tiny and then tried getting back in the carrier. When it was explained that he couldn’t come back further exploration prooved that he could hide in the sofa. For several weeks after when people asked how the cats were I’d reply that the sofa was purring.

When they arrived Simon would respond to his name (or Mimon or Mimey his honoury M names to fit in with the rest of the litter) while Minnie would respond to the tinkling of bells that meant we were waving a feather. Feeling something like a snake charmer I would come into the apparently empty living room, kneel on the rug and begin swinging the feather until rustling began in the sofa. Then I’d call and Minnie would emerge and pounce followed by Simon. After an energetic game they would be ready for something to eat.

feather then food

To my delight after a few days they also took to snuggling on my lap. Simon prefferred to be up at chest level as he had while watching candy crush as a tiny kitten while Minnie liked to squeeze between my legs especially if I was wearing a long skirt for her to sit on. They still like to snuggle like this though they are much bigger now.

Kitten cuddles

Minnie discovered she liked watching TV and took up residence in the toddler chair I’d made while Simon built a den in the cat castle and popped out of different entrances.

Minnie in toddler chair

Unfortunately my body responded to pregnancy by developing hyperemesis gravida. Both kittens tried to comfort me when I was sick often snuggling up with me on the bathroom floor in the early hours of the morning. Simon tried to pack himself in my suitcase the first time I was admitted to hospital with it. Unfortunately I was soon unable to be in the same half of the house as the litter tray without vomiting and poor Simon had to be shut out of the bedroom a few times after his farts set of waves of sickness. It was around then that he figured out how to knock on doors and we decided to get on with installing a cat flap.

In October Simon fell in the bath. He had been walking round the edge for a while reaching down to try and pat the water so it wasn’t a huge suprise. He overbalanced with a squawk bounced out off the bottom off the bath and proceeded to tear out of the bath room and shake himself all over the house. It was even less of a suprise a few days later when he repeated the performance! The next week it was Minnie’s turn altough she took it in her stride, jumping neatly out and sitting on a towel to wash the water off herself.

The two cats have very different personalities. Minnie is always the one to take the lead when new humans visit while Simon runs for cover. This was especially so when my one year old nephew came visiting. Simon retired to the attic and could only be coaxed down late at night. Minnie however was in the thick of the action including curling up round his feet during a tantrum moving her tail out of the way of his stamping when needed.

During his visit both kittens went to the vets for a check up. They were complete stars snuggling up together in the carrier and seeming totally unphased by their trip out in the car. They repeated this last month for their vaccine boosters much to my husbands surprise. The next day we found Simon asleep in the carrier and Minnie sitting hopefully by the car. As my husband said it feels too easy to be true but they actually do take it in their stride.

My husband has an office at the end of the garden and both cats enjoy joining him for parts of the work day. Simon likes to have dreamies thrown for him to chase and minnie loves the automatic lazer pointer while the underfloor heating with a carpet on top is a hit with both of them. Soon after they started going over there I had that sinking feeling that I hadn’t seen the kittens in a while just as we were leaving for the cinema. On our return they were still missing but since my husband had not worked that day it took a whie to find them. They had shot in when he went to collect a book. The next day he put a cat flap in that door too so now they visit when they want.

Simon then had a bit of a run of getting shut in places including overnight in the garage. I woke to find a very agitated Minnie and no Simon. As soon as my husband went outside he heard plaintive mewing and Simon ran out and had a wee in a flowerpot.

Early snuggles together

Our first trip away was hard. Despite knowing our friends were going in regularly I worried that something would happen. However we came back to find them snuggling up together although the chair was not as roomy as it once was!

cuddles on chair

Just before they moved in I had a message from the rescue saying that Simon had plans to be a panther as he was growing so fast. At a year old he had become a big cat and Minnie has grown too.

My bump was also growing and Simon loved snuggling up on it. He was fascinated when the baby started kicking and would purrmore as the kicking increased. We’ve wondered since if Simon’s cat senses let him learn more about the baby in there than we could. Our son certainly seemed to respond to Minnie’s ‘silent mews’ so we think they are just too high for our adult human ears.

To this day Simon runs and hides at the first sign of a visiting child yet somehow our baby is different. We brought him home from hospital expecting to have to coax him out from hiding but as soon as I sat on the sofa to feed our baby Simon tried to jump into my lap as he had through pregnancy. After some adjustments I ended up with a purring cat on my lap and a baby sitting on top.

arriving-home-from-hospital

It quickly became apparent that Simon wanted to sit with the baby whoever they were sitting on.

Simon goes with baby

Minnie is also very attentive and if the baby cries and we are not both there already she will herd us to him. They both spent a lot of time snuggled up around us as I was recovering.

recovery snuggles

Minnie finally learned to mew a month ago after getting shut in the cellar overnight. She followed up the next night by getting trapped in a cupboard with Simon sitting in solidarity outside. She made the best of it building a litter tray from some paper she found (including our marriage certificate and made a bed on the top shelf. Fotunately she seems none the worse though some of the damage to the paperwork was terminal.

She will still try any human food she can find just in case, Pepper covered smoked herring went down unexpectedly well as did fresh chilli pepper. Simon is more conservative in his food choices but is a big hunter of fies and moths. He’s even realised that triggering next door’s security light brings the moths to him. Minnie also catches insects but doesn’t often eat them and when she doesn’t get to hunt toys enough small birds and mamals have been hunted.

recent snuggles

I can’t imagine life without our two wonderul cats. They still snuggle up together and groom each other big as they are and there are rumers that Simon may soon be reading this blog!

Simon Reading

Thank you 8 lives for bringing them into our family.

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moving on up .. moving on out

After a seasonal few weeks in the doldrums we’re had a little flurry of adoptions.   Things often go quiet on the adoption front over the summer holidays, with many people waiting until holidays are over to adopt.

First to go were Samson and Cherrie, the crossover pair from the 3Cs and 3Ss.  It seemed a bit of an unlikely pair as Cherrie was the feistiest of the 6 kittens in terms of grabbing toys … and keeping them to herself! and Sam was … well …. dozy … like many tom cats.   They say though that opposites attract 🙂 and many is the time these two were flopped in a heap together or snuggled together on my lap.

They were pretty much true to character when they first arrived in their new home. Cherrie hopped out the carrier to climb on everything and explore, while Sam snoozed in the carrier. Eventually he emerged, only to crawl onto my lap and sleep some more. To be fair to him, this was a bit extreme, we’d got caught in football traffic on a hot day and he was feeling a bit icky when he arrived.

cherrie & samson settled

The curious thing though was that when we had an update a couple of weeks later, it appeared to be Sam who was the intrepid explorer … nothing fazed him, whilst Cherrie was more nervous around new things. As you can see they’re still very close though.

Next off were Silas & Summer. Having been a little in the shadow of the more bossy C Team (maybe because the Cs had their mummy with them still) it’s been lovely to see these two shine in their own space. They’ve also well and truly landed on their paws. They could hardly move for toys when they arrived at their new home. Between their own toys and the human kitten’s toys the floor was full! The really special amazing toy was one designed and created by their little human.

Check this out! It’s a house with a bed, a play tunnel on the roof and not one but two fish ponds complete with toys, in the front garden. How many stray kittens could even dream of getting a mortgage on a place like that!

If all that wasn’t enough …. they have bedtimes stories read to them. No wonder they look so pleased with themselves.

Caramel was the next to leave. She hopped out of her carrier, keen to explore. Once she’d checked every hidden corner for lurking kittens (and found none) she settled herself in the chair for a very well earned rest. She loves her new humans and the last we heard she was exploring the rest of the house. She’s not sent any photos as yet … maybe she needs a while to recover from this lot

Then it was Karis’ turn. Such a lovely kit and still grieving for her buddy Sparkle. She’s a confident affectionate kitten though and soon set about exploring her new home. It’s a fascinating place, with objects from all over the world, just waiting for Karis to knock them off the window sill. We had an anxious few minutes while her new mum went to make us a coffee and Karis spotted a fly. Thankfully I left without anything being broken .. but I did have to let myself out as Karis was asleep on mum’s lap … and couldn’t be disturbed x

Clarrie & Charlie are still anxiously awaiting their turn. They’re every bit as loving and adorable as the other kits, but Charlie is taking a while to throw off his tummy bug and Clarrie is determined that she’s not leaving without him.

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Sparkle – a life worth living

It’s taking a while to write this post, not just that its busy around here, but it needs some time and perspective.  Regular readers of our facebook page will know that we had to help little Sparkle to Rainbow Bridge just  over three weeks ago.   It was the outcome we had always feared, hoped would never come, but somehow … deep down … sort of knew was inevitable.

Sparkle 21 (ish) April 2017 – 26 July 2017

If you’ve read our other blog posts you’ll know it was up and down throughout her time with us.   There were highs where we dared to hope … not that her neurological issues would go away, we weren’t expecting miracles, but that she’d grow stronger and find ways of adapting to her disabilities.   Our dream was that she’d find a furever home along with her able bodied friend Karis and they’d make a happy life for themselves.   And there seriously were times when that looked like it could be a possibility.  Then there were the lows when she was unsettled and it wasn’t clear how much pain or distress she was in.

karis & sparkle

 

Apart from around the time she had an epileptic fit (about 3 weeks into her 6 week stay with us)  the good and bad days seemed a bit random.   Things would improve and I’d be hopeful, only to find her suddenly worse than ever.  I’d despair and she’d bounce back playing.   I think this was the happiest time …shortly after she arrived here. – playing football in the kitchen with Karis whilst I was cooking tea.

Watching the video I realise  that despite the ups and downs, things were never the same after her fit.   Just a few days before she died she seemed to be doing really well compared to how she’d been recently but if you look at the two videos together she’s nowhere near as mobile in the second as the first.

Spark was very loved but also very hard work.  She needed hand feeding, bathing, help using her litter tray, very regular supervision to check she was ok … and increasingly she’d loudly demand this attention …. or was she expressing her distress? … hard to know just what was going on.  It went on loudly and persistently enough though for the other cats to be pushed to one side most of the time.  The most frequent phrase was variations on “just a minute sweetheart I’m just feeding/bathing/something else Sparkle”.   On days I wasn’t working it was more or less manageable so long as I didn’t want to do anything else … on work days it was a nightmare.   I was getting closer and closer to breaking point.  She needed to be better enough to go to a special foster or adoptive home, or be poorly enough to say goodbye … I hated myself for thinking that.

It brought us to a difficult place where we had to think about how much you needed to be able to “cat” to have a quality of life and what level of needs we could realistically manage.   The vet reminded us that kittens her age were normally little hooligans – tbh we didn’t really need reminding 😉   Spark didn’t have a hope of trashing the curtains.  She couldn’t even eat by herself though she clearly wanted to and joined the other cats at the foodbowl.

She couldn’t pick the food up without help, but if it was gently pressed into her mouth she could chew and swallow .. and if the food happened to be chicken she’d purr …. lots.  We learned how best to feed her, what shapes and sizes of food she could manage, how she’d refuse her bottle after food but accept it 20 minutes later.   That part of the challenge was a success and she pretty much doubled her weight, and grew well whilst she was here.   We learned how to tell when she needed the litter tray and what help to give her with that.

It’s impossible without endless resources to know just what was wrong.  We were offered a referral to a neurologist and MRI scan which would have emptied our funds and beyond, but which we might have accepted …. had the proviso not been that it was unlikely that anything found would have been treatable.  Then there’s the Star Trek dilemma about the needs of the one and the needs of the many … those funds could have vaccinated, chipped and rehomed multiple future cats.  Despite the Spock logic our human impulse was to care for her.

So many things seemed to be wrong though.  Sparkle didn’t seem to be able to quite see properly. We  don’t know  whether it was her eyes, or the bit that connected her eyes to her brain, or her brain that wasn’t quite processing things properly.  However when she laid on her back on my lap and we played  at “fingers” she’d dab at them and enjoy playing.  She saw enough, a shadow at least, to chase a ball …. or Karis’ tail … and that was clearly fun and brought her some pleasure.

 

There were times when the games went a little bit wrong.  Unlike Sparkle, her friend Karis was still well capable of being a hooligan and we responded to Spark’s cries one evening to find this:

We were caught in a kind of twilight / grey area world that hundreds of thousands of humans with loved animals are in each day … Asking how much life was good enough and fearing what may happen next.  Most of the time when she cried we could soothe her, either with food, milk, cleaning or cuddling.   Often the cuddling meant carrying her around in a sling as she’d start crying again the moment I popped her in her bed.

snug in the sling

Sometimes we just couldn’t seem to find a way to comfort her, and that was hell.   There were desperate thoughts about emergency vets and saying goodbye.  Then a few hours later she’d been pottering around and enjoying some chicken.

sparkle

On good days she was happy to settle with Mr Ed her teddy bear. Apart from being nice to cuddle, sitting between his legs stopped her falling over or rolling down into the middle of the settee.

Then came the awful night. Home from work and she was crying, and nothing but nothing could soothe her. Bathed, cleaned, dry, cuddled and still crying. Refused bottle, chicken, food. Neither straight cuddles or the sling would work. Time with Mr Ed or just in her bed made no difference. I don’t know if she was distressed because she knew what was about to happen next or if the distress caused it …. but she had another fit. That was the thing we’d said would make the difference for her future, and her distress confirmed it. We made a final journey to the emergency vets. The people who thought I was incredibly calm and logical about it didn’t know I’d wept most days for weeks already.

One of the most weirdly painful things when she was put to sleep was the way her body relaxed. Her tiny body had been so stiff and tense though all the time I’d been caring for her.  It was precious and heartbreaking to feel it finally relaxed.  Very grateful to Jody at the crem for taking care of both of us the following day.   

Life doesn’t gain meaning simply by the length of it .. but by the love that is shared within it.

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a bit of a spark

Caring for little Sparkle, our special needs kitten, has been a bit of a challenge these last few weeks.  She’s very loved and utterly adorable.  She’s also caused a lot of anxiety and set us on another steep learning curve.

Pictured above is her at her cutest, alongside the scales and our record of her weight. She gained nicely, then levelled out, then plummeted, then up again, and down again. We think she’s about 11 weeks now, but about the weight of a 7 week old. Her ability to eat and eat independently seems to vary by the day.  We move between syringe, bottle, spoon and hand feeding her.   Sometimes she seems able to lap milk and even eat a little solid food from the dish … other days she can’t.   As with her walking it appears to be about muscle co ordination.  She can chew a bit, and can swallow, but can’t seem to manipulate the food into her mouth.  We’ve hopefully packed feeding bottles and formula away several times only to unpack them again in desperation.

karis mentoring sparkle in the art of dining well

Just over a week ago it was starting to look as though we were getting there.  She’d eaten well without much help and had put on some weight. She was even moving around more confidently and had attempted to jump onto the sofa.  I starting thinking ahead to getting her vaccinations done, advertising for that special adopter … maybe to take her and her friend Karis too.

Sparkle & Karis

A couple of hours later she was snoozing gently against me on the sofa whilst I worked on the lap top. Suddenly there’s movement against my leg and life goes into slow motion. I turn to look and her legs are paddling, mouth foaming, she starts crying and then her bladder empties. All the cats in hearing distance rush to see what’s happening. I realise it’s an epileptic fit. I want to gather her up and comfort her but she’s somewhere else and oblivious. I put her on the floor on a blanket so she won’t fall or hurt herself and comfort the other worried cats instead. It lasts an eternity that is all of 2 minutes in non-panic time.

Jango babysitting

 

On one level she seemed to recover quite quickly.  The fit was over within a couple of minutes, and within a few more minutes she was moving around and eating.  On another level though, it was a bit of a game changer.    It  wasn’t entirely unexpected.  We had second hand info when she came into rescue that she may have had a fit a few days previously.  I’d hoped it was a mistake though and someone had just confused her tremor with a fit.  There was no doubt about this one though.   The provisional diagnosis had been cerebellar hypoplasia (CH) which isn’t the best thing to have  but we’d read a bit and it seemed that with care, and albeit an unusual gait, these cats can get along fine.   We joined a facebook group for CH cats which was supportive and  hopeful.   However then we read that CH cats don’t normally have epilepsy 😦

Mr Ed the ted helps support her

 

Did she get louder and more unsettled after the fit, or was it just me who was more anxious and interpreting things differently?  For a kitten with weakness in almost every other aspect, I can testify that there is nothing at all weak about her voice.  She can yell as loud and long as 6 other kittens put together.  It’s as well really since she needs to summon help for most things – if she’s hungry/thirsty, needs help getting into the litter tray, or moving around.    Working out what she needs isn’t easy.  After we’ve checked she’s not trapped somewhere, bottom is clean, doesn’t want food /bottle, put her on the litter tray, its seems she just wants company / cuddles / comfort.   Thankfully some of the other cats have helped with this, but in the end, I made a sling out of an XXL size T shirt so she could still cuddle but I could get on with things.

snug in the sling

Before the fit we’d made an appointment for her to start her vaccinations, and still took her for it.  It was obvious that wasn’t going to happen though.  She wasn’t well enough or big enough, and what was worse, appeared quite a bit less well than at her previous appointment.   The picture was made worse by the fact that I’d had about 5 minutes turn around time between getting in from work and setting off to the vets for her appointment … and when I got home she’d done a pooh and then sat down in it 😦  There was just time to giver her a quick bath but not time to dry her.  Even the healthiest kitten looks like a sick gremlin when it’s wet.

The conclusion from the vets is that we’re in a bit of a grey area.  It doesn’t look hopeful that things will improve.   At the same time Sparkle doesn’t really meet my criteria to help on her way to rainbow bridge.   She’s growing but to some extent that’s artificial because we’re having to hand feed her.    I came home from the appointment feeling sad but determined that we would do our absolute best to help her to live her life to the full, for however long she was able to live it.

Sparkle seemed to embrace this idea, and despite appearing on death’s door at the vets,  launched into a game with Karis chasing a ping pong ball and each other’s tails as soon as we got home.

It’s frustrating and upsetting that her abilities seem to change.  What works well one day doesn’t the next, but might the following day.  Having said that I do think that there’s been some learning on both sides, and a bit of a sense of my getting the hang of what works with her.   It’s complicated by the other cats.  I put her food down to wipe her face, turn back to the dish and someone else has their head in it.  I take her out of her bath (washing up bowl) to dry her and while I’m getting the towel round her someone else is tipping the bowl up on the floor.  We’ve had some days where she’s crying persistently and falling over a lot.  Nothing but cuddles will make it right, and one nightmare evening  even cuddles wouldn’t work.  The last few days she’s eaten well (with help), walked as well as I’ve seen her walk with few fallings over, done her best to use the litter tray (determined to try to throw herself like a high jumper into the adult ones, and refusing the kitten sized ones), played with her mouse, interacted with the other cats, laid on my lap purring and washing her hands (she can’t really co ordinate the wash the rest of herself).

Sparkle has given a lot of cause for reflection on life, quality and quantity of life.  She’s taken a huge amount of physical, mental and emotional energy over the last few weeks.  She’s also given a lot of love.  We’re doing our best to live in the moment with her without too much hope or fear for the future.

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Summer Newsletter 2017

Is it my age or does time just race by these days?  It doesn’t seem 5 minutes since we were putting the Spring Newsletter together.   The building work is thankfully finished …. though the decorating is still ongoing ….. and we’re pretty much back to what passes for “normal” around here.

“Normal” at this time of year means a house full of kittens, and that’s pretty much what we have.  It’s all a little complicated …. however,  reflecting on the things I want to tell you about I realise there’s a bit of a theme of blended families …. mixing and matching and unlikely pairings over the last 3 months.

First there was young Jenson who came to us early this year.  Absolutely gorgeous young man and otherwise healthy, but with  food allergies that were difficult to resolve.   Being black and white and prone to tummy upsets, rehoming him was a challenge. … but then his purrfect home came along.  A fabulous loving family who were first time cat slaves, but experienced with bunnies and took Jen’s digestive issues into their stride.   Jenson in turn appears to have taken the rabbits in his stride and realised that at the end of the day they have more in common than otherwise.   He’s also settled on a food that suits him and his tummy has been fine.

Our next arrival was little Basil, a part persian kitten who’s family had found themselves to be allergic to.  He certainly knows how to make an entrance!

basil arrives

And then poor old Jasper came back into rescue through no fault of his own. Since Daisy Mae had dropped lucky with grandma (see Spring Newsletter) there was a foster space he could slip into.

Lets put those two on hold for a minute because the next arrivals were Caramel and her three kittens after they’d been kicked out of the house onto some waste land to fend for themselves.   They’re a lovely little family and happy to be safe in rescue.

As there are only 3 kittens and we like to home in pairs, we were happy to respond to a request to take in a single kitten just a wee bit older than them.

karis

We called her Karis because I went to collect her on the evening of our fundraiser to celebrate our charity status, missing half the event in the process.  Since she had ear mites we kept her separate from the other kits initially.

We’ll pop them back on hold too now, and return to Basil and Jasper.  If this feels complicated and confusing ….. well that’s what rescue for you – constantly back and forth between different cats.   Actually, lets not go straight back to Basil & Jasper,  lets scroll right back to almost a  year ago and the seriously blended family of Tabbytha & Mowse … you’ll see why in a minute.  You many remember that they were farm cats who came to us, both very pregnant,  gave birth together in the same bed within a week of each other, brought up their kittens as a single family, and then adopted young Simon (a kitten found alone in a garden) too.

If you’ve followed our stories you may recall that they found the most fantastic home in North Yorkshire at a small stable with a couple of horses and a few sheep.  It’s been perfect for them and they’re really thriving.  Sadly their mum’s domestic cat went to rainbow bridge just around the time that Basil & Jasper arrived in rescue, and she asked about adopting them both.  Not the most obvious match with Bas being a kitten and Jas being a mature/senior cat but their adoptive mum knew the different charms of both age groups and was keen to give them both a chance.   As with Jenson and his bunnies, introductions were careful and gradual and its going very well.   I understand it’s  been a little edgy when it comes to discussions about football, but we’re hopeful that that can be worked through 😉

Taking them up to North Yorkshire to their new home also meant that I got an unexpected and very welcome opportunity to revisit Tab & Mowse.  “Welcome” from my point of view that is …. I doubt the girls were impressed.  If they were, they hid it well.

Heartbreakingly lovely to see how they’ve settled.  They very clearly are at home there and are living life  to the full.  They’ll spend time in the stable with the horses, and chat to the sheep.   As rodent control executives they take their employment seriously.  They work hard and make sure that humans are escorted to their food bowls to pay their wages.  The pair of them are very obviously deeply attached to each other still.   I’m sure they’re also attached to their humans.   They’ll never be lap cats but the affection is plain to see.

Coming back to the kittens here.  Are you keeping up?  We have Caramel and her 3 kittens and then Karis to introduce to them once her ear mites are sorted. However before we have chance to make those introductions another 4 kittens arrive.   These are from two mums who are sisters.  The three kits from one litter were fine, the other little family had been less fortunate with most of the litter dying, just leaving one kit who wasn’t well.

We got back from Wakefield where we collected them from just in time to take Caramel and her kittens to their vet appointment to start vaccinations.  A quick call to our long suffering vet, and poorly little one was added into the appointment.   The vet  felt it was something neurological and talked about chances of survival in kits like this being linked to how much spark they showed.  The vet nurse and I immediately named her Sparkle and she began living up to the name.

As Sparkle needed some extra care she ended up separated from her cousins and living downstairs with the residents, Karis …. and any remaining ear mites.   The three healthy kittens were introduced to Caramel and family …  and seem to have integrated very happily …. Caramel isn’t much more than a kitten herself but has cared for her triplets well … and then just taken on board that there are twice as many of the little horrors.

They’re all perfectly capable of eating solid food …. but will try it on with her.   We’re not absolutely certain but strongly suspect that Caramel has become pregnant again prior to coming into rescue.

Meanwhile, downstairs, Karis & Sparkle have become firm friends.

karis & sparkle

Karis has been very maternal with Spark, washing her, cuddling her, playing gently.   What has been even more amazing is the kindness of several of the residents towards her.  I don’t know whether its her condition or her age that make Spark cry if she suddenly realises there’s no one there, but  Jango, Honey and Rufus have helped by spending lots of time sitting with her to give Karis a break.  I’m especially impressed by Jango who is normally quite frightened of little ankle biters.   Linking this back to the start of the newsletter …. you can see the painty dustsheets on the sofa as we’re still decorating.

Caramel’s kittens and Sparkle’s cousins are ready for adoption now.   Caramel will be fully advertised after she’s been spayed .. which will either be after we’re sure she’s not pregnant or after her second litter of kits are grown.   Hopefully Karis & Sparkle will be able to be advertised to be homed together when we’re a little more clear about Sparkle’s health issues.  You can find our adoption adverts here

 

 

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‘normal’ service is resumed

So we’re pretty much back to what counts as normal for us following the building work.   Even whilst still decorating and covered in dust sheets the gang had moved in.

The race was on to get the house straight again before my lovely friend J visited from Singapore.  Despite putting every spare minute into cleaning and tidying and swearing there would be no more cats until after her visit,  I ended up racing over to Doncaster to pick up little Karis and missing half of our Charity Status Celebration fundraiser a few days before J arrived.

karis

I’m glad I did it now, but after a full day at work, in Friday tea time traffic when I should have been at the event it seemed a little crazy.  It had to be that Friday night because the following day was D Day with Albie.  He was booked in for his second vaccs and then off back to his garden to live.  All I needed to do was get him in the carrier …. ahem.

After a lot of fretting I’d come up with not only a Plan B but also C.   In the end it was more cunning than courage that got him.  A one in a million chance proved successful.  He’d been hunkered down in the cave in his cat tree every time I went near his room for a couple of weeks and I’d worried about how to get him out of it when the time came.  By a fluke on D Day -1 I went into his room and he was up on a high shelf.  I took my chance, removed the cat tree from his room, and replaced it with a covered over cat carrier in the same place.  There was no way he was just going to go into that to hide instead …. was there?

albie in his cave

I went into his room Saturday morning and to my amazement that’s exactly where he was.  I gently slid the carrier towards the wall and slotted the door into place.  Couldn’t believe it!  Called the back up troops to cancel, brought his vet appointment forward and off we went.

He was gone in a flash

The good news is that he’s settling happily back into his garden.  Hopefully with him now being neutered he’ll be less at risk of straying and fights.

 

Then J arrived.  Don’t get me wrong, we had a lovely time and had a couple of full day trips out … however ……

It made me realise how ‘not normal’ we are.   When you live ‘alone’ its easy to just go from cat to cat to kitten, constantly watching them, responding to their needs, not even realising the extent of it.   When you have a visitor it all becomes more apparent: “just a tick, I think Rufus wants to come in and he can’t use the flap”, “sorry, just need to check Amber has enough food”, “hang on … think Henderson is about to pee up the wall” … “ah … sorry … need to reply to this cat rescue email”.    Not to mention the multiple eye and ear drops that needed to be administered in addition to normal care.

The minute J left I was shuffling rooms around and within half an hour off to collect the next gang of kittens.   Wakefield this time … a bit of a change from endless Doncaster runs.  As I’d had company I’d not fully read the info about them … other than there were 4 of them, at risk of being handed out to strangers to rehome.  It was only as they were going into the carrier I started to register it. Not that it would have changed our decision to take them.

On the journey home one of them wailed a loud West Yorkshire lament pretty much the whole way.  When I picked the carrier off the back seat once we were home three of them were messing around as young kittens do, whilst the fourth was lying on the floor fairly lifeless.  We were home just in time to take Caramel and her kits for their vet appointment so called our long suffering vet and arranged to take collapsed little one in along with the C Team.

The collapsed one stumbled out of her carrier.   Nothing physiologically wrong.  Vet thought neurological ….. probably cerebellar hypoplasia (CH).  He not very optimistic but talked about the main factor being whether cats like this had a spark.  She went back in her carrier whilst the little Cs had their first vaccs and chips.   The W Yorks lament kicked off again and I realised it had been her yelling all the way down the M1.   She kicked at the side of the carrier, as though to demonstrate that she did indeed have the necessary spark the vet mentioned.    The nurse who had come in to help examine Caramel (we think she may be pregnant with another litter) suggested we name her Sparkle.  Purrfect

 


That was a couple of weeks ago today.  It’s not been the easiest couple of weeks.   We’ve been learning what she can and can”t do and trying to help her manage it.   She can run (in a fashion) and play football, but her right arm turns in on itself and she has a general tremor.  She can’t jump but compensates by climbing.   She’s very efficient at climbing up my leg, digging her claws in as she goes.  I’m proud to have completed an official call to the bank about our rescue account without screaming as she shinned her way up from my toes to my shoulder.  More concerning than her mobility is her ability to eat. I realised after a couple of days that although she’s good at giving the illusion of eating she struggles to get food into her mouth.  We’ve had numerous stressed experiments with everything from kitten formula bottle feeds, through syringe feeding liquidised food, spoon feeding mousse /pate textured food, and hand feeding tiny bits of chicken.  Most successful have been the bottles and very carefully  torn pieces of chicken (eek … as a veggie I shrink from touching the stuff but needs must).  It’s like threading a needle …. the pieces have to be not too wide to go easily into her mouth, but not so narrow that the end flops over.  We now have it pretty much down to an art form …… kittipoultrigami?

Despite her challenges she’s managed learn to use the litter tray (Henderson take note!).  The big saving grace has been her relationship with little Karis.  I could cry when I see how kind Karis is to her …. she’s only about 16 weeks old herself but is taking on some mothering of Sparkle.   She plays with her in a way that appears adjusted to not be too rough, cuddles her, and washes her.   They make a very sweet pair.

karis & sparkle

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