Sheffield

Things are getting a little heated around here

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

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

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

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

Amber disappointed on this occasion

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

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

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

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

 

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

Albeit with Hendo waiting in the wings

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

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Aids and Adaptations

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

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

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

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

Honey & Amber

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

 

Amber & Honey with Flipper

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jango also had a go

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

She absolutely loves it

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

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

Our oldies are so precious.

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Celebrating the anniversary of a very special arrival

On 19 January 2017 I was home minding my own business when a message pinged through to our facebook page.

After getting a bit more information, and calling our vets to make an appointment so I could take him straight there, I went off to collect him.  He was indeed in a bad way, unable to stand and showing little sign of life other than to chunter occasionally.  I assumed that having been found at the roadside he’d been hit by a car and had all kinds of horrendous internal injuries.  My fear was that he’d either die en route to the vet or that the vet would say that the best option was to put him to sleep.

Whilst we normally take our time over naming cats and thinking what suits them, we also feel strongly (and perhaps a little over sentimentally) that they should not die without a name.   Perhaps it was partly a way of distracting myself from the fear of what was going to happen, but through the journey across town from the North of the city I was looking at names of roads and names on signs, casting around for something suitable for this poor cat.   Stuck in traffic on the inner ring road my eyes lighted on the old Henderson’s Relish factory with its orange sign outside.  Given that the feline in question was also orange … this seemed a suitable option.

So the “old cat in a bad way” was Henderson by the time we got to our vets.   I took him in to see Dr Tim, and poor Hendo laid on the examination table, too weak to move or protest …. but purring like crazy.

hendo at vet january 2017

Henderson was very dehydrated and weak, but no sign of him having been hit by a car. He stayed at the vets overnight on a drip to rehydrate him. Beyond immediate and necessary care it was difficult to know what best to do as this could be someone’s “lost” cat. We started a huge search for whoever maybe missing him. Hundreds of shares of our post on facebook and a reach of thousdands. No one came forward.

I brought him home the following day. He had to go in a large dog crate to have some space to himself as the rescue rooms were full with other cats. He sat there looking fed up and refused to eat.

We stressed about him and tried everything. Our lovely friends at Pet Company treated him to a selection pack of anything tasty he might possibly be tempted with.

Slowly we started to get there … and he began to mix in with the others

Having got through the stressy period of him being really poorly, he presented us with a new challenge. Despite him appearing to get along ok with the other cats, he was perhaps more stressed than we appreciated. He’d spray everything in the house. Just how can one small cat contain so much pee? There were days when I’d not finished cleaning up one incident before he’d attacked something else, and whilst I was cleaning that he’d pee on a third thing. Our relationship became pretty tense for a while.

We were glad when he was settled enough to go outside for a while. These were the days before our super cat proof fencing, so he was allowed out initially just on a harness … carefully guarded by Flipper. It was good to see him empty his bladder outside rather than inside. He went missing briefly once allowed off the harness … but Flipper our expert finder, discovered him behind next door’s shed and came to let me know where he was.

Thankfully although the pissing period seemed to go on forever at the time, it actually settled after a few months.

Once more settled Hendo became an awesome Uncle to many kittens we had in the following months/years.

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Whoever they were and however shy they were, they all wanted to sit next to uncle Hendo. He’s no saint, and has been heard to say that he doesn’t like kittens very much, but he’s quiet and warm and lots of poor little ones who are missing their mummies have got huge comfort from snuggling up to him.

He’s a very loved cat now but we’re sadly aware that even from the start of this story his blood tests were strange. He’s gradually been diagnosed with more and more health issues. He keeps fighting and we keep loving him. That’s the best any of us can do.

We’re grateful … and amazed to find he’s still with us three years on … and so glad that 19 January three years ago was a day when I wasn’t at work and we were able to respond to the request to help him.

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Happy New Year!

As I start to write it’s early evening on New Year’s Eve. It’s dark outside and we’ve been doing the usual pre-firework preparations – curtains drawn, lights and radios on. The younger kittens are kicking a ball around, watched and coached by the older kits. Some of the residents have already gone up to bed, others are snuggled in their Xmas igloos. Henderson is perched on his chair by the radiator and Howard (who is new to sharing the whole house) is pottering around trying to work out which spots are most comfortable.

No kitten photos .. they just rush past in a blur. I do hope Howard doesn’t decide the keyboard is his happy place. If there are no blog updates for a while you can guess why.

Inevitably New Year thoughts turn to memories of the felines we’ve had here this year. We’re a small enough rescue to remember each one of them very clearly.

January started with the residents plus little Dasher, older stray lady Cloe, and the infamous Norton 4 (Nancy Dodger Fingers & Bandit). It was wonderful over the New Year holiday to have some help from several random facebook people with socialising the Nortons and getting them used to someone other than me. The other brilliant thing that happened was that Cloe found a loving foster home where she could be the “only cat” and have lots of love and attention”. Soon as Cloe moved out we took in Skye who’s human had sadly died.

February saw the arrival of Dexi as a potential friend for Dasher … and that relationship just not work out. Dodger & Nancy (half of the Norton 4) went to a lovely new home, and so did Skye. Into the space created Howard arrived. Initially complaining just of a sore toe, Howard was diagnosed with renal failure and anaemia.

March was the month from hell. First Howard was admitted to the vets because he was dehydrated and not eating. Then we noticed that Henderson (our long term foster) wasn’t eating either and he was admitted for an urgent dental surgery which was risky given his age and health conditions. A couple of days after they’d both been discharged, Jango (one of our residents) developed a urine infection and also had to go to the emergency vets.

Here they are … somewhat later …. and looking much better.

The redeeming feature of March was a message one Saturday morning from Stanlie’s foster carer .. saying that Stanlie who had resolutely lived outside her house and refused to come indoors had just followed her in the previous evening after work and settled himself down as though he’d always been an indoor cat.

Stanlie

This had been a loooooong saga starting over a year previously …. check out the back posts on this blog for more. Couldn’t have been happier x

April had to get better. Dexi went off to her new home (without Dasher!), the second half of the Norton 4 (Bandit & Fingers) also found a fab new home. Howard found himself a long term foster home. Into that space came Fynn … a gorgeous, affectionate stray … who was just soooooo noisy!

Also .. in the quest for a pal for Dasher we ended up with Ailbhe and her 7 kittens … well they weren’t all hers but she’d been looking after them in an over crowded house and brought them all with her into rescue.

May was busy as you might imagine. Lots of routine vet runs for vaccinations, chips, neuter. Plus a couple of non routine vet runs when Fynn had a very very rare complication following his neuter. Numerous homechecks for kittens. Fynn went back to foster care with the lovely couple who had found him, and then to a new home. Aric & Archie also found a new home.

Aric & Archie new home

June Ash & Arran and Ailbhe & Alix went to their new homes.

Ailbhe & Alix new home

The remaining two of Ailbhe’s kittens – Alice & Arnold – moved downstairs to live with the residents and get more socialisation as they were very timid. Dasher became very involved with them.

He took great care of them until they too were adopted.

As the Ailbhe team were moving out, Alice & Arnold were downstairs, and the rescue bedrooms were free, we had a message asking for help with A LOT of cats. We were able to help with fewer than half of them but took in Raven & Squiggle who had 7 young kittens between them.

Only two of the kits were Squiggles, but Raven wasn’t big into parenting … so Squiggle looked after them all.

Jette gave birth to 6 kittens on 16 June … sadly one of them didn’t survive.

Jette with kits a few hours old

Alice & Arnold … the last of the A team went to their new home

July was pretty much like April with lots of routine vet runs. A couple of the kits went to their new homes, and thankfully Raven & Squiggle found the purrfect purrmanent home.

Raven & Squiggle new home

I’m so happy for these girls … they’ve had a hard life caring for kittens since they were kittens, one litter after another. So lovely to see them happy and settled.

Meanwhile … with it being a little quieter … and still in search of a pal for Dasher … Kevin arrived. Kev had been living rough in a garden like Dasher had .. they quickly found some common ground … and got on very well.

Dasher & Kevin

August Ringo & Scruff … Raven & Squiggle’s most confident kittens went off to their super new home. Jette’s kittens had their vaccinations and the first two, Jade & Jemima went off to their new home.

September at last, thank goodness was a bit quieter month. Jaffa & Jellybean (two more of Jette’s) found their new home.

Jellybean & Jaffa

Delighted that also the old lady Cloe found her new home after nearly 10 months in rescue.

Into the space made available we had Rosie & Mabel arrive

October Rosie & Mabel had a very swift journey through rescue. They went into a fab new foster home and were adopted within a week or two.

Still here were Jette, her remaining kitten Jethro, Squiggle’s remaining kitten Smartie, and Rowan’s remaining kittens Rowan & Rolo. Jette landed a fab new home … all to herself ..

Jethro & Smartie teamed up and also found a lovely home.

Rowan & Rolo were the most timid of Raven/Squiggle’s kits … and to make it worse Rowan had a persistent tummy upset.

They’re lovely young cats though … and to my delight once Rosie & Mabel left their foster home, these two moved in. They’re growing in confidence and we’re doing our best to sort out the tummy.

November was planned to be quieter because that was our holiday time. Nevertheless .. we mananaged to take in Betsy & Benjamin, orgaised from Laos with the help of our amazing cat sitter.

Here’s our first proper glimpse of them courtesy of web cam from Singapore. I’m not sure if they’ve gone through the house like a breath of fresh air or a dose of salts … but … um … you sure know you’ve got them!

betsy & benjamin

Here they are being calm for their adoption advert. Don’t be fooled!

December thankfully another relatively quiet month as I was ill pretty much from getting on the holiday plane in November to a couple of weeks ago. Sadly (or happily … depending on how you view it) Howard outlived his foster carer’s interest in caring for him … and he returned to rescue when I got back from holiday. He’s back here trying to make the best of it .. and to his credit isn’t making a bad job of it. If it wasn’t for the renal diet complications of communal living … we’d be rocking it!

We’re at the stage where he can mingle without fights. The older kittens escorted him on his first trip round the (cat secure) garden. He’s a lovely old boy x

So that’s us .. settling down to New Year’s Eve. Apologies (huge apologies) to anyone I’ve missed out.

The gorgeous Stanie was adopted by his amazing long suffering foster carers in June this year.

He now shares a home with the equally gorgeous Harold who was adopted last year.

Not to be forgotten … but so easily forgotten … and that’s possibly intentional … because he’s trying to creep up onto the table to steal food … Oscar. He’s our other long term foster cat who lives with the fundraiser without whom 8 Lives simply woudn’t survive. He’s been with 8 Lives well over a year now … skulking under the radar … looking for anything tasty.

Best wishes for 2020 to you and especially to your felines x

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On the third day of Christmas ….

… the Dog Pound gave to me
… Two FOSTER CATS!

Ok so it’s all wrong and doesn’t scan … but then cat rescue is like that.

The tail I’m about to tell began 9 years ago … at least my part in it did. Just before Christmas 2010 I was sent photos of a number of cats who had been in the dog pound for some time and were under threat of being put to sleep. I was just a foster carer for another rescue at the time, but the day after Boxing Day I went with them to assess the situation and think how we could save the eight or so cats who were there.

We had our eye on what we were referring to as “the fat ginger and white one” as we thought he wasn’t neutered. I agreed to take him … then another “ginger one” who seemed to get on ok with him. I’m really sad that I didn’t get more information about where they’d come from and how they came to be in the pound. There was a comment about whether the two gingers “had been in the same room” … was it a hoarding situation? We’ll sadly never know. I believe the other cat in the photos above had been rescued before we arrived, and the rest of the cats were rescued later.

They settled themselves in quite quickly as you can see.

There was a very tricky moment the first evening. The “fat ginger and white one” established himself on the stairs .. and when I tried to pass, gave out the most fearsome hiss and lashed out at me. I vividly remember standing in the hallway thinking “oh f@ck what have I done?” … this was the biggest cat I’d ever seen, I was new to fostering and scared of him.

The photo above was taken that same night … but the ‘incident’ was lower down the stairs and I was too scared to take a photo .. besides … back in those days photos were something you needed a camera for … not just whip out your phone.

The young ginger was named Ollie and was very quickly adopted and adored.

The “fat ginger and white one” was more of a challenge. He’d hang out on the stairs like the troll in three billygoats gruff, hump my legs in bed (despite having been neutered), and press his neck against the rim of the waste basket or the rung of clothes airer to make himself choke, and his favourite hobby was licking plastic bags. The rescue wondered how on earth we were going to get him adopted with all these weird behaviours.

I wondered too for a little while …

If I’m honest though … I think I knew from the start … I was in love. The “fat ginger and white one” was named Jango … and has been adored here for the last 9 years.

He’s a strange and awkard cat … scourge of cat sitters and vets alike he can be quite scary to those who don’t know him (and occasionally to those who DO!) but he’s very deeply loved.

I’m praying that I’m wrong … but I fear this will be the last gotcha-versary that we get to celebrate together. He survived pancreatitis a couple of years ago when we thought we were going to lose him. He suffers badly with arthritis … which I believe is the result of abuse in his past … and also accounts for his aggressive behaviour at times. He’s a very very loved “fat ginger and white” cat x

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Season’s Greetings from 8 Lives

Tis the season for climbing up into the loft and gettting the Xmas decorations down.   Tis also the season for being a little smug and thinking “blimey, its cold up here … the insulation must be working well”.

I suspect Dasher remembered the boxes and the excitement of the tree last year .. judging by his reaction:

Who would have thought when he arrived 18 December last year he’d still be here this Christmas:

 

dasher xmas tree (5)

Dasher Xmas 2018

That’s a long story we’ll not go into right now. However for Dasher’s best mate Kevin, it was the first Xmas anywhere. Kev could hardly believe his eyes when we set up the biggest cat toy he’d ever ever seen, or imagined in his wildest fluffy dreams.   He walked into the lounge and stood in amazement …

He went to fetch Dasher to come see it .. because that’s what Kev does – if he’s not sure about anything, absolutely anything at all, he goes to find Dasher to ask his opinion.

Dasher thought he’d seen it before, but needed to touch it a bit just to be sure.

Yep .. he’d been there, done that … and wandered off to find some supper.

Kev however was transfixed.

The gingerbread man, who has survived several generations of kittens, realised to his horror that he was the focus of Kev’s attention. He tried to just dangle calmly but suitably fesitvely ..  however it was too late .. Kevin just couldn’t resist.

 

 

At first it was just a tap, and although gingerbread man swung dizzyingly … he regained his balance and composed himself.

Unfortunately this just whetted Kev’s appetite for more .. and before he could say “don’t eat me” .. Kev had launched a vicious attack.

We last saw him laying face down on the kitchen floor …. with the shadown of young Benjamin hanging over him.

is this the end for gingerbread man?

Wishing a Merry fun filled Christmas to you all!

* Please be assured that gingerbread man (and snowman, angel and a random apple) will be offered appropriate support before being returned to their boxes/loft.

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Holidays … ? (in praise of cat sitters)

It’s been a long haul through the summer … and autumn.    Ailbhe and her 7 kittens, Squiggle & Raven and their 7 kittens, Jette and her 5 kittens, plus several others who aren’t part of these huge families.   I’m not complaining – they’re all very lovely cats, and we’ve had some awesome adoptive parents joining our 8 Lives family.   However it’s meant homechecks / visitors /takings to new homes almost every weekend day for the last 6 months, vet trips after work one or two evenings every week … plus vet trips before work too when they’ve gone to be neutered.  And the cleaning! OMG! The hours of cleaning!

I’ve watched all my colleagues and friends going off on summer holidays but been happy to hang on knowing I have MY holiday coming in November.   A visit to my lovely friends in Singapore and a few days exploring Laos … what could be better?   It took a lot of planning, making sure everyone had enough medication and food, checking all the cats in foster had sufficient supplies, timing the cleaning so things were at their best ready for cat sitter to take over.

Freyja: one of my best friends in Singapore

At times it seemed like it would never all come together, but finally, finally I was at the airport, on the plane and settled into watching more films than I’d watched in the entire year to date. I was a bit hot and cold through the flight but put it down to the air con on board. Arrived in Singapore feeling spaced out and disorientated … but you know … jet lag and all that. Still feeling like I was on another planet, but embracing it, we set off to Laos the following morning … and finished the day with a beautiful sunset cruise on the Mekong river.

Followed by the first taste of amazing Lao Beer

Woke the following morning with the cough from hell. But hey …. we’re on holiday. So off we went to explore the city and temples. It was a long climb to the top of Mount Phousi, but we were rewarded by this sight:

 

The world is an utterly fascinatingly varied place – so many different beliefs, traditions, ways of living out our lives. One thing is constant the world over … cats just don’t give a f@ck about the rules.

Annoyingly the virus got worse … and so did the news from home. Jango had initially been fairly compliant with taking his meds, but realising that mum was away longer than he was happy with, started to rebel. He’d been my main worry for the holiday – he’s elderly, possibly suffering some dementia, and a complete b@astard with anyone who isn’t me (and occasionally with someone who IS me!).  Without his painkillers he obviously got more uncomfortable and more grouchy and more difficult to medicate. I panicked and started googling flights home. Our lovely cat sitter stayed calm and came up with solutions. Jango was persuaded by tuna water and took his meds disolved in that.

Jango – scourge of cat sitters … and vets

Once back in Singapore I stopped trying to be ok and just flopped. Not quite though, because late one night (early here in the UK), there was a post on a local (local to S8 that is)  facebook group about two small kittens found under a car not so far from our rescue. Several people tagged me personally, or mentioned 8 Lives as being the people to help. For security reasons we didn’t want to say we were on holiday, and of course wanted to help the kits, so went ahead as though we were round the corner rather than nearly 7,000 miles away and in another time zone. Jess our cat sitter offered to go and collect the kits and bring them here. We’d done our best to reduce the numbers of cats here so far as possible before the holiday … so at least we had space here for them. It was strange to see them for the first time, in my house, from so far away, on our webcam.

Betsy & Benjamin

They’re gorgeous kittens, very loving and full of crazy kitten energy.

Sorry to grumble but I got more and more poorly through the holiday. I think I can honestly say that I don’t remember feeling more poorly in my entire life. That may be a memory issue … but I don’t think so. Nothing like two 8 hour flights home to help with a head cold / sinus infection.

I got home and immediately crashed on the bed. Jango emerged from his cave in the wardrobe for a cuddle. It was sooooooo good to see him. Then I realised I was seeing twice as much of his face on one side as the other.  Naturally I panicked.  Of course it was Sunday and vets were closed.   If I’d not been so poorly and taken time to read the note from the cat sitter I’d have read the legendary notice “Don’t Panic!”.   He’d had a swollen face on Friday night (early hours of Saturday morning in Singapore) and she’d managed to bundle him up in a towel and get him to the vets, who diagnosed an abscess.

Cat sitter must have been counting the days and looking forward to signing off from this awkward squad … but was kind enough to continue coming in for a few days after I got home, until I was well enough to manage to care of them again.

Many thanks to Jess from 3 Strings for caring for them … and to our lovely vets at V4P Millhouses who coped with me in various stages of poorliness whilst trying to sort cats out over the last few weeks x

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“just stuff”

Not sure how this blog is going to turn out.  It’s been a while since we posted anything and feels like time we should .. no … not “should” … would actually really like to.  However there hasn’t been a “story” really to share, nothing obvious to talk about.  Don’t get me wrong .. its absolutely not that nothing is happening … we’re so busy its crazy  … but it doesn’t arrange itself conveniently round a blog post.  Texting a friend a few days ago about having not been in touch because I felt overwhelmed, she asked “by bad or good stuff?”  Having pondered on it a while … I replied “just stuff!”

In our last blog we talked about Jette’s kittens growing up … and they still are!  The coloured collars we put on them allowed us to begin to see them as individual people rather than just the amorphous mass named “Jette’s kittens”.

Whilst Jette’s kittens were growing, Raven & Squiggle’s kittens were growing even bigger!

Then Kevin arrived.  We weren’t going to take in any more cats until we’d sorted this lot … but Kev is about the same age as Raven & Squiggle’s kits … and also we’re still trying to find a suitable pal for Dasher to be rehomed with … and Kev was a baby living on his own in a garden.  How could we say no?

Then Squiggle and Raven found a lovely new home.

Once the mums had moved on we decided that it would be best for the two most timid kits (Rolo & Rowan) to move downstairs so they could have more contact time and build their confidence.  But then, probably with the stress of it all, little Rowan was poorly with a nasty tummy upset.

poorly rowan

So instead of putting them in a large crate together, so we could start stroking more often and building confidence, we needed to separate Rowan and barrier nurse him to avoid passing on the tummy upset.  Only in order to do that we needed to order a second large crate.  Then were was a mess up with the delivery and we had to go to Rotherham to the depot to collect it, but only found out that we’d need to do that about 40 minutes before the depot was closing.

Managing several separate groups of cats in one house is hard work.  Just for context, we live in a small 3 bed semi.  There are the 6 residents who kind of share space and Dasher (and now Kevin) too, but Henderson needs some degree of separation to have his renal diet.  We also need to try so far as possible for most of the other residents to have senior food, Rufus to have adult food, and Dasher and Kevin to have kitten stage food.  Except Dasher for some reason loves renal food, and Henderson loves to eat buffet style taking a few mouthfuls from each bowl.

Then there were the Squiggle/Raven kittens, being kept separate from Jette and her kittens in the two spare bedrooms.  Except on opening either of their doors we were met by an avalanche of kittens onto the landing, down the stairs and into the bathroom.   Collecting them up, posting them back into their bedrooms without the others getting out was starting to be impossible … so we ended up with a combined group.

Add to that two separate crates to manage with litter trays, food, water bowls, and in Rowan’s case meds (to add to the everyday long term meds that Henderson & Jango need), without the kittens getting out and it gets very complicated indeed.  We have an awesome cat sitter who comes in on the nights I’m working late and sorts the cats for me.  I normally get a message from her just as I’m doing the last of my paperwork to say she’s finished and passing on any updates I need to know.  The other night I’d heard nothing, finished my admin, drove the half hour back from work, stopped at the shop, and arrived home to find cat sitter only just leaving.  It had been a two hour ordeal to get around them all.

It was all so stressful that when aunty Jenny invited young Rufus to spend part of his summer holiday at her house I jumped at the chance.  He’s a precious little boy who we hand reared from 10 days old between us.   He’s very loved, but out of all the cats here, he’s the one who taken out of the equation would make the most difference.  Despite living around other cats all of his life, the fact that he’s been hand reared seems to have impacted on his ability to socialise properly with other felines.  Amber is terrified of him.  He must have upset her at some point …. but now he only needs to walk into the room and she’s stressed.  Honey (Amber’s mum) understandbly is angry with him for upsetting her daughter.  Old Uncle Henderson is intimidated by him too.  He’s an amenable old chap … but I’ve been horrified to see him cowering infront of Rufus, looking like an elderly gent being mugged.  I miss Ru terribly and feel awful that I missed his 3rd birthday … but its made things a lot easier around here.

Dasher & Kevin fell in love.

Rowan started to feel better, Rolo became more confident.

Then all four kittens were chasing around happily in the main part of the house along with the residents.

With Rufus out of the way, Amber ventured downstairs for the fist time in ages.  So long that one of the cat flaps had forgotten her.  We had a bit of a saga getting her scanned in again because she won’t go near the cat flap whilst I’m standing there … she’s semi feral and I’ve touched her only a handful of times in the years she’s lived here.  We had multiple instances of me putting a peg on the flap to wedge it open, setting it to scan a new customer, getting out the way so Amber felt safe to go through it, and then Dasher rushing through instead.  The flap says it has the capacity to scan and recognise 30 cats – 20 of them are Dasher!  Finally though it was done and Amber was out enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.

The next event was that Ringo & Scruff found a lovely new home.  Our house has become much calmer and quieter since they left.  I guess their adoptive parents’ home has suddenly become rather more noisy and chaotic.

So then the next thing is the dilemma of how to manage the remaining kittens.  Ringo, Scruff and Smartie had been upstairs sharing space some of the time with Jette and her kittens.   Smartie was now the only one of the Squiggle/Raven kits upstairs.  Should we leave her in a room alone? (no .. that’s not really an option)  Put her full time with Jette et all? (Maybe … though she and Scruff had been a bit hissy with Jette and kits)  Bring her downstairs to join the others? (Possibly … though that might just be the last straw for what the residents will tolerate .. and I can cope with.  Five kittens running wild through the house like a whirlwind)  Put some of the others back upstairs to join her?  (Again this could be an option … but which ones … who are we going to pair with whom?)

We’ll leave you with that cliff hanger 😉

You might have noticed that some of our photos are of considerably better quality than usual!  The rogues galleries of kitten photos are gorgeous.  That was the other big exciting event here.  We had a visit from Isobel from Steel Rose photography last weekend.  Absolutely delighted with the lovely photos she took.

 

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tempus fugit

It seems only a few days ago that I was watching Jette’s kittens taking their first breath … but today they’re chasing around their bedroom, and I know from experience that in a few more days they’ll be climbing and causing absolute mayhem.  What I DON’T seem to learn from experience is just how quickly this happens.

They were 4 weeks old last Sunday and desperate to be allowed out of the nest. Jette and I reluctantly decided to drop the drawbridge on the “very useful box” and allow them out.

Jette found it hard at first … needing eyes in the back of her head to keep track of all of them:

It wasn’t easy … but once they were out there was no going back.

So we enter the period of very steep learning curve for kittens. Moving from fighting over nipples to perfecting table manners …

Just what DO you do with your feet whilst eating?

And then there’s a minefield of litter tray etiquette to learn. Hint! Pooing right behind the door so that when its opened your sh1t is smeared across the floor is not generally regarded as good manners! Neither is peeing right at the door opening and just where I step sock or bare footed into the room. Other handy tips: don’t go to sleep in the litter tray, don’t wee on your siblings, don’t kick litter in other people’s faces.

The intermediate course covers the ability to wee & poo quietly without having to announce to mummy and everyone else in the house what you’re doing, and expects that if you go into the ‘grown up’ litter tray you’ll be able to get yourself out again. Also: NO FIGHTING in the tray! For some reason it brought to mind an image from childhood swimming baths days:

Some of the little Riggle (Squiggle/Raven) kittens have been to visit aunty Jette and haven’t been made entirely welcome. However one little J toddled off to see aunties Squiggle & Raven this week and was given a much better reception ….

…. if you regard having your bottom washed as a positive sign of hospitality! We’re not judging … It’s one thing to have a tiny kitten intruder when your kits are twice her size … its quite something else to have ninja kits bouncing into the nursery when you’re feeding tiny kittens.

They’re 5 weeks old today. Ninja kittens in training, and starting to emerge as individuals. We don’t usually use collars but we have two black kits (Jellybean & Jethro) and two tabbies (Jaffa & Jade) who look very similar … so decided to go for colour coding. Little Jemima as the only black and white kit doesn’t need a collar, but we don’t want her to feel left out.

Jemima

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Kitten season! part 3 – Jette and kittens make two dozen

So we’ve told you about Raven & Squiggle’s kittens, but Jette’s kits arrived here undercover … hidden inside mummy’s tummy.   She looked ready to pop when she arrived.

 

Then again …  we’ve had enough experience to know that when they look like they’re about to pop there could well be another week or more to go.  Perhaps because she was heavily pregnant and in a room on her own, she seemed to be the most stressed and anxious of the new arrivals.   Raven & Squiggle had each other for support and had to be ok for their kits.   On the one hand I wanted to take it slowly with Jette, on the other I was concered that if we didn’t establish a good relationship before the kittens were born it could be more difficult in many ways after the birth.

Jette – anxious and very pregnant

You may remember Hecate who arrived here with 4 x 3 day old kits almost exactly a year ago.  She was very scared and reluctant to allow us to interact with the kits, and her anxiety rubbed off on them.  It’s all good now … mum and kits all in loving homes and confident and settled .. but it was hard work and ideally not something we want to repeat.

Jette hid at first, but over a few days made friends thanks to some chicken.  She quickly became very friendly and affectionate.  We created a nice little cot with the “really useful box” that has served for all births here since Betty’s kittens.  Jette refused to look at it.  She alternated between her bed on a chest of drawers and perching on an almost ceiling height shelf.   I anxiously watched her on the webcam from work, though I’m not sure how I was going to help from miles away, or what I thought I’d tell my manager as I rushed out the building.

hopefully not in Jette’s birth plan

She was unsettled for a couple of days coming up to giving birth, moving from bed to shelf to widowsill to my lap and I spent hours with her thinking the kits were on their way.  However on Sunday 16 June, it was clear that things were starting to move.  Thankfully the high shelf went off the list of places to sit and she switched between my lap and her bed on the chest of drawers, and finally (thankfully) the cot.  As the birth got closer she settled herself in the cot, and I laid down on the floor at the other end of the room so I could give her some space but still be able to see some of what was happening and check she was ok.  I used one of the blankets she’d been snuggling on my knee on as a pillow since the floor was hard.   To my surprise, at the very last moment, she rushed out of the cot, threw herself onto the blanket I had my head on, and seconds later gave birth to the first kit within inches of my nose.

Kit number one born

 

She clearly felt safer with me than I’d hoped to imagine.   Things started to get a bit more complicated then though.  For one thing, it was just after 8.30pm when she started to give birth and the light started to fade.  I didn’t want to move and put the big light on, and didn’t really want to be shining phone torch at them either.  The other thing was that the babies were coming quicker than she could sort them out …. and as they weren’t in the confines of the cot they could go anywhere.  So whilst baby number two was being born, baby one had set off across the bedroom floor, dragging the remains of his placenta behind him.

I always avoid touching very newborn kittens unless absolutely necessary so was wary … but once off the blanket the floor was cold (hard to believe on the hot night I’m writing this … but a couple of weeks ago the room was chilly).   I didn’t want to stand up and scared her, but managed to reach a spare fleece from the shelf.   Jette seemed happy for me to sort him out and get him back on the blanket close to her.  As kit number 3 was born, I was left with the responsibility for kits 1 and 2 … and so it went on.   I gradually gained confidence with coralling kittens in the dark, and cheerfully managed 5 little ones as number 6 was born.  Sadly the happy mood evaporated when it was clear that number 6 was not ok.  Jette worked on him for some time, licking him and nudging him …. but he didn’t respond … and after a while we had to accept that however much love he’d been born into … he just wasn’t going to make it.

Once it was fairly clear that she’d finished we gathered them up an put them all safely in the ‘really useful box’.

In the morning I sobbed as I went up the garden to dig a small kitten sized hole.  Dasher came with me to comfort me.   Jette looked distressed to see her kit go … but was soon enjoying a clean fleece and getting to know her remaining five kittens better.

Apart from nipping out for a wee she never left them for the next 10 days.  I’d check in her several times a day, and watch her on the web cam from work, and every time I looked she was there snuggled up with them.

Her hard work has paid off as they’re clearly much bigger by one week old.   Kittens will normally double their birth weight in the first week and I’m pretty sure she’s achieved that.

Ps.  I’ve just realised I didn’t end the post by clarifying the title.  These little ones brought the total number of cats in our home to 24 … which is a record number of cats at 8 Lives … not to mention the few we have out in foster homes.

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