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A somewhat miraculous tail

It’s now seven weeks ago that I was sitting at home one Friday evening, minding my own business, when a message pinged into our 8 Lives inbox. It was about a long term stray who was injured and needed help asap. As usual we were full … but obviously wanted to help as it was an S8 cat and we aim to go the extra mile for S8 cats 🙂

We said we could help with vet bills etc but simply had nowhere to put him … so would the person messaging like to foster him? This is perhaps the first miracle in the tail. More than 9 times out of 10, if we reply offering help conditional on the other person doing something, even something very simple, we never hear from them again. However on this occasion the person said yes he could do that and would clear space in the spare bedroom for the cat!

The next miracle was that we’d just made connection with someone who is experienced with trapping. So when we realised that the cat needed to be trapped …. we had someone who we could ask for help …. and were delighted when she agreed.

So … by late Friday evening we had a facebook convo with person who had contacted us and agreed to foster, his partner, the person who had agreed to help with trapping and the person who’s garden the cat was mainly hanging out in.

Saturday progressed with messages about sightings and traps, and Jerry (locals believe the cat had been named Jerry before being abandoned about 9 years ago) generally being an arse and refusing to go into the trap. He even strode up to the trapper’s car at one point and sprayed down the side of it. The drama extended into Sunday too, but finally with reinforcements brought in, and a different kind of trap, the cat was in the bag …. so to speak.

Sadly with it being Sunday our regular vets were closed. So Jerry was taken to another local vet who had Sunday opening. Jerry had a huge abscess on his face which was doubtless the result of fighting as an unneutered tom cat. He was admitted to have the abscess cleaned and to be neutered, but they did a basic level test for FIV, found him to be positive and immediately wanted to put him to sleep. We refused to consent to this and were relieved to get him out of there the following day … thankfully now neutered and with his abscess cleaned up.

The wound on the side of his face was shockingly big and deep. Jerry sat miserably in his crate whilst foster carers and I disucssed his ongoing care.

Over the coming days the fosterers spent hours with him, talking to him, helping him to settle. He wasn’t happy though and was weeing on the floor in his crate and getting in quite a mess.

Improvements in 3 weeks

Very relieved to get back to our own vets, Vets4Pets at Milllhouses, with him. They checked his wound, gave more antibiotics and took some blood. So far, all the cats who have tested positive for FIV on the basic test that the other vet did, have come back negative when they’ve had the more specific test which we prefer. Sadly Jerry’s was the first time that that one also came back positive. Being FIV positive doesn’t have to be the end of the world, despite the reaction of the other vets. The really bad news was that the results showed that Jerry was at stage 4 (the final stage) of kidney failure … not only that …. his readings were pretty much off the scale. Our vet said he’d had to put cats to sleep with considerably lower readings, because they were so poorly …. not Jerry though … not at that stage … because he showed every sign of having a good quality of life.

It felt a bit bleak at that point though. We’d been told that his wound would probably take about 6 weeks to half way heal, but possibly longer due to FIV. And looking at his blood results, it seemed he most probably wouldn’t survive long enough to see it heal.

I didn’t want to tell the foster carers at first, because by that stage Jerry had started to make some progress .. he was enjoying being stroked and gaining confidence. I didn’t want them to give up on him. I needn’t have worried … when I told them, they were as committed as ever to caring for Jerry and giving him the best life possible.

Thankfully no one has told Jerry that his blood results are so bad that he shouldn’t really be alive. So he’s just getting on with life, and here are a whole collection of little miracles:

  • He’s eating well, even the renal food which most cats are reluctant to eat.
  • He’s putting weight on.
  • His coat is soft and between him and his foster carers most of the knots are gone.
  • His face is healing incredibly well.
  • He’s starting to play a little.
  • He’s become one of the most snuggly, loving cats I’ve ever met …….. and I’ve met a few x

At his nurse appointment last week for his wound check he was just the most snuggly loving boy ever. His face has healed amazingly well. There’s even signs of a little fur growing back. It might end up being a bit of a comb-over but wow! He climbed up into my arms for more cuddles and gave nurse Sam loads of snuggles.

Clearly the miracle can’t hold forever … he’s a poorly boy …. but perhaps in these remaining few weeks or months we can make up a little bit for the years he’s had to endure living rough. I wanted to add “not being cared for” … but that wouldn’t be entirely true. Many people have been aware of him over the years and have fed him, offered him a little shelter, tried to get help for him. Seeing how loving he is and what a character he is though, its just heartbreaking that he’s spent so many years living rough without the cuddles that he so obviously adores.

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Office Assistants

We’ve been working from home for well over a year now and have seen a succession of office assistants come and go. What used to be the main cat rescue room in the house is now also my office. We just about manage to blend the two together with varying degrees of success. In some ways its a good thing, or even an excellent thing. Whereas normally our foster cats would have spent almost all the day alone, they now have company and cuddles and I get to work with feline rather than human colleagues, which on the whole, I prefer.

Bae & Bigsby are our most recent temps. They arrived with very sketchy CVs and I suspect neither of them have done an honest days work in their lives. Bae just sat doing her nails, oblivious to the task in hand.

She’s also spent quite a bit of time looking for snacks rather than concentrating

Bigsby has attempted to engage with the filing system … though not entirely helpfully, as he later climbed to the top shelf and descended with considerably more speed than grace whilst I was on a call.

He was asked to come in to discuss his purrformance and appeared gobsmacked that he was actually expected to work.

To be fair to them, then make excellent purry paperweights and are lovely to snuggle during phone calls and Teams meetings. They’re looking for a purrmanent position so if you’re able to offer them something with very light duties and low expectations that is well rewarded with snacks and cuddles …..

Their adoption advert is here

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Zoltan: a six week rollercoaster journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

feeling poorly

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

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

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Introducing our newest purrmanent resident … Zoltan

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

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

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

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

Rowan welcomes Zoltan

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

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

favourite place

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

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

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

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

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

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Several steps forward and several other steps back

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

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

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

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

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

Hamish in new home

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

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

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

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

Hamish gutted to be back in rescue

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

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

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

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

Timtam watching me work

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

Hamish feeling better … and hopeful
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All the Ts

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

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

Tiktok & Timtam arrive

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then, not many minutes later, this happened …

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

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

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

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

Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Goodnight Uncle Henderson

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

henderson arrival at vets 2017

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

setttling into rescue 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

drying off from his bath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Adapting and Adopting

Along with the rest of the world, Covid has changed the way we do everything. As a small rescue we’ve only ever been able to rehome a small number of cats, but we’ve aimed to make the process supportive and fun and above all safe and comfortable for the cats.

Our pre covid process was to arrange a friendly informal homecheck then assuming that was all ok, invite you over to meet the cat/s you were interested in so you could spent time getting to know them and they you. Once they were reserved we’d send all the information you needed to prepare your home for them. Then on adoption day we’d take them to their new home, along with all their paperwork, and stay a litte while to support then in settling in and to answer any questions. I have to admit, this was one of my favourite bits – a lovely reward for weeks or even months of caring for the cat/s and preparing them for adoption.

Covid has changed a lot of this process. We need to obseserve safe social distancing whilst balancing it against the well being of the cats and support of potential adopters.

We’re gradually evolving a new way of doing things, based on our previous practice, advice from Cat Chat and discussions with other rescues.

  1. The first part of the process is for you to spot a cat you wish to adopt on our Cat Chat page.

2. When you contact us we’ll send an adoption enquiry form to get a bit more informaiton about the home you’re able to offer.

3. If that matches the needs of the cat we’ll arrange a virtual homecheck on Zoom. Some of the cats have been happy to attend the Zoom meeting in purrson to check out their potential adopters. They shyer ones have preferred to send more photos and videos.

Becket waiting for his zoom call

4. If you decide to wish to adopt the cat we then send out all the information about how to create a welcoming safe space for the cat when they arrive, what food they’re eating, litter they’re using, how the microchip gets changed, how to make the adoption donation. This is one bit of the process that hasn’t changed.

5. On adoption day we still take the cat to their new home. We wipe them with leucillin and wipe the carrier with Safe4 disinfectant wipes. We wear face masks and use hand sanitiser as appropriate. You’re then able to take the cat/s indoors in the carrier/s to their safe space and allow them to come out of the carrier in their own time. It’s not a rush … we can wait … in the car. Once they’re out the carrier we ask that you shut them safely in their room and return the carrier to us. Then we’re able to run through the paperwork outdooors. [Thankfully so far it’s either been fine or there has been a shelter to stand under.]

6. Pre covid we’ve taken a blanket with the cat’s familar smell on it that the cat can keep to help them settle in. This is still an option and you’ll be asked prior to the adoption day whether you’re happy to do this.

7. We normally keep in touch with adopters regularly during the first few days/weeks just to check that all is well and to answer any questions … and to share photos because there’s nothing nicer than seeing them settling in and enjoying their new life. This is all the more important when contact prior to adoption has been limited.

Although this system isn’t ideal we’ve found that it works well. Regardless of Covid, cats still need to find homes of their own. The confident cats who are able to attend Zoom meetings have had no difficulty purrsuading their adopters that they’re the right ones for them. The less confident cats have gone to their new homes on a “foster with a view to adoption” agreement where we’ve kept in closer contact with adopters until the cats are settled and adopters are confident that this is the right cat for them.

Hissy & Spitty not going to their zoom call

We’re working hard to make this process as good as it can be, and are happy to listen to feedback from adopters about how we can improve the process. We’ve had this feedback from the adoptive mum of little Dolly:

“We adopted 6 month old Dolly through a virtual adoption process and it was absolutely brilliant: swift replies to emails, clear communication, photos, a homecheck over Zoom and then a pretty much contactless and entirely socially distanced handover when our new cat arrived. But throughout the whole thing, Dolly’s welfare was still paramount and always put first too. We felt that we had everything we needed by the time she came to live with us and we had plenty of information about how to keep her happy and safe in her new home as well as microchipping and first vaccinations, advice about vets etc. It was all incredibly stress free, friendly and safe. We now have the most beautiful, playful, friendly, confident little cat in our lives and we can’t imagine being without her. Thank you 8 Lives for doing the work you do and for continuing it in such difficult circumstances. We feel very happy to have found you and found Dolly! You’ve really gone the extra mile.”

Dolly settling in her new home
Hissy & Spitty settling in their new home
and Beckett settling into his ..

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Amidst the worldly comings and goings, observe how endings become beginnings. – Laozi (Lao Tzu)

There have been very many comings and goings over the last few weeks.  For some reason I thought things would be quieter coming up to Xmas …. what with finishing work for a while and most other people being focused on festivities rather than cats.

Holly & Humbug went off to their new home the weekend before Xmas.  So sweet ….. there’s a bit of an age gap between them right now ….. he’s  probably twice her age ….. but they love each other, and in not very much time it will simply be that he’s a few months older than her.

humbug-holly-1

Humbug & Hollly

Later that day I went out to Rotherham to pick up Milo & Mike. Their human had taken them in over the summer as kittens to save them from being dumped… but then had some difficulties herself and couldn’t afford to keep them.

We thought that was it for pre Xmas … but a message pinged into our inbox about Daisy Mae.  She was booked in to a vet in Leeds to be put to sleep the following day.  There was nothing wrong with her …..apart from the fact that the landlord had refused pets and she had nowhere else to go.   Not entirely happy to make a journey to the other side of Leeds off we went on the Sunday.   As I was approaching the pick up my headlights started to flick on and off .  They continued to go on and off as she bewailed her misfortune at being stuck in a carrier in the car.  I hadn’t the heart too point out the other misfortune she’d so narrowly escaped.  Her songs of sorrow were so loud that I missed what Seamus the Sat Nav was saying and ended up with flickering headlights in several lanes of ridiculously busy traffic presumably near the centre of Leeds.  You know that point where you think “it can’t get any worse than this”?   Well it was at that point that she poohed, turned around and around, padding at it and ground it into her hands and feet and into the wire of the carrier.  So then we had her singing loudly and tunelessly along to Carols from Winchester on the radio and the windows wide open to cope with the smell along with the fear of breaking down.

daisy-mae-2-cc

Daisy Mae cuddles

She kicked off big time when she realised she’d be rooming with the boys I picked up the previous day. Thankfully there’s another part of the story where she reveals herself to be a complete sweetheart.

Anyway, just three days at work then peace.    As Thursday, the precious first day off work approached it got busier and busier.  Milo & Mike had been booked in for neuter so vet runs early morning and teatime.  To which we added a health check appointment mid afternoon for Daisy Mae, and then a homecheck after we’d fetched the lads back from the vets.   Settling down in bed on Wednesday night the phone pinged.  Long story short …. we were fitting in a run to Bradford between first and second vet trip to collect a kitten who had been living behind a take away for a week.

Bradford Bessie

Bradford Bessie

The journey home with Bessie couldn’t have been more different from that with Daisy Mae. She settled herself in her carrier, had a good wash, and then by the time we were on M1(S) she was fast asleep. The day filled out more by taking her to the vets as well as Daisy Mae and then the person who was home checked coming to meet the kittens straight after the homecheck.

Phew … all done by 10pm Thursday evening …. we could settle for Xmas.   And then the phone pinged.   Email about a local cat who appeared to be homeless.  They’d taken our advice from earlier in the week and gone to the vet with him to be scanned for a chip.  No joy …. and he wasn’t neutered either.   I agreed to pick him up on Xmas Eve.  The following day though, was vile weather and ended up going for him late Friday evening.

tomte-arrives-2

mr sad face Tomte arrives

Our dream was of a festive home filled with the aroma of pine tree, cinnamon and good food.  The reality was a house completely engulfed in the pungent smell of tom cat.   At least he appears happy and unusually for a cat, a little grateful.

happier Tomte

happier Tomte

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

we interrupt our holiday photos to bring you the latest news

We had a lovely quiet first week (not quite a week) home from holiday.  Well … “quiet” if you ignore the harsh reality of return to work, and the normal chaos of our resident cats and the little E Team.   There had been a few messages whilst we were away about cats looking for rescue places, but things seemed to have settled down.   Then last Friday we had a message about 9 kittens needing to come into rescue.  They’d been mentioned whilst I was away, but seemed to be sorted out, and now they weren’t and it was “urgent”.  So between appointments at work on Friday I was messaging about them and arranged to collect early Friday evening.  Rushed to supermarket after work to stock up on kitten food,  got the room ready for them.  Minutes before I  set off to collect them and I get a message to say they’d been given away.  One person had taken 4 and the other taken 5.   It’s not easy to think that they’ll be safe and neutered and cared for … but nothing else really that we could do.

e team class of the yaer

The E Team

So we had a room ready for kittens who weren’t going to arrive, and moved on to the next priority scenario:  Snowy had messaged us whilst we were away to ask for a rescue space.  His elderly human had sadly had a stroke and gone into a care home, and he was all at sixes and sevens not knowing quite what to do with himself.  He was being fed and could access his home still so he hadn’t been top priority, but now that the kittens who were outside didn’t need the space, he was offered it.  He got back to us saying that although he’d been looking for help for a few weeks, he now had someone who might offer him a furever home … so thanks … but he probably no longer needed us.

Snowy before coming into rescue

Snowy before coming into rescue

So then when another lady messaged to say she’d been living in a garden in S8 for quite a while, needed to get in out of the cold, and was off to the vets on Monday to check if she was chipped and had a human out there (though she doubted it) we said she could come and stay with us after the vets if she had nowhere to go.

And THEN Snowy messaged us, pretty gutted, to say that his dreams had crashed, his potential adopter didn’t want him after all, and could he please come in.  We had to say “no” because we’d offered it to the lady who was going to the vet on Monday.

But THEN, Monday came and went and the S8 lady didn’t get back to us.  If she had we’d have picked her up from the vet on our way home from work and she’d be here and safe.  Because she didn’t, we went back to Snowy and re-offered him the space.   I hate this kind of chaos… but so often people contact rescues wanting “urgent” rescue space, then resolve the problem in whatever way, and then never bother to reply to rescues offering help.  With so many cats needing care we just have to move on to the next one.

We went out to pick Snowy up on Tuesday evening.   He was obviously anxious, and had let himself go a bit since his human had been ill.  He got out of his carrier, cleared off and hid behind the chest of drawers in his room.

Then later (LATE) that evening we had a distressed call from a friend about a mum and her kittens who had been living rough.  A complicated discussion had occurred on facebook earlier, and a botched rescue plan which had left mum and kits trapped in a small carrier for several hours.   We were able to arrange to get  the little family safe overnight and I went up to collect them the following evening (Wednesday).   They arrived quite traumatised and terrified.  Sadly there is a fourth kitten who is still at large out there as he couldn’t be caught … so we’re still waiting for him… and will obviously need to slot him in if (please god) he is found.

new arrivals before they arrived

THEN the S8 lady who had been living in the garden got in touch with an update of her vet trip, revised to Friday this week. Heartbreakingly I had to say “no” to her and suggest other options.

THEN on Thursday we had a message about mum and 6 kittens living rough in another garden.  The finders planned to adopt the mum but needed rescue for the kittens.  My immediate response was to think “no”!  But as rain lashed against the window of my office and I turned the heating up … and thought of tiny ones living outdoors.  Another 6 would only take us up to the 9 I was expecting last Friday, and maybe more confident kits would help the terrified ones.  So we offered a space but then the finders didn’t seem to be proactive in responding / arranging to get them here.  I set a 10am deadline for Saturday after which we would cancel their rescue place. And since we’d been thinking that we could fit another 6 kittens in, maybe we could use that space to bring in the S8 lady who was living outdoors.   The deadline passed, various other “urgent rescue space” messages flashed through (two 10 year old cats about to be put to sleep because “owner” had had a baby; 3 young cats (one of them disabled) …  being given their marching orders because “owner” having another baby all considered … these are just the local ones)  but we decided the best option would be to offer to the S8 lady.  I was on the edge of writing to her when the 6 kittens messaged to say they were now 5 and could they come tomorrow?

It’s still touch and go whether the “6 now 5” kittens arrive, but the S8 lady has revised her vet trip while Wednesday.  I’m writing this not to criticise anyone … we all have pressures and limitations and lives outside of cats (um … well most people do) …. but just to give you an idea of what sometimes goes on behind the scenes with rescue.  I try to do the best I can with the ones who get here, and not think too much about the ones who don’t.  If I did I’d go completely crazy 😦

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

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