getting back to ‘normal’

The seemingly endless building work is within a cat’s whisker of completion.  I’d sort of envisaged a completion date, a pause and then beginning to think about admitting cats again.  Of course it didn’t work quite like that.   Three weeks ago we got a message asking if we could take one small kitten in, and Basil became our first admission since the start of the building work.

He was clearly a character from the start.  Very sweet, very loving, very keen to be friends with the other cats.  The other cats were nowhere near so keen to reciprocate. Jenson, being a very kind boy went to play with him and played carefully, allowing for the fact he was smaller, whereas Rufus rolled him around the floor like a rat he’d just caught.  After a bit of a family argument in which Honey complained bitterly about being expected to care for all the kittens every time  just because she’s the only one who  has actually had kittens …. Henderson grudgingly stepped in.

We mentioned the chance arrival of Albie in our last blog. His entrance was as different from Basil’s as it could possibly be.

Terrified and wanting nothing to do with nobody.  Which made the vet run a few days later quite interesting. [As an aside, I’m reflecting on the way in which the passage of time renders/condenses the event into this single adjective. The sleepless nights beforehand, planning, worrying, making a plan B and C …. and D. The tension of the day which coincided with Uncle Alan coming to install the webcam. The frantic wall of death /window of pee scene and his eventual capture. Congratulations go to Alan who has installed far more cameras than he could ever count … but never one quite like this.]

Very grateful to our vets for keeping Albie overnight to neuter in the morning rather than our having to face trying to catch him again for another vet trip.  Not neutered, not chipped, coat full of matts, and enough passengers on board to start a small zoo.  We hoped he’d settle a bit when he came home from the vets but he’s determinedly hiding in his cat tree when there’s any sound of people around.   We only know he comes out thanks to Uncle Alan and his brilliant webcam.    Within the house we can watch a live stream of what’s happening in his room.  Everyone else can see a still shot taken every few minutes on our website here: http://www.8livescatrescue.org/content.php?page=cam

We stepped up another gear again when Caramel and her kittens arrived. Again not really ready to start taking more cats in but when a rescue friend pinged me and asked if we could somehow squeeze them in ….. well …..

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Lovely little family but they’d been living outside and not cared for. Caramel had ear mites and kittens had eye infections. Off to vets and back with eye drops, ear drops etc. Poor kittens it feels like every time I see them I’m inflicting some medication on them. First the frontline spray, then 3 days of panacur paste to worm them, then 6 days of twice a day eye drops and its almost time to start worming them again.

They’re certainly looking better for it though.

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all in a day off

Like everyone else we look forward to the weekend and a couple of days off work.  Sometimes though I wonder how ‘normal’ people do weekends.

We woke early …. middle of the night sort of early … to cries from Rufus saying he was locked in the bathroom.  He’s obsessed with the washbasin and spends hours in there.  The other attraction is that the kittens favourite toys … the ones with long strings that say “only under supervision” are stored away safely in there, wound around the hooks on the back of the bathroom door.  He never learns that as he jumps up trying to get them he pushes the door closed and locks himself in.

Kind of aware as I woke again in the morning that there were fewer paws thundering around than expected.  Rufus playing with Basil but no sign of Jenson.  Sometimes Jen sleeps downstairs so I wasn’t too worried but then when I got downstairs there was still no sign of him.    Then I remember that on Friday evening they’d been playing in the extension.  The plasterer had run his power cable through the cat flap thereby wedging it slightly open.  I’d removed Flipper from there a couple of times and Jenson once.

but when I looked in there there was no sign of him. Great! He’s with us for months, finally find him the purrfect new home to go to …. in a couple of hours time ….. and he’s AWOL. Move all the builder’s stuff that’s piled against the door and go in to make sure … maybe he’s got out of the cat flap that goes from extension to outside …. but I’m certain its locked … and it’s the thumb proof version after Flipper managed to open the normal locked ones. I finally find Jenson cowering and terrified behind a sack of plaster. No photo of this … we were both to anxious to do photos .. no idea how many hours he’d been stuck in there terrified. He looked like he did when he first arrived here though. Such a shame when this was his adoption day and he’d made so much progress.

Jenson on arrival in rescue

He comes out and has some breakfast and we’re back on track. Except Amber doesn’t seem very well. She’s our semi feral who can’t normally be touched. I go to look at her and she lets me stroke her. Is this good? Stress again and no photos. All fed watered and cleaned we go off to new home with Jenson. That goes well. Lovely family, excited though slightly nervous Jenson.

I get back home, call Henderson and there’s no reply. Grab some lunch. Call Hendo again and still no reply. He was like this when he first started going out .. but of late he’s normally appeared when called. Drive to Doncaster with new but broken TV. Suspect it’s been weed on (not to point the finger … but 99% of weed on things around here are courtesy of Hendo)… but still under warranty … and it appears that although I bought it from well known electrical store 5 minutes down the road from me, if its broke it needs to go an hour down the motorway.

Coming back there’s more animal stress and for once not from cats. A regular motorway commuter I’ve seen the triangle warning signs with deer in them daily for years … but in 30 years never any sign of deer. Today I’m driving home, musing about adoption plans for Jasper & Basil and suddenly 2 deer (young or female) charge out into the road ahead of me. I’m in the left lane …. I see one first …. dashed into the middle lane, panicked, turned around to run back in front of me towards hard shoulder again. I swerve towards hard shoulder to avoid him/her, only to have second one set off from hard shoulder in front of me. To my amazement I manage to slide between the pair of them. I don’t want to check rear view mirror to check other drivers been so lucky .. but I have to. Thankfully and incredibly we all came through this unscathed.

Get home, call Hendo again … and this time he appears. Collarless, with bits of fur missing, growling and seriously not happy. He slinks off into his bed and refuses to let me examine him properly. Very unlike Hendo he refuses food. I note that its just vet closing time … and have flash backs to Jango being ill 3 weeks ago at vet closing time.

I try again to not panic. Make a coffee and try to chill a bit. Then facebook pings: “Hi, I’ve got the stray caught” . To understand this message you need some background. On Thursday a friend tagged me on a facebook group post because someone was giving away some free cat food. By the time I saw it someone else had claimed it saying they were feeding a stray. One thing led to another .. a trap was borrowed ….. and …..

He’s safely here and hidden himself now. From the smell we’re pretty sure he’s an unneutered tom but not really in a position to check yet.  Meanwhile … Hendo is feeling a little better … still growling …. still in his bed … but agreeing to eat specially cooked chicken …. so hopefully don’t need another trip to emergency vets.  Amber also eating chicken so maybe she was just a bit overwhelmed by all the building work and ok really. We’re trying to make arrangements for Jasper (in foster care) to meet Basil (in our care) to meet as they may have a home together ….. long complicated story which we’ll share another time. At the same time Jenson is messaging as he’s met his step rabbits … half sibling adoptive rabbits ….. there’s not a simple relationship word to use.

I love the weekends but sometimes look forward to Monday so I can go back to work for a rest

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A voyage to hell ….

Last week and Easter were pretty good. The building work, although going on a little longer than expected is going well and showing signs of nearing a conclusion. Our main decorating project – the cat bedrooms – is finished and we’ve enjoyed having time to do more serious tidying and sorting than is normally possible when all the rooms are full of rescue cats. Last Saturday was a day for gently pressing on with this kind of sorting. We had a bit of a lie in, then up and fed everyone …. except Jango of course because he always stays in bed in a morning. Did a bit of painting that needed doing in the bathroom, gave Jango another nudge afterwards but he purred and curled himself up again. Had some lunch and then started tidying the bookshelves in the lounge. Gave Jango another nudge, more purrs and little stretches and settling down again. An hour or so later same thing repeated. If it were any of the other cats I’d have been concerned hours ago … but Jag can snooze all day and not bother about food – defying me to complete my mission of changing the duvet cover on the bed. Come tea time though …. and he still wasn’t out of his igloo …. alarm bells started to tinkle.

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I hauled a very reluctant ginger tom cat out of his igloo. He looked sleepy and uncertain … and then vomited all over his hands. I lifted him down to clean him, he swayed, staggered and fell over. My stomach lurched, my mind raced, the tinkle of alarm bells sounded more like a campanologists convention. After a quick phone call we’re on our way to the emergency vets.

Both human and animal A&E are unique kinds of spaces where the private becomes public. None of us make plans to be in an emergency department. We don’t dress for the occasion and for most of us there isn’t the time or the strength to assemble a public face, so emotions pour out. Bathroom paint up my arms, and grubby jeans from cleaning …. I made a brief and intense friendship with another woman. We sobbed, each with one arm round the other and the other arm holding a very poorly cat.

It’s very different from going to your own vet. They were reasonably kind but its not like having the vet you know. Also the consultation almosts starts with the acknowledgement that this may end in cat being put to sleep. An hour after I’d been thinking he was just being a lazy lump this is one hell of a shock. Jango was admitted and put on a drip. Initial indications were that he’d had something toxic. I spent the next 36 hours desperately trying to think what it could be.

Awake all night awaiting the next phone update. The sweet placid cat who had been too poorly to protest felt a little better when he’d had some fluids and became the patient from hell, obstructing all efforts to take blood and monitor him. I think the plan had been for him to stay through Sunday and go to our vets on Monday. However when I went in to visit him on Sunday lunch time they took their chance of him being calmer whilst I was there, checked him over, took his drip out, and sent him home with me.

Jag poorly … me shattered

It was lovely to have him home …. but very scary. No real idea what was wrong, clearly still poorly and not eating. And of course, still anxious as hell about possible toxins. Being very cat focused around here all our cleaning products are cat safe and anything that may be dangerous is well out of the way. We have a building site outside but our lovely builders assured us nothing toxic. Another night with no sleep. This time because cuddling him and desperately trying to get some fluids down him. Serious roller coaster night. His breathing not right and he was twitching in his sleep at 11pm and I thought he was going to die. At midnight he was awake and purring and showing a little interest in food ….. though he didn’t actually eat anything. At 3am we lay on a duvet on the lounge floor together – Jango purring away whilst I talked to him about how we first met and the various things that had happened in our life together.

Slowly counting the hours until our own vet opened on Monday morning. Such a relief to be back with people we know He laid quite lifeless on Dr Tim’s table. And was admitted again, on a drip again ….. and the patient from hell again once he was rehydrated. The difference being that our vets know him a little, and know me and have the patience and kindness to stick with it.

I’ll not detail the entire week. Save to say we descended further into hell for a few days. Tests came back negative … which was great …. especially the one that indicated it was nothing to do with toxins … so I could let go of my guilt that this had happened just because I hadn’t protected him and the fear that the others could ingest the same thing and also be ill. Presumably … and normally …. one might be relieved to be told that your loved one didn’t have a particular illness … but once you’ve ruled this that and the other out just WTF is it?!

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Our vets have been brilliant at allowing me to visit at teatime when things are quiet. Then again, if I’m stroking him he’s not biting them. Wednesday’s visit was hard. No better really, no diagnosis and the tone gently changed from positive that at least he was stable .. to introducing questions as to where we draw the line about treatment. First round of blood tests shown nothing conclusive, neither did Xrays or scan. Do we go to the stage of opening him up just to rummage around and see if there’s something we can find .. possibly something we can’t treat? Quietly cuddling him and deciding that that would be where we’d draw the line. We passed the line with our precious Midgecat and regretted it later. Seriously low point, stroking, cuddling, half already saying goodbye. Then Dr Clare came in with the next batch of blood tests still hot off the press from the lab. Very clear indication it was pancreatitis. It’s nasty …. but clearly not as nasty as what she’d thought it might be. A treatment plan is quickly formed. At 17:12 Jag has a strong painkiller that we’re told will take about half an hour to take effect. At 17:20 Jango starts being interested in food for the first time since last Friday. He wants the lick e lix treats I’ve been trying to wipe round his mouth to lick off. He demolished the whole treat and then shows interest in some of the real food. The nurses have provided him with full tapas selection – various wet food, some dry, some fresh chicken. He tucks in slowly and steadily until the drowsiness of the pain meds kick in and he drops to sleep

I’ve had to take emergency leave from work because I’ve been so distraught I wasn’t fit to work. Feeling and looking like something that’s dropped out of a nightmare most of the week. Some of the thoughts and feelings are hard to admit to. Leaving him at the surgery overnight with no staff on duty is hard. Each morning felt like a Schrödinger’s cat experiment … until I phoned to see how he was he may be alive or dead. Part of me just wished he’d die … just to put an end of the nightmare of the fear I’d lose him. If you’ve not been there it might sound callous … if you have … then maybe you know. Part of me to my shame wished it was another cat and not him. For a day or so I just couldn’t bear the other cats around me. They were fed and cleaned but just unbearable to interact with them. I was furious and envious of the people who neglect their cats and yet they survive. Henderson for example – dumped at the roadside and left for dead – a day on a drip at the vets and ready to take on the world again. While I was sitting with Jango I got an email on the rescue account: Subject: “unwanted cat”. Someone threatening to have a young cat put to sleep if we didn’t take her. Her crime? Using the garden as a toilet. How I restrained myself I’m still not sure.

flipper has missed him

Things have improved since Jango had a diagnosis. Sadly his feistiness with vet staff grows in direct proportion to his recovery. Thankfully their care and commitment doesn’t waver.  I really couldn’t imagine a more lovely team of nurses, vets and admin staff.  He’s coming home tomorrow afternoon. Partly because he’s feeling better, partly because it’s weekend and bank holiday and our vets will be closed. I’m delighted and relieved .. and terrified. What if I can’t get food / fluids down him or medication into him? What if I miss signs that he’s going downhill? What if I see signs he’s going downhill and he has to go back to the emergency vets where he already has a bit of a bad reputation? What happens when I go back to work?

It will be good to have him home though. In a multicat household I’m conscious of doing a regular head count to check they’re all present and safe. I’ve become aware of another less conscious count but much more frequent. You know how you become more aware of how often you check the time when your watch/clock is broken? It’s something I first noticed when our beloved Sooty died. That internal intuitive alarm rings loudly several times daily …. “THERE’S ONE MISSING ….. THERE’S ONE MISSING” quite separate and regardless of the conscious mind’s knowledge of the reasons why.

big softie that the vets don’t see

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at sixes and sevens

Our 6 cats became 7 as Jenson returned from his foster home last weekend. It should be easy to manage really … we’ve had over 20 cats here at peak times in the past, though with builders around it’s a bit more challenging.

All you need to remember is that 2 of them must not be allowed outside at all, another can be allowed out but isn’t able to use the cat flap to get back in and tends to wander off. Another is able to use the cat flap, but only one of the available flaps, she’s scared by the noise of the other – hence us having two. However that flap is the one that another cat can open when its supposed to be locked on “in only” …. so it has to be completely locked, but only after scaredy cat has come in.

None of the cats should be allowed out whilst we have builders here … not without checking that it’s going to be safe for both parties. The builders have been very careful with cats and doors but you do need to have an eye to the fact that they unplug the plug in flap to thread their power leads through. That’s the flap that doesn’t have a two day microchip scan, so tends to be locked on to “in only” permanently so no one gets out who shouldn’t be out. A slightly wedged open cat flap with power leads running through it is an open door to feline adventure. Which means that mostly all the cats need to be kept out of the kitchen whilst the builders are there so they don’t slip out of the flap .. and the ones who aren’t allowed out at all need to be kept out of the lounge too so they don’t rush through into the kitchen when I open the door. Oh …. and did I say that if the flap gets unplugged it reverts to being open to anyone and everyone both in and out! So you need to check that before allowing anyone with restricted access into the kitchen at the end of the day.

Got that? Good. That’s the easy bit.

Now to sort out the food. Whichever room / group of rooms a cat ends up spending the day in, they need to have access to food, water and litter tray. One of them seems to need lots of food regularly available as we believe he’s on the edge of thyroid issues. Another needs to have just special gastro food for his food allergy. So he needs to not eat anyone else’s food or have his food eaten by them. At the same time he doesn’t want to be shut in on his own. Ideally he needs to have an exclusive litter tray so we can see the ‘results’ of various different diets. Another has a short term tummy upset.  A couple of the others ask for food then when we put it down walk away, asking to see the menu to re order.   Another is a big lazy lump who waits until he’s really hungry before wandering into the kitchen.  We have covers to put over all the food bowls to limit access to forbidden foods .. but then one of them likes to pick food out of the bowls and bat the biscuits around the floor, losing them in obscure places all over the house … of course to be found by the one who shouldn’t be eating them.  They all want to eat when they want to eat .. and to take their time over a meal.   They want the food so I remove the cover ….. they change their mind …. I cover it up …. they change their mind again …  repeat …… +++ ….. x7 cats.

So long as that’s all sorted there are just a few other things to take into account:

One of them is semi feral and cannot be picked up, herded or otherwise induced to move from one room to another.
Another isn’t feral .  …. but is very skittish if being chased …. so ditto the above.
The two younger ones are a pain to the older ones and must not be shut in a room with them.
The two younger ones also fight with each other
One of them has a tendency to spray and pee more or less anywhere if there isn’t a clean litter tray within paws reach.
I have a day job
I need to retain some sanity.

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Henderson abroad

Henderson has been with us a while now … how long I’m not entirely sure without checking our records.  It sort of feels like furever but he wasn’t here at Xmas … so maybe not. Nevertheless there’s been enough time for him to arrive here apparently on death’s door, rally round sufficiently for it to be sensible to microchip and vaccinate him, take him for his second vaccs 3 weeks later … and that still seem like quite a while ago.

He’s made himself at home … and is a much loved resident, despite his rather unreliable grasp of litter tray etiquette. He’s mostly been content to just snooze and eat …. and cuddle but started to show some interest in the outdoors a couple of weeks ago. It is quite literally a building site out there so not entirely easy to let him begin to explore.

henderson asking jango how the cat flap works

We decided that the safest way would be for him to borrow Rufus’ jacket.

As a back up, Flipper was unusually helpful and definitely on his case. As soon as he was out the door she flanked him and began showing him around. It was so sweet to see her keeping an eye on him, even when she started to be a bit more subtle about it.

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He enjoyed it …. so we repeated it a couple of days later and then last weekend while it was nice weather we decided he’d come out jacketless and help me clear the shed. We don’t normally use collars but we have some special ones with our phone number on expressly for the purpose of letting rescue cats out for the first time – kindly donated by Kitty Collars.

The plan initially went well and although he wasn’t terribly helpful with the shed he stayed close and supervised. Then the next time I turned round to look for him he was gone. We’ve all been there … letting cats out for the first time. The logical part of me has learned that they usually disappear for a few hours and then they saunter back as though nothing has happened. The feeling part of me is nevertheless worried sick. The therapist part of me watches quietly as head and heart battle it out, with the dice heavily weighted towards the heart.

I learn by experience that Henderson is not an easy name to shout multiple times in succession and reflect on my choice of simple two syllable names for my other cats. I plod up and down my own road and the one that backs on to ours, calling and peering into gardens. I berate myself for not having made a more careful assessment of what i suspect is partial deafness. Then again … any auditory assessment of a feline has to allow for selective deafness. Our old Sooty (RiP) could be oblivious to me hoovering round him, but hear the fridge open from 3 gardens away.

Flipper and Honey picked up on my anxiety and decided to join me in the search. Flipper chattered loudly and excitedly each time I shouted, drowing out any possibility of hearing a reply from a disorientated Hendo. Round the corner we were joined by a couple of other friendly cats who wanted to know what all the fuss was about and the daughter of a friend. I began to look like the Pied Piper and neighbours would point behind me if I explained I’d lost a cat. Then the big bully tabby from up the road joined us and Flipper stopped in a garden to argue with him. Honey and the two hangers on set off back towards home and then we encountered another neighbour with his dogs.  Traffic was temporarily halted while the crowd was dispersed and cats were posted to safety through hedges.

Henderson was still not found. Difficult to get on with anything with the worry of that,  but I’d force myself to do something for 20 minutes before repeating the search circuit – back bedroom window to check gardens, front bedroom window to check road, up my road, back down my road, round the corner, up the next road and back down. Strepsil to soothe the throat. Clamber over the building stuff in garden to check bits I can’t see from bedroom window.

And finally … at the end of one the circuits, Flipper shouting excitedly. I follow her and there’s Hendo at the bottom of the garden. With some effort I suppress the traditional greeting for a lost loved one … you know the “where the hell have you been …. don’t you think I’ve been worried sick ….. etc”

Poor lamb …. he was exhausted after his adventure and just crashed on the table. Flipper still wasn’t taking her eyes off him though.

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Spring Newsletter 2017

When I began to think about writing this newsletter it felt there was little to say. The last 6 weeks have been consumed by our long awaited building work so its kind of felt like that’s all that’s happened.

 

However, scrolling back through posts over the first 3 months of this year I find the picture is more complicated than that – Henderson for example.

Henderson arrived in January, during that period when we’d resolved to not take in any more cats. When we heard that he’d been found half dead at the side of the road though, we went racing over to get him. After causing a lot of worry in his early couple of weeks with us he’s emerged as an adorable purry elderly gentleman.   His only (ONLY?!) fault is a tendency to pee everywhere. He’s been neutered of course and can use the litter tray some of the time. He even appears to have understood that we tend to frown on this behaviour …. but sometimes its just too tempting …. or maybe he forgets and is only reminded when I leap up squealing HENNNNNNNNderSONNNNNNNNNNNN!!!.   Fortunately for him we love him anyway and he’s slotted in happily with the other residents. Given his age and health / behaviour issues will probably stay here for the rest of his life.

 

Speaking of Hendo …. reminds me to tell you about our ….

Cards

Our fabulous fundraiser Jenny has been creating and selling some lovely cards for a while now and making some welcome money for 8 Lives.   Card sales have gone to a whole new level since Christmas though with a few talented supporters.  First Victoria Butterell a local artist approached us with the offer of one of her designs to sell to support 8 Lives.   We arranged a launch at our favourite Rileys & Co  and a friend of theirs Christopher Carter  came to take the photographs.

Our very own Rufus attended the event as he rarely passes up an opportunity to go to Rileys.  The next thing I know, he’s arranging his own personal photo shoot with Chris.   A lot of the photos made us say “awwww” but this is the one ultimately chosen to go on a card.   In the background is the chair I used to sit in to give him his bottle when he was tiny,

We had another addition to our collection from Gale, one of friends at Rileys.    She drew and painted this gorgeous picture and donated it to us for fundraising.

These are all available at Rileys & Co and Pet Company pet shop on Abbeydale Road …. and a few other places.

We’ve had heart break and heart warming stories …..

Poor old Tippy our stray visitor only allowed himself to be caught when it was too late to help him.   A frantic dash to Vets Now one Sunday afternoon only led to a night time / nightmare call requesting our permission to put him to sleep as he continued to deteriorate and was in distress.   The heartbreak was eased a little by the amazing care from Pet Cremation Services .  Jody who manages the service is tremendously kind and respectful of the animals who come to her.   The fact that Tippy was a grubby old tom cat was irrelevant …. he got all the love and tenderness that our precious Sooty got almost exactly a year previously.   Here he is in happier times in the garden with our Flipper.

Our heart warming story is of Daisy Mae who came to us just before Christmas, and was mentioned in our Xmas newsletter.   She’s an older girl who unlike Tippy was very healthy .. but had been threatened with being put to sleep because she was being made homeless.  She moved out of here into foster care as the building work started.   This more or less coincided with half term and grandmother coming to visit in her foster home.  One thing led to another …. and at the end of the holiday she packed her bags and left with grandmother for her furever home.    Nice one Daisy Mae.

And the BIG NEWS  almost at the end ….

Because we got it after we’d written most of the newsletter …  Our second attempt to register as a charity has been successful !!

Obviously it has to be a stringent process, but its proved to be a bit of a nightmare getting all the ducks in a row to satisfy the charity commission.    Our previous attempt failed when they didn’t like the layout of our accounts (but couldn’t quite tell us why), we had one part of the document naming us 8 Lives and another 8 Lives Cat Rescue, and a date missed off one of the multitude of signatures required.   It felt infuriating and petty at the time, but now its all gone through it feels like we won it fair and square 🙂

And Finally …..

We have another fundraiser planned ….. Friday 9 June at Rileys & Co.  at  7.30pm .  It’s mainly about music and fun.  We have the amazing Peter Fagerlind on piano and the wonderful Octogenesis  It was well set to be a fabulous evening to start with  ….. but now we’re celebrating our Charity Status too ……. just WOW ….. don’t miss it!    For more details keep an eye on our facebook fundraising page , drop in to Rileys  Co  or email us at eightlives@outlook.com

Henderson

Henderson has rather overdone it with the celebrations … but who can blame him. Without 8 Lives he wouldn’t be here.

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random reflections on mother’s day

Had a lovely Mother’s Day with flowers and a card from the furry ones. It’s an odd sort of feeling to receive something like this for the first time at my time of life.

The notion of our pets being our children is something that is fiercely and often unkindly debated elsewhere, and not something I want to stray into here. One thing I’m clear about is that my cats are not child substitutes in the sense of being second best to having human children. Yet as we go about our lives together in the same house they feel like family, and evoke the maternal care (and frustration) that may have been given to children had life been different.

They’ve certainly pulled me into baby things that I’d never expected. Sleepless nights and kitten formula …..

max after his 2am feed

Juggling work with fur care

having to take them everywhere

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bathing

And then the arrival of Henderson sent us into the nappy aisles in the supermarket. A desperate (and ultimately flawed) attempt to manage his confusion and weak bladder led to us trying nappies, secured by baby vest.

It’s hard to convey in just one photo just how he felt about the suggestion …. but his face pretty much sums it up.

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Now we are Six

……… technically Seven I suppose if you count me … but mostly we don’t .

We’ve approached 6 from both directions:

Up from 5: Henderson has officially joined the ranks of our permanent residents. He’s so much better than he was when he arrived with us but he’s very elderly, not entirely well and has some behavioural issues. Not easy to imagine anyone wanting to sign up to adopt him. Having said that, he’s adorable in many ways – he loves his cuddles and rubs along reasonably well with the other cats.

We were a little concerned to find him like this shortly after we told him that he’d be staying here

Uncertain as to whether he’s giving thanks or praying for deliverance. Mostly he seems to be making the best of it though:

Down from 7: Jenson has gone to a foster home amidst sighs of relief from the other residents. He met the family he wants to live with last weekend, but we’re not happy with him being officially adopted until we’re sure he’s fully recovered, so he’s gone there on a foster basis. It was lovely to watch him playing with the human kittens there. They’re as boisterous and crazy as he is so we’ve every hope he’ll fit right in. He certainly got a warmer welcome than he gets from our adult residents when they’re trying to sleep and he wants to re enact scenes of bringing down wildebeest on African grasslands.

We’re hoping we’re about half way through the building work now, but less than half way through the decorating. It’s going to be a little while still until we’re able to admit any more cats however unlike A.A.Milne’s young character I don’t think we’ll be six for ever and ever.

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Stressful tails

In some ways it should be easier around here at the moment.  We’re down to only 7 cats, and all of them get along with each other … more or less.   There is the small matter of the building work though …… and a few other things …..

Flipper ….. just being Flipper

Day 1 of building work, the day after we brought Tippy’s ashes home, we were kind of ready for it and it was exciting.  By Day 2 I wanted to call it off.  I’d anticipated that the cats wouldn’t want to be in the kitchen right next to the noise and disruption, but hadn’t anticipated that the back door would be open much of the time, that it would be impossible to sneak between kitchen and lounge without cats getting through the door and hence outside under the diggers etc..  So then realised they would have to spend the time whilst the builders were here upstairs!  It’s not easy posting them all through the door at the bottom of the stairs without all the previously posted ones avalanching back down!  Even less easy doing it first thing in a morning with only one mug of caffeine on board.   The biggest challenge though is Amber, our semi feral cat.

Amber

Amber is loved to bits and has been settled here for years, but she’s not someone you can approach or touch … and most definitely not someone to be posted through the door at the bottom of the stairs.  I’ve learned to keep a look out for her and avoid walking towards her.   On the rare occasions I fail she goes into panic mode and cries pitifully with fear.  Rather than put  her through this I’ve taken to getting up in the middle of the night whilst she’s sleeping in my bedroom and  close the door at the bottom of the stairs so that she won’t go down.   We’re into week 3 of 7 with the building work now and so far so good with that one.

Honey the building inspector

It helps that the nights are getting lighter and there’s a little time to go outside after the builders have left and before it goes dark.  I’m not entirely sure how the builder’s would manage without Honey checking that everything is straight and in order.

Meanwhile the decorating indoors chugs along.  The little front bedroom is finished

and the back bedroom started.  It’s not great to have disruption indoors as well as outdoors but I’m anxious to get it all over in one fell swoop …. and it will be kitten season by the time the builders are finished so the rooms will be desperately needed.   It’s rare to have an opportunity to be able to move freely from one room to another without needing to keep cats behind each door.

I’d hoped after Tippy the worry and upset would be over for a while.  Sadly it isn’t.  I spent most of last weekend with an old friend and her very poorly cat, trying hard to make things better for him but eventually having to say goodbye to him early this week.   At the same time persuading Jenson to pooh into a pot in the hope of getting to the bottom (lol) of his tummy upset.   He’s managed to combine this with sending me out to check a family he thought he’d like to live with.   I’m delighted that he’s found the people he wants to spend furever with …. we just need to get his tummy fixed first.

Jenson has a home!

Then Jasper messaged us to say that life in his new home wasn’t working out for him and could he come back. It’s the first time this has happened and we’ve needed to take a cat back. I’m sure if he’d known how things were around here he’d never have asked! Thankfully though, since Daisy Mae had struck gold within a few days of being in her foster home, and gone off to her happy ever after, there was a foster space.

jasper

Then …. and on a selfish level so much worse than anything else …… our little Rufus is poorly. He’d been a bit hissy and growly and I’d put it down to stress of building work and of Jenson being a bit hyper and annoying with his random pouncing on people. Then realised Ru was growling at nothing in particular and his ears were hot. So off to the vets to find he has a raging temperature, sore gums and we don’t quite know what’s wrong. He’s had antibiotics and is on daily metacam. I’m managing to get him to eat and he’s alert. However he’s spending most of his time in bed at the moment and when he gets up he’s growling and hissing again. Clearly something is hurting.

At the moment he’s happiest with his uncle Jango (thanks Jag)

Just to add that extra frisson of excitement …. Henderson (now as well as we could have hoped he could be) is plodding around the house randomly peeing/spraying. Sometimes we confine him to his crate to stop it, sometimes he follow him around escalating the tension, sometimes we just give up and go with with the flow (ahem). There’s no escaping the fact that he’s a lovely old boy.

henderson

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Best laid plans

Our building work started on Wednesday so the plan last weekend and early this week was to take things steady, gradually moving furniture, acclimatising the cats to a new routine and bracing ourselves for the onslaught.   We were proud of having finally managed to say no to new arrivals …. leaving us with just 9 cats.

Daisy Mae managed to get herself a foster space with Xin & Xavier’s family, packed her bags and was evacuated on Saturday.   Jojo had bagged herself a nice new home and I took her there on Sunday.

So that left us with just 7 cats ….  the fewest we’ve had in I can’t remember how long.  Not only the fewest . … but 7 cats who all get along reasonably well, so none of them need to be in a separate room.  That got us to thinking …. what better time to attempt to decorate the ‘cat’ rooms.   Hmmm … you may say ….. a better time might be a time when there aren’t builders demolishing the back of the house, a time when everything else isn’t in chaos.  However, when the building is finished we’ll be coming into kitten season and need to have rescue spaces to offer.   So we completely emptied one of the rooms and piled everything in the other, cleaned and sanded and then  went to B&Q (other DIY stores are available)  to buy paint  ……

As I returned with said paint and pulled onto the drive anticipating late Sunday afternoon and evening decorating  my phone went PING ……

To understand this we need to back track to last Thursday.  In fact to really understand it we need to go further back .. and will do in another post.   Anyway ….. Thursday teatime I’m in the kitchen and Flipper shouts that there’s someone at the cat flap.  I go to see and its a sad little black and white face that I’ve not seen for months.  It’s Tippy …. a stray we’ve known and fed whenever he’s visited …. though his visits have been a bit random

tippy-flipper

Tippy & Flipper last summer

I rushed out to feed him and he quickly ploughed through a couple of pouches and a man sized helping of chicken. He’s never looked well but now he looked really poorly. He’d lost weight and his breathing sounded awful. I was desperate to get hold of him, get him indoors and safe, get him to the vets … but as ever …. when I went nearer to him he backed off. I didn’t want to try to grab him, fail and end up just depriving him of a much needed meal / scare him off from coming here again.

tippy-2

thursday night

I messaged another woman who feeds him to say how worried I was about him … but she said she’d not seen him for weeks. I kept looking for him over the next few days but no sign ….. until the phone pinged on Sunday.

He’d gone to see the other feeder and was even more poorly …… to the extent that she’d just picked him up and carried him indoors … and then messaged me.

tippy-on-way-to-vets

Sunday tea time is not a great time to have a poorly cat. I phoned Vets Now and rushed down there with him. They were pleasant and professional but its not like having your own vet in a crisis.  Tippy was put on oxygen and a drip because he was so dehydrated.   It was explained that we had the option of him being put to sleep straight away ….. or £700+ for his care overnight, then pick him up at 7.30am to take him to our own vets and start tests to find out what was wrong and treat him.

Gulp ….. we had to give him a chance ……. but that’s 6 months fundraising blown in one night.

Oh ,…. and yes … that’s the days decorating time blown too …. though in the scheme of it ….. priorities and all that. ….

Towards bedtime the dreaded phone call came.  He’s not getting any better with the treatment they’re giving and is starting to suffer.  I can appreciate the policy … but it was agonising to have to go through this conversation with the vet, and then have to confirm it all over again with the nurse.   I was surprised / shocked / heartbroken that having given consent they put him to sleep and he died whilst I was still on the phone.   Needless to say ….. I didn’t sleep that night.

I’d planned to crack on with the decorating after work on Monday ….. but instead had to go back to Vets Now to collect Tippy’s body.  And instead of painting on my day off on Tuesday I went over to the crematorium in Doncaster.   It’s not the place you’d want to need to go to …. but having had the worst happen to a loved animal, its the best place to be.   Jody is so kind and understanding, and the fact that he’s a grubby stray cat made no difference to the care and concern she offered.

tippy-at-crematorium1

He’s home now … in a little black cat casket like our Sooty’s.  At some point while I’m decorating I’ll paint the tip of the tail white.

sooty & tippy

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