Reach for the Sky(e)

I took Cloe to a foster home a couple of weeks ago so we were in the exciting position of having a rescue space available.  I realise as I write that I’ve not mentioned Cloe on the blog before.   She’s a sweet elderly stray who we’re pretty sure was dumped.  Her arrival was stressful and distressing through absolutely no fault of her own.  She’s a little sweetheart and is now living it up in the most lovely foster home she could have dreamed of and her story will be told one day.   As I was walking down the foster carers’ garden back to my car my phone pinged ….

Cloe settling in foster home

… It was a kind neighbour of an elderly lady who had sadly died the previous day, leaving a cat who needed a lifeline and a new home.  After checking that there was no one else who laid claim to the cat and that the lady’s relatives etc were in agreement that she came into rescue with us, we agreed to take her, checked she would be fed and safe for a couple of days and planned to collect her on the Saturday.

Saturday is often the day I take my own elderly neighbour shopping.    She’s about the best neighbour you could have but for the first 70 years of her life hadn’t been someone who had much interest in cats.  It’s kind of changed in the 10 years I’ve lived next door to her as she’s listened to endless stories about cats and saved her spare bits of meat and chicken for the poor felines trying to eke out an existence with a veggie human.  [Just to be clear … I’m veggie … the cats absolutely are NOT … but there aren’t any meat scraps coming off my plate for them.]   It goes without saying that Henderson adores her …. not only for the treats but also because a while back when he had an altercation with “The Cat up the Road” while I was out at work, our neighbour came round, armed with a large piece of strong cardboard, bravely fought on his side … and they won!  Anyway I digress.


It’s not a turn that most people’s lives take at rising 80, but my lovely neighbour got involved in the trapping of the Norton 4.  The N4’s garden was handily almost on route between here and Aldi … so it fitted in nicely to collect the trap on the way back from shopping.   It was a similar occasion with the arrival of Skye.  We’d done an Aldi shop but needed a few things from Sainsburys too and by the time we’d done it time was tight to get the shopping home and unpacked and back to collect cat.  So off we went together to collect Skye.   I’m telling you this just because it’s part of the story but also because people mostly assume that cat rescue people just do cat rescue and that’s what they’re paid to do.   The reality is that for most rescue people, other than ones employed by the big rescues, we’re fitting it in, unpaid, around our day jobs and everything else we need to do.

Anyway, we find the house and  I knock on the deceased lady’s neighbour’s door.  He answers and then goes to get his wellies and thick gloves.  Uh oh! ?  It transpires that his neighbour had been unwell for some time and hadn’t been able to keep on top of flea treatment … to the point that the carpet was jumping … hence the wellies.  I have a brief moment of wellie envy.  The house is rammed with a lifetime’s accumulation of stuff.  It’s heartbreaking.  Thankfully the neighbour has had the foresight to close the cat into a small ish room, though it was filled with plants and furnished with high shelves … which of course the cat was right on top of.  You know those moments when you wonder what you’ve let yourself in for?  Hats off to the neighbour who took responsibility with his thick gloves for getting the cat into the carrier – most people would have stood back to watch me struggle.

I wondered as I was putting the cat carrier in the back seat and putting her seat belt on, whether I should mention to my neighbour that the cat was bouncing with fleas, and on balance thought it was not the best plan.  She got very stressed about a recent mouse infestation which had affected several of our neighbours but oddly enough left us untouched 😉   Drove home.  Left cat in car whilst I got neighbour safely into her house, rushed home, guessed weight of cat and applied appropriate sized Advantage … sprayed RIP fleas on stair carpet and around car …. then gathered up the shopping and took it round to neighbour … praying that nothing had jumped into the bags.  Both very ready  for a coffee by then.   I love this “No Cat Cafe” just up the road – a haven in which to drink cat hair free coffee in peace 😉  We sat on the sofa and thanks to web cam were able to watch puss settling in to her new surroundings.


There was a little while where she explored her igloo, but soon was hiding up high.

It took a while to spot her.

She stayed up there and on other high shelves for several days.

She was clearly scared. It was a bit surreal to watch Finger .. one of the (used to be) very timid Norton 4 .. come into her room and try to reach her and reassure her.

Finger trying to help

As you can see … we fetched in a chair from the other room. I climbed to to see her, expecting to be hissed at or even swiped at. Instead she leaned into the strokes and cuddles, purring loudly.

The tricky bit then was avoiding her feeling all loved up, rolling over and falling off the shelf.

There had been some hope that she was microchipped and that that would give us a bit more info about whether she was spayed, her age … and her name! Once she was relaxed enough to cope with the scanner we checked, but sadly no chip.

Our vets guesstimated her age at about 4-5, shaved her flank and found a scar which we’re 98% certain indicates that she’s been spayed … but her name?! We tried to guess what an elderly lady might have called her cat. We thought of calling her after the elderly lady as surely at least it was a name she’d have heard and recognized – but then thought it might confuse her. We looked at suggestions for black cat names and witchy names, and since she loves to climb thought about names of famous climbers (other than Ivy! … we’ve already had an Ivy). We went above all that and thought of Sky as that’s about as high as you can climb. We added an e because she’s beautiful … like the island.

Welcome Skye x

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Facing our fears together

The Norton 4 and I have formed a close bond.  They arrived here in September having lived in a garden most of their young lives.  They’d been fed by a kindly neighbour but not had much human interaction, and were terrified.  It’s been a long slow process but by Christmas it was clear that they all trust me and in varying degrees are happy for me to stroke and cuddle them.

Fingers and Nancy are particularly affectionate

Dodger and Bandit are more wary.   Dodger is way bigger than his sisters but on the whole a bit of a wuss … maybe it’s because they push him around … girl cats can be very bossy.   I have a very strong sense that he’s a big soft tom cat waiting to happen though.   He was the last of the group to allow strokes, but now clearly enjoying them and wanting more, but not quite ready to risk it.  Bandit on the other hand was the first of the group to allow contact, but now seems to be the most wary.  Her weakness is chicken … which is perhaps how she was the first to be bribed when they arrived.  Dodger has never been one for chicken … he’s more a Dreamie man and is loving the Dreamie toy he got at Christmas from Jess his cat sitter.


What we’ve realised though is that although they’re confident with me, they’re not used to anyone else really and tend to hide when other people are around.  It’s understandable given that it’s just me that they see every day … but it’s not a winner in the adoption stakes.

I get where they’re coming from.   I’m not very confident with new people either.   I’d dragged every random visitor I’d had into their room to meet them briefly but it wasn’t going to be enough to help them.  So one evening over the Christmas holiday we posted on a local facebook group asking for help.  It was a bit of a weird request … asking random cat loving strangers to come over for an hour or so, sit with me in their room and just chat so they got used to other voices, and if they came out to interact at their own pace.

There was a flurry of interest which resulted in four serious offers and dates in the diary.    I think all 5 of us were anxious, though at least I was also hopeful and optimistic.

The first visit was less stressful for me as it was one of our adopters from years ago, Elisha & Ezekiel’s mum.   Nancy bobbed out to play a bit and even had a little stroke.  The others hid.

Second visit was a kind lady and her amazingly calm and lovely kids.  Norton 4 had never been matched by same number of humans in their room before so it was a big event for them.  Again Nancy popped out to say hello … and to the kids delight shot off after smelling mum’s feet 😉  I’m sure it was just the smells of other pets she’s picked up on her socks but it caused some hilarity.

Our third brave visitor also had a snuggle with Nancy but not much sight of the others.

I’m hugely grateful to these people who responded to our request for help.   Despite it looking as though nothing was changing, under the surface it was!  What I’ve consistently found with cats is that it looks like nothing is happening … and then suddenly there’s a shift.

Our fourth awesome guest managed to charm Nancy out to play very quickly, not surprisingly as Nancy had been the main meet and greet purrson previously.  That was lovely but not ground breaking.   However, it started to get more exciting when Fingers put in an appearance.   That was amazing.

It made my day really … huge progress. Then we noticed that Dodger was just visible around the side of the filing cabinet. That in itself was a big deal as he’s normally hidden much more securely than that.

I was blown away when he also came out to play. And then Bandit too … she gave up her rigid “in the corner behind the desk” hidey hole … and joined in the game.  Then Dodger was taking treats out of her hands and Finger was climbing on her lap like she was a long lost friend.

This is so exciting and hopeful for the future of these cats.  Their increased confidence was sustained when our adopter friend came for a second visit … the cats were markedly more outgoing with her too.   They’re still going to be a bit wary of new people and take some patience to gain their trust and confidence … but I’m sure once they’re settled in their new homes they’re going to be amazing.


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Seasons Greetings : nativity & pseudo nativity stories

I make no secret of the fact that one of my favourite things about Christmas is hearing from some of our previous guests and seeing photos of them happy and settled in their new homes enjoying Christmas. There’s little as wonderful as seeing the cat who arrived here filthy and scared, full of fleas and eye infections and goodness knows what else … now proudly posing by the Christmas tree, or sprawled on the sofa after too much Xmas dinner, or playing with their new toys as though nothing bad had ever happened in their lives. It makes all the evenings of rushing off to the vet after work, shit shovelling, ear drops etc worth while.

If you’ve been following our facebook page you’ll maybe have seen these photos and a little bit about the cats … there’s more of their stories here:  [Edit … I’ve decided to split this into more than one part as its a long read … just browse … enjoy the photos 😉 ]

Nala got in first to send her Christmas greetings


Nala came to us in the summer of 2014 … along with her three tiny kittens. She wasn’t much more than a kitten herself, but on her own and pregnant. She went inside a house and gave birth under a child’s bed. The lady of the house was pregnant herself and let her be whilst the kittens were tiny, but once they started moving around, and she herself had also given birth, she realised they needed to be safe in rescue.

She’s a lovely little cat who always takes time out of her Christmas to send us a photo x

The lovely E Team are also very reliable correspondents. These are four little boys who were born here in September 2015. Gorgeous lads all of them.

Their mummy, like Nala, was a pregnant stray. She arrived here shortly before she gave birth to the boys.

Not all the cats we take into rescue are pregnant … but it does seem that the ones who arrived here pregnant and brought their families up here are good correspondents. Take Betty for example:

Betty was heavily pregnant and living on the street close to a main road. She was so frantic to get help that she threw herself at our 8 Lives treasurer’s door and hung on until she was noticed. Our treasurer didn’t know she was going to be our treasurer at that point, in fact she’d never heard of 8 Lives. However she searched on facebook, found us and a few hours later Betty was settling into our maternity suite … aka my little front bedroom. She was clearly a first time mum, and didn’t know what to expect. She was so anxious about squashing her kits that she stood up to feed them for the first few days, trying to work how she could lie down safely without hurting anyone.

She’d got the hang of it by the time we took this photo. Lots of lovely things about this story. Once the kits were grown and adopted, Betty went back to the lady who had found her, the lady became a friend and our treasurer! And some of Betty’s kits still keep in touch regularly too.   Photos here of Betty now, and two of her lads who will be 4 years old this summer.

As I said … not all of our cats arrive pregnant. Here’s one who wasn’t but we thought was … Domino. I was at work one day towards the end of 2014 when I got a message asking if we could take a pregnant cat. Long story short we agreed that finder would drop her at our vets and I’d pick her up on the way home from work. It meant that the vet could examine her straight away. She did indeed appear pregnant on arrival … however on examination it turned out she was absolutely full of wind. We’ve no idea what had happened but she deflated slowly and odorously over the next few days. She’s a gorgeous cat, and seems to enjoy posing for the camera x

We had a similar sort of situation with Saffia who arrived in 2017.  I went up to a branch of PDSA in West Yorks to collect a cat and two tiny kittens, and was told the cat was already pregnant again.   She did indeed look rather round.  I took what they said at face value, popped them in the car, put their seat belts on and set off.    Something niggled me though.  I’m not great at maths, and doing it whilst negotiating the inner ring road of an unfamiliar city did nothing to help with that.  The kits were just opening their eyes, so must be about 10 days to 2 weeks old.  Cats are pregnant for 9 weeks and start to show about half way through.  So … um … that meant she’d got pregnant again about a fortnight before these two were born.  I know cats are prolific … but !! … we pulled into the next layby … called our own vets and went home via an appointment with them.

It wasn’t wind this time.  The vet got a very large bowl and gently squeezed her tummy.  We think she’d been anxious to leave her kittens, so she’d not been for a pee for several days.  To my knowledge its not a stunt she’s repeated.   Another lovely little family saved.   Saffia has kept in touch regularly and so have her kits.   The kits have been very excited about their human mum’s advent calendar … mum likes the chocolates but the kittens (not really kittens any longer) love the wrappers and even go into the wastebasket to retrieve them to play with.

We also heard from Tabbytha and Mowse … who are completely awesome.  Despite being feral/semi feral outdoor cats with no Xmas decorations or internet … they are  some of our best correspondents.  Mowse was a little over excited and out of focus this time.

Caring for these ladies back in 2016 was one of the most lovely experiences we’ve had at 8 Lives.   We responded to a plea to help someone on a farm way up in North Yorkshire who had been feeding stray cats, but hadn’t had them neutered as he was unwell, and was now terminally ill so could no longer feed.   I should add that other rescues helped with far more cats than we did … we just played a part.  So I arrived home with two very pregnant farm cats, in a chicken coop or something tied up with twine .. the way they’d been caught by farm hands, but before one of them had bitten quite badly.  You know those days when you wonder what you’ve let yourself in for?

I don’t know who was more scared of who at first, but we kind of rubbed along.  I was anxious about how each of them would be with the other’s kittens.  I’d thought I should perhaps separate them in case they attacked each other’s kittens … but they were obviously very attached to each other … so I put it off.   Birth is always a magical experience … but what happened here just blew me away.  Each helped the other with their births, purring and cleaning newborns as they arrived.  Then shared the feeding and caring of kits between them.  When Simon arrived in rescue, about 5 weeks old, found abandoned in a garden, they welcomed him into the family too.  He’s sticking out like a bit of a sore thumb here … but that was only for a day or so.

getting adopted into the family

Tabbytha & Mowse have found themselves a nice live in job as rodent managers in a stable in North Yorkshire. They didn’t stand in the way of their kittens becoming home cats. We still hear from Simon & Minnie (one of Mowse’s kits) regularly. They’ve recently had a human baby brother so are quite tired:

Hecate is another of our mummies who has sent greetings. She’s enjoying her first Christmas in a new home. Much of what that means for Hecate is that there is food … and no more kittens. Poor Hecate had lived rough for a while by a busy road in Sheffield. She’d had more than one litter of kittens (that hadn’t survived) already when she came to our notice. Thankfully someone alerted us to her plight when she’d just given birth to possibly her third litter of kittens. They were only a few days old when they arrived here this summer.

Hecate was understandably anxious about the intervention … given that her previous babies had perished. I can’t bear to think exactly what happened … and please don’t you imagine or it will give you nightmares too. The little H team grew up … they were harder work to socialise than Tab and Mowse’s kittens were …. but turned into lovely young men. Hecate was wary but found just the purrfect home where she could be loved and learn to trust again. For her the Christmas celebration was about realising just how much she’s changed over the past few months.


No account of our nativity stories could be complete without sharing Maya’s story.   It’s a sad and happy tail at the same time.  That also started with a phone pinging whilst I was at work .. pregnant cat living in outside toilet … can you help?


She arrived … pregnant, terrified … and poorly.   Lots of dilemmas about treatment.  She needs care, she won’t let us touch her, so she needs sedation …. but that could affect her unborn kits.  The upshot was that our vets saved her life.  However she came home from the vet, and gave birth to two premature kittens.  One was still alive.

Maya would have nothing to do with little Max … maybe she knew he was beyond hope.  We and our lovely vet nurses pulled out all the stops to give him a chance … but sadly he didn’t make it.  Maya wasn’t easy to care for … still very wary of people .. but slowly making progress.

Jenny our lovely fundraiser took pity on her and invited her home … just on a foster basis (ahem … that was 2015).  She’s gone from strength to strength since then.





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bits and bobs and bobbing along

Thankfully there’s been no great drama or headline new stories since the holiday. A lot of rescue is like this … damned hard work … nothing specific … just lots of it.

Everyone was concerned about Stanlie over bonfire night as he steadfastly refuses to come indoors. He clearly loves his foster mum and dad, enjoys fusses with them, and will come into the hallway to eat. He’ll even take the tablets for his sore feet more readily than many cats … but if the door is closed he can’t cope with it. He’s reliably there in the garden though, as I’ve found on all the occasions I’ve popped round to take anything for him. It felt awful him being out on bonfire night … but the options were limited. Thankfully he’s been using his outdoor shelter, packed with straw and in a sheltered spot between the garage and the bins. Even more thankfully, he turned up for breakfast on 6 November as though nothing had happened.

Since Merlyn went home with Jess the cat sitter we had space to take in more cats. The “more cats” turned out to be Bulan & Bintang … named with memories of holiday in the Far East. They’re brother and sister, older kittens who have been living in a garden over the summer and autumn but needed to come indoors now its getting colder. They’re sweet, loving kitties who are clearly very attached to each other.

Merlyn meanwhile is living the life in her foster home

The adorable Norton 4 continue to make progress. Bandit now appears for meal times as well as “chicken time”. The biggest excitement has been with Dodger. He’s always been more wary of touch than his sisters. The girls flock to me for strokes, and Dodge follows them … and then isn’t sure what he’s doing. I try to stroke him and true to his name he dodges out the way. However, he only goes just beyond arm’s reach, with his tail held high, and head bumps the nearest furniture, as though he’s just had a cuddle and enjoyed it. Since my holiday he’s been much happier with being stroked and doesn’t jump with every touch. He’s still a bit too dozy to get chicken treats … the girls always get there first.


The next challenge is to get them used to other people. They trust Jess too now, but anyone else and they go into hiding. So we’re commandeering all visitors to help them practice their meet and greet routine in preparation for meeting adopters. Even ‘Uncle’ Alan our IT expert who had come to fix the webcam in the other room was dragged in to sit with them for a while.

Alan checking the webcam

Our other strategy is for them to listen to the radio to get used to lots of different voices. I’m hoping it builds their confidence rather than gives them nightmares about Brexit and climate change. I may need to amend their adoption advert to request that potential adopters allow them to tune into “The Archers” if not daily then at least for the omnibus edition on Sunday.

Whatever … their confidence is growing. Fingers and Nancy are destined to be lap cats I’m sure.

Bandit is a lap cat in waiting … and I just have this feeling with Dodger that given the right patient purrson, he’s going to be a soppy loving tom cat.

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A proper holiday

You may remember the ‘holiday’ we had earlier this year … a couple of nights in an airbnb … with two hand rear kittens in tow.  It wasn’t planned like that.  The airbnb was lovely, and the kittens adorable … but relaxing holiday it wasn’t.


A couple of weeks ago we went off on a real holiday to visit our friends in Singapore.

Ms F


This is one of my hosts.  She’s a real sweetheart and made sure I always had someone I could play tunnels with if I was missing the guys back home.

It’s been touching to see Rufus forging a “smell pal” relationship with our other host.  They share annual olfactory messages via the suitcase.

We’re very fortunate that Jess from 3 Strings Pet Services was able to care for the awkward squad back home.  She cared for them during last year’s holiday and has been patient and resilient enough to continue to care for them when I’ve been working late throughout this year, and brave enough to sign up to a fortnight in full charge of them again.

I was a bit worried about how it would go with the Norton 4.  They’ve grown hugely in confidence with me, but tend to hide if anyone else comes in the room.  Jess had fed and cleaned an apparently deserted room several times prior to the holiday.  I wondered what would happen over the two weeks and if they’d lose the confidence they’d gained.  So I was delighted to get these photos part way through the holiday:

Chicken bribes had paid off and they were learning to trust her too.  Apart from just being relieved that they weren’t scared and miserable … it bodes well for them being able to settle with and trust adoptive families when the time comes.

My other worry was Merlyn.  When she arrived here I assumed that as she was still a kitten she’d adjust easily to being around the residents and have some company and the run of most of the house whilst I was away.  NO!  not having a bar of it.  She ended up on her own in the spare bedroom, which I felt awful about.  However Jess went above and beyond and took her home with her.  This clearly suited Merlyn very well.  She decided that although she didn’t like cats, she rather liked the resident dog.  Reading between the lines … I think she liked him rather more than he liked her.  She also became the sort of kitten who was happy to help with house work and took charge of the dishwasher.

Obviously it was the residents I was going to miss most … though I was less anxious about them in some respects.  They know and love Jess, and she knows their tricks and how they try to manipulate her.   I was relieved that there wasn’t a stand off with Jango (the scourge of cat sitters) this year.   She’s got Flipper’s number for diving up and downstairs to make sure she gets the best deal with food and treats.  Henderson fell just a little more in love.

It was lovely to have a break from them all. Part of the joy of it was anticipating the cuddles when I got home.

It’s taken some time before I’ve been allowed to move around the house without watched and escorted. I love these guys.

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The Norton 4

Let’s have a break from the Stanlie saga for little while and focus on the kits we trapped up at Norton a few weeks ago. [If you can’t quite manage without your Stanlie fix … he’s still around and ok .. bit up and down .. but we seem to slowly be getting there]

The Norton kits were terrified after we’d trapped them.   They arrived and stacked themselves in the darkest most inaccessible corners of the room that they could find.

We made a little progress through food bribes, though it was slow.   We were very conscious of not having been able to get close enough to them to establish genders.   A mathematician would be able to tell you an accurate probability that all 4 were the same gender and that we’d be safe from ‘teenage’ pregnancies.   It’s not impossible … all four of the H Team are little boys.   However Murphy’s Law strongly suggested that this would not be the case.  We knew little Nancy was a girl because she’s tortie.  Two of the others were her size and the fourth cat was much bigger.  I thought when I first saw them that the bigger one was mum … but was assured that mum was tortie and had sadly moved on.    They’re around 6/7 months old, the kind of age when you really see a difference in size between males and females, and I suspected we had a tom cat and his three sisters.  It would have been nice to allow them to settle for a few weeks and take them to the vet once they were calmer and more comfortable with being handled, but I feared the girls would be pregnant if we didn’t act quickly.

norton team feeding (8)

So we booked them in at our vets, two at a time, and booked for admission the night before the op because getting them into carriers was not a task to attempt on the way to work in a morning.   Both evenings were dramatic in their own way.  Even with two of us trying to catch them (thank you Fi) it was tricky.  We got Bandit and Nancy into carriers the first time round, and then had to manage flooded roads and backed up traffic to get them to the vets.  The second episode was on a lovely sunny day but was more tricky because we had to be more specific about who we caught, and we were after the two who had evaded the carriers the first time round.  Fingers was persuaded gently out of her hidey hole and into a carrier.  Dodger got heartbreakingly anxious and ran up the window and onto the curtain rail, howling as he went.   It was awful to have to pursue and eventually catch him.  There are no photos – too stressy and distressy to photograph.

Our suspicions proved to be right.  Dodger is a tom cat and the others are girls.  It’s a huge relief to have them all neutered now.  Huge thanks to all the lovely staff at Millhouses Vets4Pets for managing this tricky little crew.  At least now we can take our time building their confidence without worrying about there being more kittens on the way.

And their confidence is growing.   It’s awesome to watch it growing in different ways with each of them.

Bandit/Norton 1 in the order of trapping:  She hides when I go in the room more than the others.  At the same time, she was the first one I was able to persuade to take chicken treats from me, and the first I was able to touch.



She wasn’t the first one to enjoy being stroked, and still often hides when I first go in the room.  However once she’s out, especially if there is chicken involved …. she’s very purry and affectionate.


Nancy/ Norton 2 is quite definitely the most confident of them all at the moment.   She was the first to really enjoy being stroked.  Initially quite reluctant, then enjoying it but wary of the hand coming towards her, and then just loving it.   She’s fully signed up to head scratches, tummy rubs etc.

Fingers / Norton 3 was initially the one who hid the most, but recently she’s been out waiting for food, whilst Bandit has been hiding.  She really captured my heart the way she watched Nancy and Bandit being more confident.  She sat a way behind them, purring loudly as I stroked them … as though she was enjoying it by proxy.   It reminded me very much of a neuroscience seminar I attended some time ago which talked about mirror neurons.  These neurons fire when someone observes another performing an action, almost as though they themselves were doing it.  Sure enough … a few days later, Fingers started the process of warily letting me stroke her, and gradually building up to really enjoying it.  The video belongs to an early stage in this process.

Dodger/ Norton 4 is an interesting chap.  Going right back to the trapping stage, we felt that in some ways he was the most confident …. he was heading into the kitchen rather than the trap for food!  In other ways he’s the most wary.  He’s always there in the middle of the floor waiting for his food … he doesn’t hide.  At the same time, he seriously does not want to be touched.  He was the last to be trapped, the most difficult to get into the carrier to go to be neutered, and gave the nurses the biggest run around when he arrived.


He’s also extremely handsome …

but adept at dodging the strokes

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Stressful tails: the tough part of rescue (3)

We left part 2 of the Stanlie story with a cat flap swinging open, and no Stanlie.   I know the cat flap was locked when he arrived in his foster home because we checked it, and it was still locked from when we checked when Harold arrived.  We can only think that in his desperation to get back outdoors he’s banged and scratted at it until he managed to turn the dial and unlock it.

He had to get past the hoover too … but that’s nothing if you’re determined.  Needless to say, none of us had much sleep on Thursday night.  His foster parents were out with a torch while the wee small hours, foster dad out in the only slightly bigger small hours before his early shift.   I went over in the day time, walking round calling him, trying stifle my sobs as I shouted.  No sign of him, though a couple of kind people on the street offered info which suggested he was around.  Dad went out on his bike when he got home, and I went home to put together LOST CAT posters and alert all the lost and found groups and microchip people.

Sharing and networking into the night. … Which was fine because I wasn’t going to sleep.

Then mid morning … a message from Stan’s foster mum.  She’d looked out the window and out the corner of her eye had seen a cat who looked like Stan.  Running out the house in her sock feet she followed him down the road.  A more thorough search revealed that it wasn’t our Stanlie.  She looked around some more but then despondently came home….

….. To find Stanlie sitting on her front doorstep … asking where she’d been and what time breakfast would be served.

You know when things have felt so awful that life all kind of goes on pause, and into black and white?  Well, the life and colour started to flood back into mine the moment I got her message.  Whatever else was going on … Stanlie hadn’t fled in fear into unknown territory, and hadn’t set off over scary miles to find his familiar place.   He was safe and he was there.

And he stayed there … happily puttering between front and back garden … enjoying his meals.  No intention of coming back indoors …. no way.   It was clear that it wasn’t his foster parents he wanted to get away from, it was just being stuck inside that he didn’t like.

His room mate, Harold, was a little baffled.  He’d been told he had to stay indoors for a month in his new home, Stanlie had arrived after him and was already out exploring.

Although clearly very happy with his furever home, Harold started to question the door policy.

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Stressful tails: the tough part of rescue (2)

You may have read some of the saga of Stanlie in a previous blog post: long tail of Stanlie.   There have been a few chapters in the saga since then … and will no doubt be several more.

We left the story where Stanlie was enjoying his snuggles but spending the nights doing howl-athon laments about his captivity.  Behind the scenes we were also stressing waiting for his blood results.  His history and dermatitis strongly suggested he may have FIV.

We were surprised and delighted when Dr Tim called to say the tests had come back negative for both FIV and FELV.  Obviously the dermatitis was still there but that could be treated with a steroid injection once his primary course of vaccines was out the way.

The hissing settled and Stan was very affectionate with me.  I was delighted when a friend visited and he extended that affection to her too as it made it hopeful he’d be able to build a positive relationship with an adopter at some stage.

The long night time lament continued though.  I could completely see where he was coming from.  A cat who had been almost always outdoors and free, cooped up in a small room on his own most of the time.   Yes it was warm and dry and there was plenty of food, but that clearly wasn’t sufficient compensation.   It was only temporary … but of course there was no way Stanlie could understand that.   At the same time I was worn down with no sleep and wondering what on earth to do.  If he hadn’t needed to complete his vaccs and have his paws treated I may have just put him back outdoors and hoped our friendship hadn’t been permanently damaged by this period of captivity.

Then out of the blue, an email from Harold’s adoptive parents.  They’d been following Stanlie’s story and were aware that Harold and Stan had met on my doorstep some months ago.  They wondered if the boys would get along and if they might adopt Stanlie as well.   Hopeful but cautious I suggested they come over to meet Stan and see how it went.

A little to my surprise, but much to my delight, Stan was bowled over by the experience of having two other people fussing him at the same time, and clearly approved of them.  He wasn’t ready to be adopted until his health issues were sorted, but we agreed I’d take him over there on a foster care basis.   He’d have more space there and more time with people, and the prospect of a purrmanent home there if he and Harold hit if off.

It was a big step up for Stan.  If he’d ever lived in a home it wasn’t for a long time … and this was very different from the basic bedsit he had here in rescue.  So many new sounds and experiences.  It went along ok for a few days.  Stan was stressed as he had been here, and although I think it was for the best, the move had also upset him.  There were hopeful happy moments of snuggles and other times of hiding under the table being miserable (Stanlie that is, not the foster carer).  Then a message to say his foster carers were dismantling the kitchen because they were sure Stan was in there but they couldn’t find him.  They’d been really careful with doors, they’d had practice because Harold was still in his probation period and not allowed out yet.  It was a bit odd though that Stan hadn’t been out of hiding whilst they were at work to eat or use his litter tray.  Either he was fast jammed stuck under the sink or he wasn’t there.

Then … late that night …. the awful realisation.  The dial on the cat flap had been turned to unlocked …
and Stanlie was gone.

We’ve had some difficult, heartbreaking and stressful times here at 8 Lives over the years.   This without a doubt makes the top 5.  Had he just fled in terror, running blindly into an unknown area, with his poorly sore feet?  Had he set off to try to get back to his old stomping ground around here, a 30 minute drive away?   Had I put so many hours into gaining his trust over the last several months only to make life worse for him?  Would I ever be able to forgive myself?

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Tiny tails and stressful tails: the tough part of rescue (1)

It’s been a really stressful couple of weeks here at 8 Lives.

A couple of weeks ago while I was out trying to trap the last of the Norton 4  I had a message from someone over in Doncaster.  They’d found 5 tiny kittens dumped in a garden.  They were so newborn that their placentas were still attached, and no other rescue was responding to their pleas for help.  Horrendous as it is, we can only conclude that these tiny ones had been ripped from their mum before she’d even had chance to clean them and sort out the after birth.  I’m heartbroken and horrified to think what a state mum was left in, but don’t have the resources or authority to try to chase this up.

I thought there was no way we could realistically help but I messaged my rescue friend Fi just in case she might care for them if we offered rescue back up.  To my amazement she said yes immediately.  That’s an amazing and huge commitment for 5 newborn kittens!  Newborns need feeding every couple of hours at least.  With five the chances are you’ll hardly have finished feeding, toileting and cleaning before you need to start the next feed.   Add into that the need to sterilize everything, make up fresh formula, wash endless blankets and you can pretty much guarantee you’ll be meeting yourself coming back by morning.

We got things together to help, the woman who found them did her best to care for them in the interim.  People tend to assume that rescue is our job and aren’t aware that we have employment commitments that run alongside rescue.  Nevertheless we both managed to get away from work a bit early the next day to go over and get them.  It was an awful day for everyone concerned.   Messages coming in through the day as one after another kitten lost its fight.

When we set off we were going for three surviving kits, but by the time we arrived there were just two.

I called our lovely vets the minute we had them in our care and they fitted them into an appointment slot that they didn’t really have.   We dithered at the car, uncertain whether to put them in the carrier with their seat belt on for safety, or hold them on a lap and give them love.  On balance, weighing up the potential risks and rewards, we opted for lap cuddles and warmth.  I doubt the little tabby and white one would have survived the journey without Fi stroking her and rubbing her with a flannel and warming her.

Dr Tim gave them both some fluids as they were obviously both very dehydrated, and an injection of anti biotics since they’d had nothing of mum’s first milk to protect them.   They both perked up a bit and had a feed when we got back to Fi’s.

And then snuggled down for a sleep together.  Fi was all set to sit up all night with them.

I’d not been home long and fed and sorted all the cats here, when I got a message to say that the little tabby had lost her fight.  Really sad but if I’m honest, we’d been surprised that she’d survived long enough to get to the vets.  We had a bit more hope for ginger boy … he’d been more lively and kicking off a bit whilst waiting for his bottle.   A couple of hours later … the dreaded message …. he’d gone to join his sister at Rainbow Bridge.

The more years I spend in rescue the more I despair of people.  Their mum should be been spayed before any of this happened.  She was obviously an ‘owned’ cat to have her kittens flung into someone’s garden.  There are plenty of schemes for free or low cost neutering.  To cause a poor mum cat this distress … and have her possibly/probably go through it all again in a few months time … and leave tiny kittens in this state … is cruel and unnecessary.

The more years I spend in rescue the more amazed I am by people’s kindness.  Someone with no experience of cat rescue went and scooped these poor babies up and did her best.  Fi, who has lots of experience and certainly enough to know what she was letting herself in for, signed up to the task within minutes.  Our vets squeezed them in to a busy day and didn’t charge us.

Their foster parents buried them in the garden and marked the spot with this lovely little headstone.  Only a few hours in our lives but pawprints forever on our hearts.

You meet the best and the worst of people in cat rescue.

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We’re caught in a trap

Two or three weeks ago we had a message about a mum and four kittens in someone’s garden.  Initially we just said sorry we’re full and gave info about other rescues, but then we got on a bit of a roll with rehoming Harold and Isaac & Theo, so got back to the person to ask a bit more info and see if we could help.

When we found that they were in S8 and only a few miles from us we felt we had to at least do something to help. When we started as a rescue the intention was to be a rescue for S8 cats.  In practice it’s proved impractical to offer help based on post code, though we do try to go the extra mile for S8 cats.

The situation was a little unclear from the email, partly because the person asking for help was a neighbour of the elderly person who was feeding them.   I went up to take some food, and to get a clearer picture of the situation – age of kits, whether they were feral, whether mum was pregnant etc, and then see if we could get another rescue with more resources to help.

The first kitten I spotted I initially assumed was mum as s/he was bigger than I’d expected.  Much bigger!  It turned out that this was the biggest of 4 kits and that sadly mum seemed to have already moved on.  I fear to have her next litter of kittens and that this story will be repeating itself in a few weeks time.

The other three gradually emerged into my sight, slipping through the hedge and out from under shrubs as the elderly lady came out to feed them.  Very timid and no way they were likely to agree to climb into a cat carrier.

I’m normally quite clear that we don’t have the equipment or time resources to trap cats, or the appropriate accommodation to care for cats who have needed to be trapped.   However, we’d bought a trap a little while ago intended for Stanlie.  Then we’d then taken in Hecate and her kits, and by the time there was space for Stan again he walked in of his own accord.  Although the kits were very skittish they were clearly attached to the lady who had been feeding them, some were going into her kitchen to get food, some licking food off her fingers.  They obviously weren’t feral.

I heard the neighbours’ concerns about the stress the situation was causing for the lady.   After her promises to help, and my disclaimers about limited experience of trapping, can’t promise anything etc I went home to fetch some tuna and the trap.

We’d not had it set up very long when the hungriest kit went in.  I brought her home and took the trap back.

The neighbour set it again a couple of days later at the weekend, and amazingly another kit had trotted in.  I was helping set up tables for our fundraiser at Heeley Institute but the fundraising boss allowed me to go and get her/him 😉

It was lovely to see kit 1 and 2 reunited.  Kit 1 had hidden for a couple of days, terrified, but when s/he heard kit 2 arrive she came running out to see her.

I combined taking the trap back with taking my own neighbour shopping.  There was a vague hope that whilst we went round Aldi another kit would go in the trap and we could pick her/him up on the way home.  It almost happened like that …. except we were home and unpacking my neighbour’s shopping when I got the message that kit 3 was trapped.

Collected Kit 3, brought her/him home and went late to the fundraiser.


Kit 4 proved more elusive.  Kit 4 is the biggest one whom I’d initially thought was mum.  Ironically s/he seems the most confident … but that meant they wanted to go into the kitchen rather than the trap to be fed.  Spent Sunday tea time up there trying various strategies.  Kit 4 had the measure of me and was going to do b@gger all that I wanted them to do.

Spent quite a while walking up the road, sitting on walls, looking a big shifty, trying to pretend I wasn’t there to trap 4.  S/he having none of it.  Sitting on wall frantically trying to find help for someone who just messaged me about newborn kits dumped in a garden – but that’s another blog post.

Monday teatime proved more successful.  The neighbour set the trap and deftly caught 4 whilst I was driving home from work, so I was able to pick her/him up on the way.  Seriously hats off to this lady!  I was doubtful at first whether the promised help would be forthcoming .. but she was amazing.  I’m hanging on to her email address.  If we ever need to trap more kittens … she’s going to be our first port of call 😉

Hiding has been the main theme of the week.  So much so that I’ve had to pull the filing cabinet away from the wall as I was worried they’d be totally squished.

As the week as progressed we’ve gradually seen them more out of hiding.   Kit 1’s weakness is chicken, Kit 2 is tempted with toys.  K4 loves food generally and is more confident.  K3 is proving to be the most timid.

They’re of an age where they could do with getting to the vet to be neutered.  In the next week or two we need to either find out genders or just book them in as a box of mixed infants.  K2 is obviously female as she’s tortie.   Thank goodness we have such lovely vets who cope with our odd requests.






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