The Scoop on Your Kitty’s Litter Box – What They Want You to Know

Patchy playing in the litter box just after I added fresh litter!

Just Another Article about Kitty Litter…

Right?

No.

It’s all been written already. If you Google search “cat litter boxes”, there is probably a bazillion articles on the “best” way to set up their boxes.

So, instead, I decided to just share how I have mine set up, and maybe help you to understand, through our own human experiences, why your cat may not like using his litter box.

Inappropriate elimination and litter box problems are among the top reasons for pet cats losing their homes and being surrendered to shelters.

I hope that this post helps to save at least one cat’s life, if not MANY!!

How the Wrong Litter Box Setup Could Cost Your Cat’s Health

He Was Holding His Pee Until He Couldn’t Anymore

I have a friend who adopted a former feral cat in 2016. As soon as he arrived at his new home, it was love at first sight for both of them. Once we let him out of the carrier, he started purring, and I don’t think he has stopped purring since!

He adjusted to indoor cat life very well and had no problems.

However, just about a year ago, my friend realized something was “off” with him. He wasn’t eating much and appeared lethargic. So we called my vet to come out and take a look at him.

When our vet examined him, his bladder was SO painfully full that he eliminated all over the room. That ruled out a urinary blockage, but they had to get to the bottom of this, so they took a urine sample.

No crystals, no signs of infection. The only thing that was abnormal in his urinalysis was that his urinary pH was 7.0, which is a little higher than I would like to see, especially for a male cat since they are so prone to blockages from crystals. I aim for a pH of 6.5 for my own cats.

It Was His Litter Box

Soon after, I was cat sitting for my friend while she was away for the weekend. When I went downstairs to scoop his litter box, the FIRST thing I noticed was a horrid perfumey smell. If you ever had a grandmother that used to wear the Jean Nate body splash, THAT’S how offensive it was to me.

Now, follow me here. Kitty was raised feral in my yard. He used sand to cover his “business”. Plain, old unscented sand.

Imagine how unpleasant the Fresh Step with Febreze was to him?

That stuff should SERIOUSLY be outlawed!

I got on the phone with my vet and told him my theory. The litter box was SO unpleasant to her cat that he only went in to use the box when he ABSOLUTELY HAD TO. The poor baby waited until he could no longer hold his pee to eliminate in the box!

Isn’t that just heartbreaking? What’s more heartbreaking is that her kitty still used his box like a GOOD little boy rather than eliminating elsewhere in the house.

When my vet did a house call for his followup visit, he checked out the litter box and agreed that it likely was the litter scented with Fabreze that was causing his issues.

Since we switched him to Young Again Zero Mature to balance his urinary pH and we switched him to Tidy Cats Free & Clean unscented litter, (knock wood) he hasn’t been having any problems and uses his litter box much more frequently!

If she had just followed my suggestions when she first adopted her kitty, she would have saved herself over $500 in vet bills! And saved him A WHOLE LOT of pain and discomfort!

When I Took the Hood Off of His Litter Box, I was HORRIFIED

My neighbor asked me to feed his rescue cat while he and his boys were away for the weekend.

I decided to scoop his litter box and was HORRIFIED when I took the hood off the box….

That box hadn’t been scooped in at least a week. And God only knows the last time it was changed completely.

And he was using scented litter.

It was so disgustingly dirty and smelly that I don’t even know how kitty didn’t start using another area in the house to do his “business”.

This is animal cruelty in MY book.

Let’s put it this way. Imagine leaving your toilet lid open, not flushing the toilet for at least week, leaving the bathroom door closed at all times, and using the worst perfume you can find to cover up the odor, and add ammonia to the mix. In other words, a Porta Potty that hasn’t been cleaned in AGES.

Wouldn’t that make you reluctant to use the litter box? Have you ever held your pee until you could get to a REAL restroom rather than using the Porta Potty? Because I know I have!

I talked to my neighbor about his kitty’s litter box when he returned and how it can affect his cat’s health if he didn’t make some changes. I can only hope that he took my suggestions.

The Method to My Madness

I have a “system” for EVERYTHING. Our litter boxes are NO different!

How I set up my boxes is loosely adapted from Dr. Lisa Pierson’s recommendations on Catinfo.org.

How Our Litter Boxes are Set Up
How Our Litter Boxes are Set Up

After I rescued The Kits, I needed to come up with a better way to handle six litter boxes. Since I was graduating from two indoor cats to FIVE, I couldn’t see discarding 120lbs of litter every week. I used to do a complete litter change once per week.

I didn’t love the idea of using Rubbermaid totes as Dr. Lisa suggests, especially since Penny was having problems with spinal arthritis. So, I modified Dr. Lisa’s recommendations by using the large Nature’s Miracle litter boxes. By using Dr. Lisa’s method of keeping the litter REALLY deep (at least 3-4″), the pee and poop never hit the bottom of the litter box, therefore eliminating the need to scrub the boxes every week and/or use litter box liners.

Another reason why you want to make the litter DEEP is so that they can completely cover their “business”. This, instinctively, is VERY important to cats. Cats bury their “business” as a way to keep predators off their track. If predators smell their poop, they will know cats are nearby, which means either there is a food source nearby or the cats ARE the food source. This behavior is ingrained into their DNA, so a cat is more comfortable when they actually have enough kitty litter to completely cover their “business”. Therefore, they need litter deep enough to bury the hole that becomes their “toilet” and they need enough litter to bury it completely.

Creamsicle buff tabby, Teddy (feral), digging a big hole in the ground outside before he uses the bathroom.
Teddy digging his way to China before he does his “business”.

I use Dr. Elsey’s Cat Ultra Premium Clumping unscented scoopable litter. This stuff binds SO well that you could lay a foundation to a house with it when it gets wet, so it’s easy to get ALL of their “business” out of the boxes while scooping.

TYPE OF BOX

Like I said, I use the corner Nature’s Miracle Litter Boxes. They have a nice “entry way” that was great for when Penny was in her final days and very weak. As sick as she was with kidney disease at the end, she never once failed to use her litter box. Most recently, this helped Fluffy easily get in and out of her box after her mammary mass removal. She had a large incision that extended under her left armpit and she had NO trouble getting in and out of the box while she recovered.

They are large enough for even my bigger cats to turn around in. Penny was once 16lbs and she was a large Maine Coon mix. If she can turn around in the box, any of my cats can!

I’m slowly switching over to the high-sided boxes to reduce the amount of litter being scattered all over the house by some of our more rambunctious cats, who seem to think bathroom time is also play time!! These high-sided boxes still have that “entry way” that older or arthritic cats need to easily enter and exit the box.

Nature’s Miracle High-Sided Litter Box

WHY I DON’T USE HOODED BOXES

I’ll admit I once used a hooded litter box for Taz and Tabby. They were also as bonded as two cats could be, and I’ve always scooped litter boxes twice per day, so it was not an issue for them. Honestly, I really didn’t know any better then, either. I was very lucky with Taz and Tabby as they were the best-behaved cats a girl could EVER ask for. In EVERY way!

That being said, I really don’t like hooded litter boxes. And I have several reasons why. I watch my Yard Cats do their “business” outside every day. And usually, when one of them is going to the bathroom, there’s at least one cat stalking them to chase them. When a feral cat is going to the bathroom, they are vulnerable.

Charlie preparing to ambush Teddy just after Teddy went to the bathroom.
Charlie getting ready to ambush Teddy after Teddy went to the bathroom!

I noticed my indoor cats like to stalk who is using the box too. So, if there’s a hood on that box, they are TRAPPED inside and cannot escape. This happened to Penny when she was still at the rescue and using a communal litter box with a hood on it while their cages were being cleaned. There was a large male cat on top of that hood waiting for her to jump out. And he attacked her as she jumped out of the box.

Unless your cats are super-bonded and join paws every night to sing campfire songs together, a hood could be a problem on that box.

P. U.!!!!

Another reason why I don’t like hooded boxes is that it confines all of that odor inside the box. I totally get it. I don’t want my house smelling like cat poop either. But if you’re keeping the box well-scooped, using the right litter, and keeping the litter boxes out of high traffic areas (we will get more into why this is a good idea, anyway), smell should be a non-issue.

If you INSIST on using that hood, I want to ask you to try something for me. I want you to use your bathroom all day and ONLY flush it once. Close the door to the bathroom and keep the toilet lid open all day…

Now, if you can honestly say that at the end of the day, the stench in that bathroom didn’t bother you or make you want to vomit, then be my guest and leave the hoods on!

But, also remember, your cat inhaling all of that dust confined into the box is no good for their respiratory tract, either. And I’m not afraid to dust. Those Swiffer dusters are a cinch to use!

WHY I HAVE SIX LITTER BOXES

Because I have five indoor cats. And even though four are litter mates and the fifth one is their former feral mama, they don’t all get along. My shy, timid Patchy does not like to use the litter box with ANY other cats around, even the cats she’s friends with. Following the “number of cats + one” rule is an assurance that Patchy won’t ever have to hold her “business” for fear of being ambushed.

WHY I USE UNSCENTED LITTER

Remember that my indoor cats were all born and raised “feral”. They are used to using sand outside. When I rescued The Kits, I wanted the transition from using the great outdoors to a litter box to be as easy on all of us as possible.

Our Yard Cat (feral), Domino, covering his "business".
One of our Yard Cats (feral), Domino, going to the bathroom.

Also, having had a cat with chronic kidney disease, I cannot help but to wonder if the scent agents and Fabreze in kitty litter aren’t going to have any long-term health effects on my cats. These scented litters are made with CHEMICALS. They use the litter box, and later, when they are grooming, they clean their paws that stepped into that litter box. Cats like my Patchy enjoy rolling around in and sitting in the litter box.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Believe me, once you’ve had a cat with chronic kidney disease, it makes you question EVERYTHING you are using around your kitties!

SCENTED LITTER SMELLS LIKE BAD PERFUME ANYWAY!

Did you ever have that one co-worker/relative/friend who drenched herself in the foulest smelling perfume around and it made your eyes water and your throat hurt whenever you were in the same room or car with them?

Cats’ respiratory systems are sensitive and they have a MUCH stronger sense of smell than we do. I imagine that’s what these scented litters smell like to THEM. Especially the new brands that have Glade, Fabreze or any other air freshener in them. If my friend’s scented litter with Fabreze made MY eyes burn, imagine what it did to her kitty’s? Did I mention that his third eyelids were protruding when the vet saw him? And did I also mention that they stopped protruding and his sneezing stopped when my friend switched to unscented litter?

WHY I ONLY USE CLUMPING LITTER

Since I don’t do complete litter changes (unless I suspect a parasite or illness), GOOD clumping litter makes it easier to totally remove their urine when you scoop the box. Scoop, top off with fresh litter, and it’s CLEAN!

I also use litter box scooping time to get a good idea of their urinary tract health. Back in the 1990s, my Taz became blocked with urinary crystals when he was just a year old. My sweet, shy boy spent five days in the hospital with a catheter in him so he wouldn’t die. That ordeal cost us over $1500 and cost Taz a whole lot of unnecessary pain and anguish. Although he never became blocked again, he suffered with urinary tract infections for the rest of his life.

I swore if I ever had a male cat again, I would take what I learned from Taz to spare them the pain and suffering that Taz endured.

My Siamese mix Taz during Christmas of 2000. He was 4 years old.
Taz, Christmas 2000. He was 4 yrs old.

When I scoop the litter boxes, it’s much more to me than making their boxes nice and clean and odor free. It’s also my time to check to see how the kitties are doing in THAT department.

LEARN YOUR KITTY’S BATHROOM HABITS AND WHAT’S NORMAL FOR THEM

Paying attention to my cats’ bathroom habits is also how I caught Penny’s feline diabetes so early. As soon as I saw the LAKES of her urine, I KNEW.

In this case, size DOES matter! A healthy, well-hydrated cat should produce “pee balls” anywhere from the size of a rubber bouncy ball to a small tennis ball. If you’re using clumping litter and seeing pee balls smaller than the size of a ping-pong ball, and ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE A MALE CAT, treat this as a medical emergency and get in touch with your vet ASAP!

The size of the “pee ball” also depends on the cat. Patchy, my female runt, only weighs about 6 1/2 lbs even though she’s over 3 years old. Her “pee balls” are much smaller than her brother Rascal’s, who is a hardy 14lbs. However, I know her habits, so I will know if she develops a problem.

On the flip side, if you have a cat peeing LARGE amounts and/or really large pee balls, this could be a sign of feline diabetes, feline chronic kidney disease, or hyperthyroidism, among other diseases. A vet check with blood work and a chem panel should be a PRIORITY if you encounter increased urine output.

POOP IS IMPORTANT, TOO!

Often, people will come to me for help because their cat stopped eating. The first question I ALWAYS ask is, “When was their last bowel movement?”

Most of the time, they have NO idea.

After parenting a senior cat who suffered with chronic constipation and a Maine Coon with hairball issues, I can honestly tell you on most days when each of my five indoor cats pooped in the past 24 hours. And some of my ferals, too!

Our Maine Coon mix, Penny, sitting on the bed - 2013
Penny – Spring, 2013

PAY ATTENTION to what they’re doing in that litter box! It very well could save their life!

WHY I DON’T USE THOSE PLASTIC LITTER LINERS

I’ve tried to use them in the past with Taz and Tabby. And they just tore them to shreds while trying to bury their business.

I’ve scooped litter boxes with those liners in it. They never quite fit right. The liners push all the litter to the center of the box. And trying to keep the “pee balls” intact while scooping a lined box is damn near impossible. They break apart. And then I cannot see how big they are.

If you pour the litter deep enough, the liners are completely unnecessary.

I don’t think they are BAD, but I see no reason to use them. And my cats’ boxes never stink.

I SCOOP TWICE PER DAY

No ifs, ands, or buts on this one. I flush the toilet more than once per day, so I scoop their boxes more than once per day.

AND, if someone poops and I happen to be around, it only takes me a SECOND to scoop that poop out.

I don’t ever want to give my cats ANY excuse to go outside of the box. I’ve had cats with urinary issues my entire adult life, between Taz’s crystals and chronic UTIs, and Penny’s diabetes and her chronic kidney disease. And I can honestly say that NEVER ONCE did any of my cats do their “business” outside of the litter box (knock wood).

Believe me, barring a medical problem, if your kitty is going outside of the box, they’re either adults who are not spayed or neutered (why isn’t your kitty fixed, anyway?), or they are telling you they don’t like their litter box.

My Choice of Poop Scooper

I cannot STAND most of the poop scoopers on the market today. They are plastic, with holes that are too big, so “little bits” go back into the litter box. Some of the really big, cumbersome scoopers just don’t do the job right. The plastic scoopers make it hard to sift the litter around to locate kitty’s “business”.

This is my FAVORITE poop scooper and it’s well worth the $12 I spend on it! It’s lightweight (great for carpal tunnel syndrome), metal, easy to clean, and I can wack the side of the box to bang off any “pee balls” that are half on the side and half in the corner of the box. Since it’s more flat, it’s easier to get under the pee ball to scoop it out intact, which is neater and cleaner. This scoop even passed the “my Penny has kidney disease and pees lakes” test!

Make It as Easy as Possible for Yourself, Too!

I’m a convenience gal. If something is not convenient, I won’t do it. Or I will procrastinate until I absolutely HAVE to… ie: meal prep! I live in fast-paced New Jersey. Life here demands convenience!

So, I have a poop scooper by each one of my litter boxes, as well as bags to put their “business”. It takes me less than five minutes to scoop six litter boxes in six different rooms on two levels of my house. Easy, peasy.

WHAT IF MY CAT LIKES TO PEE ON THE SIDE OF THE BOX?

I have one of those, too. Actually, both of my boy cats like to pee on the side wall of the box. So, I keep Lysol Daily Cleanser Disinfecting Wipes and a roll of toilet paper by each of the boxes. I push the litter out of the way, wipe with the wipe, dry with a wad of toilet paper, and push the litter back. I like these new unscented, “pet area safe” Lysol wipes. However, I take the extra step of drying the area I wiped just as a precaution.

LITTER BOX PLACEMENT AND TOILET TRAINING

I do have a three out of my six boxes in corners of bedrooms. However, I make sure they have an escape route on either side of the box so if one of my other cats decides to ambush, they ALWAYS have an “out”.

I have four boxes upstairs and two down in the unfinished basement that is slowly turning into a large cat playroom! My cats never have to travel very far to use the litter box.

I set this up this way back when Penny was still alive. I never wanted to make it difficult for her to get to a litter box with her health issues.

PLEASE consider your cats when choosing to place the litter box(es)! It’s not fair to an older, arthritic cat to make them have to travel up or downstairs to use their box.

BATHROOM TIME SHOULD BE QUIET TIME

Choose a quiet location for them to do their “business”. Cats startle with loud noises easily, so placing the box near the washer, dryer, furnace or A/C may not be the best location for them.

Also, keep litter boxes away from high-traffic areas, especially out of kids’ play areas. I watch my ferals. They always go off away from all of the action to do their “business”.

You don’t want an audience while you’re going to the bathroom, right?

Well, neither do our cats.

Also, the “Number of Boxes Rule + 1” rule requires proper placement!

If you have ALL of the litter boxes sitting next to each other, and I see this ALL OF THE TIME, it totally defeats the purpose of this rule! If you have a bully or stalker cat, and most people with multi-cat households do, they can STILL intimidate the more timid cats in your household if you’re putting all of the boxes together in one spot. Please don’t make bathroom time a stressful time for your more timid cats. This can and WILL lead to health problems down the line, I promise you that!

This rule only works if you place the boxes in different areas throughout the house. And if you have more than one level to your house? You should have litter boxes on every level!

WHAT ABOUT TOILET TRAINING MY CAT LIKE MR. JINX IN “MEET THE PARENTS?
Jinx from "Meet the Parents" using the human toilet.
Jinx from “Meet the Parents” (Image may be subject to copyright)

That’s a big, fat NO.

Cats urinating and defecating are an instinctive way for them to mark their territory. Again, I have the benefit of observing my feral cats bathrooming outside on a daily basis.

Please, don’t take that method of marking their territory away from them! They will find other ways to mark their territory if you do!

Plus, I never want to compete with my cat over the toilet!!

MY THOUGHTS ON THE TIDY CATS BREEZE SYSTEM

I’ll pass.

I considered the Tidy Cats Breeze Litter System back when Penny was still here. It sounded so alluring…no tracking litter, no pee balls, only change the pee pads once per week.

But then I got to thinking…if I’m only changing the pee pads once per week, how can I really properly monitor my cats’ urinary tract health?

I’d have to change those pads daily. And they’re expensive. I wouldn’t ever want to ration those pee pads because they’re too expensive.

I’m sure the pellets are not unscented.

The litter boxes are too small.

However, I do see how they can be beneficial in special circumstances.

My friend’s cat has urinary tract health issues. She uses the Breeze system. She found out that her kitty still had blood in her urine when she changed the pee pad one day after kitty finished taking her course of antibiotics. That prompted my friend to have the vet culture the urine to figure out which antibiotic kitty should have been taking.

But this would be about the only use I can see for this type of litter box setup.

And, again, I have the benefit of watching cats outside in the “wild” daily. Litter that mimics sand is best. After reading some reviews on Amazon, I did notice that some cats just won’t take to those pellets.

THIS IS ABOUT THE CAT’S HEALTH AND HAPPINESS

I’m pretty sure Better Homes & Gardens will not be stopping in anytime soon to take pics of my house and decor.

But if they do, I’ll have to vacuum up the scattered kitty litter and dust really quickly.

Yes, I know it’s a pain. And life is short.

But I decided I wanted cats. It wouldn’t be fair to give a cat a home and then make their bathroom time as unpleasant as many people make it for their kitties.

If you’re committed to having a pet cat(s), then shouldn’t you be committed to health and happiness?

Creamsicle red tabby, Mischief, relaxing on his cat hammock.
Mischief lounging on his hammock.

Farrah – The Senior Blind Miracle Stray Kitty That COULD

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I shared about Farrah so much on our Facebook page that I would have to link to about nine different posts in order to bring newcomers and those who missed some posts up to speed.

So, I decided to write an entire blog post about Farrah.

Her story is certainly WORTHY. As she is.

And if Farrah’s story doesn’t give you hope and make you cry, well, you must be made of stone!

A Little Backstory First…

I don’t often dream about my Rainbow Bridge kitties. However, Tabby Wonder Cat Wilson came to me in a dream one summer night. Here was part of my Facebook post after I rescued Farrah…

“…I haven’t mentioned yet that Farrah came to me in a dream about five days before I even knew she existed.

In the dream, my late Tabby, my little soul cat of 16 years, came back to me. And I was petting her. When I told my mom about the dream the next day, I described the cat as kind of a brindle pattern but light colored. It was a different cat, but it was Tabby.

Monday when I picked Farrah up from her finder and got a better look at her, I was shocked to realize SHE was the cat in my dream.

Tabby passed six years ago and Farrah is 12-15 years old per the vet, but I have no doubt my Tabby played a part in this girl’s rescue ❤️ “

Crazy, right?

How Did I Get Involved?

September 24, 2018. My house was torn up because of a complete HVAC replacement. The Innies (my indoor cats) were in lock down in ‘safe rooms’ while the work was being done.

I was already stressed out beyond belief with the noise, the cats, Mom… This was the beginning of a two-day job that I just wanted OVER.

While I was sitting outside, trying to decompress and trying not to hear Rascal tearing up the bedroom door, I saw a friend tagged me in a post about a ‘found’ stray cat.

“Oh, no, no, no. Not today. I’m not a rescue. I have no room to help a cat. I can’t worry about this today…” These were the thoughts going through my head.

Facebook Post, “This stray cat is in Franklinville. I believe the cat might be blind. Please share.”

And NOBODY could take her in off of the street.

NOBODY.

I couldn’t leave her out there. She was BLIND. How she managed to survive out there for God knows how long is beyond me! But I had ZERO room to take in a cat. Not with my indoor cats on lock down and the workers making enough noise to raise the dead.

But I had to do SOMETHING.

Later, after I picked Farrah up , I noticed that three other Facebook friends tagged me in different posts about the SAME cat.

Okayyyy, Saint Francis, I Got the Message

I got in touch with Joe, the guy who posted Farrah’s picture on Facebook. He told me she showed up at his sister’s house a couple of days prior. His sister fed her. Farrah was hanging out under a batting cage in his sister’s yard. Since she has dogs and he has a dog, nobody could bring her inside.

They believed she was TOTALLY blind.

His sister was going to take her to a shelter, but Joe was concerned that a shelter would euthanize her. He was hoping to find her owner or someone who could take her first.

I asked Joe if he called around to area rescues. He contacted several and not one rescue could help her. It was near the end of kitten season and rescues are bursting at the seams in September.

I was trying to think of how I could JUST get her inside to safety. My wheels were turning. With everything going on inside my house that week with the construction, I had nowhere to put her.

FINALLY, Someone Stepped Up

I called my friend Linda, the Director of Jersey State Animal Rescue. And she was FULL. Over capacity at that point. We were texting back and forth, talking about how nobody could at least get her in off the street for that night.

I read her next text, “Can he get her here?”

I said, “Linda, if you can take her, I will personally go get her myself if I have to!”

Since I had workers all around my house with my elderly mother and really didn’t want to leave for too long, I did manage to talk Joe into bringing Farrah to a nearby bank where I could pick her up.

Joe set about borrowing a cat carrier from his neighbors and went down to his sister’s house to get her.

I sat on eggshells, waiting for that text that he got her safe and sound. So many things could go wrong…

After what seemed like HOURS (it was 45 minutes), I got the life-changing text message that they were on their way to meet me.

Her Rescue

When I arrived at the bank parking lot to pick her up, Joe was talking to her and petting her while she was in the carrier.

As soon as I saw her, I knew there was something REALLY special about her. But I hadn’t made the connection that she was the cat in my dream yet.

She was an absolute DOLL. Beautiful. And as much as she wanted out of that carrier, she was just sucking up all of the affection she was getting from us.

I assured Joe that she was going to the best possible Rescue and I would keep him updated.

Once I got her home, I was able to get a better look at her.

I could NOT believe it.

Farrah waiting for the rescue to pick her up.
Farrah waiting for the rescue to pick her up.

She Was the Cat in my Dream

I went to get Mom…

I was SHAKING because I couldn’t believe I dreamed about this cat five days before I even knew she existed.

My mind was racing. Was it Tabby come back to me? Where the Hell would I put her? I already have five indoor cats, two of whom don’t get along, and their mama, who I still have to integrate into my household.

All while this was going through my mind, I sat with her while she happily gobbled down Temptations treats and soaked up all the love.

I had no choice but to let her go to the rescue

I knew she would be in great hands there. This is the ONLY rescue that I would trust with my OWN cats. I adopted Penny and Weeny from Jersey State. I know firsthand how well she takes care of her cats…like they are her own. And her facility, even with all of the cats, is cleaner than my own home (and I’m a clean freak!)

Does She Even Have a Chance?

Once Linda arrived, she took her out of the carrier and we both got a better look at her. She was scary skinny and dirty. Her eyes were so swollen they were bulging out of her eye sockets. She couldn’t even close them. Her one eyeball was completely filled with blood.

Farrah when she first arrived at the rescue.
Farrah when she first arrived at the rescue.

Linda stated she saw eyes that looked like this before. And it was cancer.

My heart BROKE. I really wanted this little star to have a chance.

We weren’t sure if there was ANY hope for her.

I had to take comfort in the fact that she would be SAFE, WARM and WELL-FED for that night, anyway. It’s STILL better than the alternative!

Hope…

Linda said she would take her to the vet that week. Honestly, at this point, we both thought she may not make it through. I posted on Facebook to drum up donations for her vetting since Linda was over capacity and I wanted to help this baby.

Later that evening, when I was in the shower, her name came to me.

Farrah.

Incredible beauty. Strength. A survivor. HOPE.

I texted Linda when I got out of the shower and asked if they could name her “Farrah”. She agreed that was the PERFECT name for this little warrior princess!

MORE Hope…

Linda texted me the next day. She saw what I saw in Farrah. She wanted to give her EVERY chance and committed to seeing if there was ANYTHING the vet could do for her.

Two Days after Rescue-Farrah closing her eyes for the first time.
Two Days after Rescue-Farrah closing her eyes for the first time.

Here was my Facebook post after her first vet visit..

“Yesterday, Farrah, our sweet little blind girl, closed her eyes for the first time since she was rescued on Monday 🙀

She wasn’t able to close her eyes before because of the swelling 💔…

…Every time I talk to Linda, the director of Jersey State Animal Rescue who so selflessly stepped up to take Farrah, I just get more good news.

Without getting too technical, here’s what I know so far.

❤️ she’s not microchipped
❤️ she’s FIV/FeLV negative
❤️ blood work is relatively normal. Which was a shocker with what she’s been through.

eyes

Vet does not think it’s glaucoma. She has a condition called Uveitis. Often in cats, Uveitis is secondary to another condition. However, vet hasn’t figured out the condition yet. And often, they never do pinpoint an exact cause. So they’re treating the symptoms for now and we wait and see if she responds.

The fact that she could close her eyes less than 24 hours after she started the antibiotic eyedrops, systemic antibiotics, and medication to relax the eyelids shows that she is responding to treatment quite nicely so far 👏👏👏

She has ulceration in both eyes so she will go back for that next week. Once that is cleared up, they will start steroid eye drops.

Her iris adhered to the eyeball and the fluid was not draining. That explains the swelling and the blood in her eyes. 😮

Farrah is blind and likely will remain blind.

She may need eye removal surgery in the future but only if she’s in pain. Linda does not believe she’s in pain.

She told me Farrah is very content and comfortable. And extremely sweet ❤️

I guess so…now that she doesn’t have to fend for herself on the streets, blind and maybe a little hard of hearing, anymore.

This girl is just AMAZING. She’s somebody really special and I’m so glad that Joe (her finder), Linda, and all of YOU see that too!

I’m amazed at this girl’s will to win. She reminds me of my Penny 💪💕

I want to THANK each and every one of you for the prayers, shares and the donations.

She has come so far on her own. She’s not alone anymore. She has a whole army of amazing people making it possible now.

I cannot put into words how grateful I am for all of your help with Farrah!”

there’s just something about her…

Shortly after that post, I went to visit Farrah.

I was IN LOVE. As thousands of my FB followers and Jersey State’s FB followers are!

When I first walked into their intake cage room, I didn’t even recognize Farrah.

Farrah when I visited her
My view of Farrah as soon as I walked into the intake room during my visit.

SHE WAS CLEAN!!

She cleaned up so well in just a couple of days and already looked so much better! Just a few days of good food, love, safety and a clean place to rest made all of the difference in the world!

She could not get enough love from me. She would have had me there for HOURS petting her if she had her choice! I’d like to think that I’m special, but, apparently, little miss Farrah is like this with everybody!!

And this girl is a PURRRRRR MACHINE!

If I had a room to put her in, I would have taken her home THAT DAY!

Lovin' on Farrah during my visit with her!
Lovin’ on Farrah during my visit with her!

A Setback…

After initially improving with treatment, Farrah’s eyes were swelling again after they started the steroid eye drops.

Since Farrah was already completely blind, the vet and Linda decided it would be best to remove her eyes if Farrah was to have any kind of quality of life. Farrah’s health was otherwise stable and she even gained 2lbs in the few weeks she was at the rescue! There was no good reason why they couldn’t do this surgery at this point.

She couldn’t continue to be poked and prodded and doused with eye drops just to have the painful pressure and swelling return.

Especially since her eyes were never going to regain sight anyway.

I agreed with their decision to remove her eyes. The goal with our pets should ALWAYS be quality of life!

Farrah Found a Home!!

Farrah and her new mama, Alison
Farrah and her new mama, Alison, the day they met and fell in love!

In the meantime, Linda told me a girl named Alison was coming to meet her that weekend.

My heart stopped. I figured now was the time to tell Linda…

I told her that if it didn’t work out with Alison, if Farrah couldn’t find a home once she was cleared for adoption, or if at any time the vets decided there was no hope for her, I would take her here on hospice care.

Farrah deserves to have a HOME before she dies.

She didn’t survive out there and go through all she had gone through for nil. She HAD to have a home again before she died. Even if only for a short while.

Linda replied, “You got it!”

However, Alison, like ALL of us, FELL IN LOVE WITH FARRAH. And the deal was sealed. Farrah will be going HOME with Alison once she’s cleared for adoption!!

it worked out the way it was supposed to…

Farrah’s new home will be much better for her than the P&K Estates. We have five very energetic, rowdy indoor cats. They still run around like kittens. The Innies have free reign of the basement. And although I cleaned the basement and it’s safe for cats, the twelve floating steps leading down to the basement may not be the safest for a blind senior cat who has Lightning Legs aka Patchy running past her at 100 MPH or Dennis the Menace aka Rascal jumping OVER her on his way down the steps…

Her new mama, Alison, has a partially blind special needs kitty already. So her house is SAFE for Farrah. And Alison probably knows better how to care for her than I would.

Alison cannot wait to bring her home. She’s already SO in love with Farrah!

I truly believe it was Meant to Be for Alison to adopt Farrah!

One Step Closer to Her New Home

The day of Farrah’s eye removal surgery, I was on EGGSHELLS.

Farrah waiting at the vet office.
Farrah waiting at the vet office.

I stalked my phone.

Stressed.

And I PRAYED.

It felt very much like the day Penny had her emergency dental while in a “crash” from her kidney disease.

There’s ALWAYS a risk with anesthesia. But for senior cats, even more so.

When Linda texted me at about 2pm that afternoon, I cried with relief!

“Out of surgery. Waking up. On my way to pick ‘queen’ up.”

Farrah was one step closer to going to her new HOME.

she had trouble adjusting

I didn’t share this on Facebook, but initially I was concerned about Farrah’s recovery. Linda told me that she had some trouble adjusting to not having two heavy, swollen, ginormous eyeballs weighing her head down anymore. I imagine it all felt very different to her.

It’s amazing how we adapt to discomfort and pain.

Linda had to assist feed her the first two days after surgery.

Just as I was really starting to worry, Linda texted me and told me that she just ate two entire bowls of food by herself!

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I then figured maybe Farrah was having trouble clearing the anesthesia because of her age. Which happens.

Then I remembered how LOOPY Penny used to get while taking buprenex, which is a pain medication. I mentioned that to Linda and she agreed maybe that’s why Farrah was acting a little strange….because she was hopped up on dope, basically. Once they adjust to the medication, they start acting more like their normal selves.

She’s improving every day and definitely back to her sweet and loving self!

Almost There…

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Linda texted me over the weekend that they removed Farrah’s stitches and she likely would be going home this week.

She looks so much more comfortable now.

I’m writing this before Adoption Day because I want it ready to post on Facebook with her adoption. Then I can edit with her “HAPPILY EVER AFTER”.

I asked both Linda and Alison (Farrah’s new mama) if I could join them on Adoption Day so I could kiss Farrah “goodbye” and take lots of pics.

I’m so excited for her, but I’m going to cry like a baby. It’s bittersweet because she was almost ours.

But, like I said earlier, her new home is where she belongs. God and St Francis just used us as the pathway to get her there.

Adoption Day is HERE!!

I will fill in this part when Farrah’s adoption is complete and she’s en route to her new home with her new mama.

Inspired…

Farrah touched our souls deeply. So deeply that I cannot accurately put it into words. Anybody who met Farrah or has been part of this journey the past three months understands what I mean.

Farrah and her story are INSPIRING. FULL OF HOPE. And, most importantly, full of LOVE.

Saying that she’s “special” is an extreme understatement.

I’m a writer and I can’t find the words to describe what it is about her.

More than the fact that she survived out there for we don’t even know how long without all of her defenses.

And despite whatever she endured out there, she still has the ability to love and trust so completely. It blows my mind!

There’s a quiet strength and serenity about her.

Linda said when she picked her up from my house, “Man, I wish I knew her story.” So do I.

Farrah during our visit.
Farrah during our visit. I stopped petting her to take a pic and she still had her butt in the air waiting for more free pets!

Farrah’s Lessons…

If you’ve been following our stories, you know I believe we learn lessons from these precious babies that enter our lives. Here are a few of Farrah’s lessons:

  1. Survival. Cats are survivors as are all of God’s creatures. Their ability to adapt to change and survive against all odds simply amazes me. Much like the Human Spirit.
  2. Never Give Up. I’ll repeat what I’ve heard a million times in 12-step recovery. “Don’t give up before the miracle happens!” It’s a good thing Farrah didn’t!
  3. Don’t Let the World Break You. I imagine somebody let Farrah down in her little life. She doesn’t move around much so I don’t believe she traveled a great distance before arriving at Joe’s sister’s. They really tried to find her owner. Either someone left Farrah behind or they dumped her. Sad, but true. But that didn’t stop Farrah from being open to loving and trusting other humans. We can ALL learn a lesson from her on that one!

Stay Tuned…

Farrah has thousands of fans from all over the world on social media!

Since I became Facebook friends with Farrah’s new mama, I will be following her progress and her life, every step of the way! And I’ll be sure to post updates on our Facebook, so if you haven’t followed us yet, do it now!!

Her rescue and healing would not have been possible without all of YOU. This was TRULY a group effort.

It warms my heart to know that we have a TRIBE of like-minded, amazing people who are so willing to offer support, prayers, and donations to save a special girl like Farrah. We hear of SO much “bad” in the world, but I always said that for every person doing bad things, there are a hundred doing good things.

And for Farrah, the “little bit” that every person offered was the difference between life and death.

Please don’t ever discount the part YOU played in her rescue!!

affiliate disclaimer:

**This post may contain affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

All treatments, foods and supplements mentioned in this blog are based on my own research, experience and done with my vet’s knowledge and consent. Consult with your vet as necessary.

Cats are Life’s Teachers – Lessons I Learned from Penny

Me and my “Teacher” – April, 2017

 

We are coming up on one year since Penny crossed the Bridge. Has it really been a whole year? It feels like yesterday, yet it feels like a lifetime ago.

I’ve been “meaning to” write this post for a long time. Since before Penny passed. I felt now was the best time to finally get this out to the world.

Who Was the Mommy Kitten?

We once used an animal communicator to help us figure out what to do with Mischief’s behavioral issues (more on that in another post). There was a little time left after we covered everything I wanted to cover, so I asked the communicator to check in on Penny to see how she was feeling with her kidney disease. I wanted to make sure everything we were doing was helping her.
I was still on the fence about this whole animal communicator thing. And either this lady was REALLY in tune with cat breeds and behavior, or she really could communicate with them.

What she said at the end of our talk blew my mind.

“Penny feels that you are her pet and she is your master.”

Yeah, no shit?

She described Penny as strong (physically and mentally), extremely intelligent, patient, and very charismatic.

That she was. All of the above.

The animal communicator even told me that Penny felt she was VERY patient with The Kits since I rescued them and she wanted to make sure I acknowledged that!

In Tune with Penny

I often describe Penny not just as my “soul cat”, but my “soul mate” in general.

We finished each other’s sentences (if she could speak “human”) from the get-go. I understood her and she clearly understood me.

When she was still at Petsmart with the rescue and I brought the folks up to meet her and Weeny, I knew before I left that we understood each other. She used the communal litter box the volunteers set up in the cat room while they cleaned their cages. It was a hooded litter box and one of the male cats was on top of the box bullying her while she was trying to poop.

When she jumped out, she had blood and diarrhea all over her bum. I told the volunteer and helped her clean Penny up.

Before I left, Penny looked up at me. I read her eyes. “I blew it, didn’t I?”

And I told her, “No, Penny, not at all! You’re still coming home with me on Adoption Night! We will get you all fixed up!”

I knew it was stress related. She didn’t want to be there. She just arrived at Petsmart for her “big chance” a couple of weeks before I met her. Linda, the director, told me that Penny strongly protested being there every chance she got!

That day, I KNEW she was something really special.

Penny the day after we adopted her - May, 2012
Penny the day after we adopted her – May, 2012. Her eyes look sad in her early pictures. We often felt she was bonded with another cat at the rescue and was missing her friend.

Her first night home, she came out into the kitchen to talk to us. My dad looked in her eyes and said, “There’s SOMEBODY in there.”

Boy, was he was right.

I think our bond had something to do with the fact that Penny and I are both Leos. My birthday is August 7th and Penny’s was August 8th.

lesson #1 – nothing is impossible

Penny taught me, my family, her vets and the world this lesson over and over and over again.

Many of you know Penny was a diabetic cat. She was in remission, meaning she was diet controlled, when she passed away. But the road to get her there was long and difficult.

After she lost her first remission, she spent ten LONG months in insulin resistance and I couldn’t even get her “regulated”, much less back into remission.

I posted this post on Facebook just about three years ago when Penny and I were having a “pajama party”. Basically, that means that I got up in the middle of the night to test her blood glucose since her numbers were suddenly running lower than usual. What I didn’t know then was that Penny was starting to head back into remission at full speed.

At this point, she was on a high dose of Levemir because of the insulin resistance. When a diabetic cat’s numbers go into the “danger zone”, you have to feed high carb wet food, re-test in 15 minutes, and keep repeating until their numbers are in the “safe zone” and steadily rising.

We had PLENTY of these parties at 2am!! I was convinced Penny was doing it on purpose so she could enjoy her beloved Fancy Feast Gravy Lovers food, which was the high-carb wet food I used to get her blood glucose to rise.

As you can see, when my friend asked me if there was a chance at a second remission, the tone of my reply was HIGHLY doubtful. That’s because I was always told by seasoned lay people that once we lost that first remission, a second one was unlikely.

But they didn’t know my Penny.

And, apparently, neither did I!

She broke ALL of the rules. Even when she made them herself!

lesson #2 – WHEN it’s important enough, we find a way

“I CANNOT pill a cat to save my life!”

“I can’t torture my cat by poking her ears for blood multiple times per day!”

“If my cat gets kidney disease, I’ll just humanely euthanize so they don’t suffer.”

I have said ALL OF THE ABOVE before meeting Penny.

When she was diagnosed with Feline Diabetes, I was saying AND thinking that we could NEVER do all of this. The insulin injections, changing her diet, home testing…

I couldn’t even brush this cat without her biting me!

The morning after she was diagnosed and already having been unsuccessful with giving her the first insulin injection the night before, I woke up feeling hopeless. Physically sick with heartbreak, I just wanted the nightmare to end.

I really thought I was going to have to euthanize her.

i just had to figure out a way!

Then I looked into her big, green, trusting eyes.

She waited so long for this forever home with her “very own” humans.

She was only 5 years old.

When my back was to the wall, and it was either treat her diabetes or put her to sleep, I realized that it literally was DO or DIE.

So I DID.

When Penny was diagnosed with feline chronic kidney disease, I had yet another wave of self-doubt.

“I can stick a cat with needles like a pin cushion but I still can’t pill them!”

“Penny will NEVER sit through daily sub q fluids!”

Yeah?

Watch me!

She was only 7 when the vet diagnosed her with end-stage CKD and she almost died. I had to TRY. I had to give her a chance at a quality life and give us a chance at more time together.

It’s funny how what we THINK we will do changes when we are actually IN that situation, isn’t it?

Penny taught me that there is ALWAYS a solution, ALWAYS a way around what seems impossible…WHEN IT’S IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO YOU.

lesson #3 – take nothing for granted

I didn’t have enough time with both Penny AND Weeny. Weeny was only with us for 3 1/2 years when she succumbed to mast cell cancer, and Penny was only with us for 5 1/2 years.

I really thought I would grow old with Penny and Weeny!

Yet, it’s funny…I remember looking at Weeny one night, shortly before she was diagnosed with cancer, and could not picture her as a senior cat. It’s like I KNEW…

Weeny the Wacko being Weeny - 2013
Weeny the Wacko being Weeny – 2013

slow down…

We get so busy sometimes that we forget to stop and enjoy those little moments that make Life so great. ESPECIALLY with our pets!

Not the big moments… The LITTLE moments. Those little day to day things that help us get through even the toughest times.

Like Weeny running through the house like a little maniac, squeaking at the top of her lungs, while playing.

Like Penny and her never-ending tail wag. Her tail wagged every waking hour. And didn’t stop until she was in a DEEP sleep.

Mom bringing miller moths inside for Weeny so she could hunt. And when the miller got away, Mom and me climbing all over the furniture to bring it back down into the “little hunter’s” reach.

While testing my dying father’s blood glucose, Penny came running into the bedroom and onto the bed, trampling my poor father, because she heard the meter “beep”. She associated eating raw chicken with that “beep” because that’s how I trained her to test HER blood glucose! We ALL laughed so hard. We NEEDED that laughter! It’s one of my favorite Penny Memories!

Penny, Dad and Mom in 2013
Penny sucking up Grandpoppy Kitten’s attention while mooching turkey off of her Grandmommy Kitten – 2013

Tabby sitting half in and half out of the house to enjoy the warmth outside while still enjoying the central air conditioning inside.

Tabby sitting outside - 2011
You thought I was kidding? Tabby enjoying the heat and AC at the same time on the back step – 2011

These little moments make rough days bearable.

Which is why I share them each day on social media.

lesson #4 – live in the moment

This is quite possibly the most life-changing and important lesson I’ve learned IN MY LIFE.

This is one I’ve always struggled to put into practice.

how humans live

In 12-Step recovery, we learn “One Day at a Time” or “ODAT”.

And I suffer from the disease of “projection”.

Projecting the outcome of a situation before it even happens. And, of course, it’s NEVER a happy outcome! Example: The phone rings and before even looking at the caller ID, I think it’s a bill collector or work calling me in.

My mom is very guilty of this one, which is where I probably got it from. EVERY SINGLE YEAR, in August, she starts talking about how Winter is here and the days are getting shorter. Yet, sunset in NJ in August is STILL close to 8pm and it’s usually 90+ degrees when Mom starts her “Winter Talk”!

Dreading Monday when I wake up on Sunday morning.

A LOT of us do this!!

how cats live

Cats don’t don’t live in the past or future like we do! They only know the moment! Penny didn’t anticipate her death, even though it was imminent for almost two years!

The Yard Cats don’t care if the forecast is calling for rain the next seven days. They are just enjoying the nice sunny and warm weather they are experiencing RIGHT NOW.

Trouble, Oreo and Rascal
(Outside) L-R: Trouble and Oreo
(Inside) Rascal. Trouble and Oreo enjoying a rare warm Winter day in 2018, just a few weeks before Oreo crossed The Bridge.

There’s one thing to plan for the future. Of course we should! It’s necessary for a successful and happy life!

But so is LIVING IN THE MOMENT.

Since Penny came into my life, I make a conscious effort to stay in the moment more often!!

lesson #5 – the strong don’t give up – ever!

Penny is one of THE strongest souls that ever came in to my life. No understatement!

As many times as Penny’s health knocked her down…with the diabetes, spinal arthritis, dental problems, digestive issues and then kidney disease, she ALWAYS got back up swinging.

As if to say, “Is that all you got?”

She was a force to be reckoned with in every way. Ask any of the vets and vet techs that ever worked with her. Ask Linda, the director of Jersey State Animal Rescue, the rescue I adopted her from!

In her final weeks, when she really started to decline, she didn’t give up. Whenever she felt well enough, she tried to eat, tried to participate with the family, and even hunted.

Penny taught The Kits to hunt black crickets by the basement door where they got in. She taught them to catch their prey and bring it upstairs. (Penny would bring them up, howling with the live bug in her mouth, with its little legs dangling out of her mouth!) One night, about a week before she passed, Mischief caught one and proudly brought it up to the kitchen.

Penny was really sick at this point. But once she heard Mischief bring the cricket upstairs, she came out from her hiding spot and snatched the cricket right out from under Mischief’s nose and ate it alive.

The night before she passed, she hunted a flying bug in the kitchen. She was so sick and at that point, she wasn’t eating anymore. But she STILL had the desire and ability to do what cats are born to do, which is to HUNT.

she just didn’t give up!

In her final moments, in so much pain and so sick, she still managed to jump up on the windowsill to watch the squirrels outside.

She watched those squirrels during her last conscious moments.

To the very end, Penny NEVER gave up.

When Life gets gnarly, as it often does, I will remember that.

It will give me the strength to KEEP pushing forward, even when I want to give up!

A Lifetime

I only touched on a few of the MAJOR lessons. I could, and really should, write a book on this topic. At some point, I’m sure, I WILL.

“People are put into our life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.”

So are our pets. And most of the time, it’s only a “season”.

But the “reason” is evident.

And the lessons are a “lifetime”!

Penny sitting in the window bird watching in 2013
Penny sitting in the window bird watching in 2013

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

All treatments, foods and supplements mentioned in this blog are based on my own research, experience and done with my vet’s knowledge and consent. Consult with your vet as necessary.

 

 

LOST CAT! Some Tips to Help You Bring Kitty Home!

But First! A Couple of Stories…

Before I get into tips to help you find your missing kitty, I wanted to share a couple of stories.

Blue

Blue went missing in my neighborhood December, 2017, just as an early deep freeze set in. This deep freeze lasted about a month. Blue was an indoor/outdoor cat who was outside when their neighbor’s shed caught on fire. Blue’s owner corralled his cats inside before he called 911, but Blue never came in. By the time the fire department came and left, Blue was nowhere to be found.

His owner just about knocked himself out to find Blue over the next couple of months. He rode around on his bicycle with a flashlight during sub-zero weather the first two weeks and got in touch with every feral cat caregiver in the area. He followed up with sightings by setting humane traps baited with stinky food and put up flyers. His daughter posted all over social media. Our entire block was on high alert.

At one point they believed Blue was living outside at another house about a half mile away. But they never did trap him. I was on high alert because I have my own colony just a half mile from Blue’s home in the other direction and was in constant communication with Blue’s owner.

But, Blue never was found.

His owner stopped here about six months after Blue went missing to ask me a question on another issue.

I inquired, “Did you ever find Blue?” He replied that they did, in fact, find Blue when they opened their pool a few weeks before. His body was found under the pool cover. Blue must have hid under the pool cover when he was frightened by the fire. They never thought to check under there. The heartbreaking part was knowing he likely froze to death.

Sometimes we get so busy looking far and wide that we don’t think to look right under our noses.

Blue's social media post when his owners were looking for him.
Blue’s social media post when his owners were looking for him.

Blacky

Blacky is my neighbor’s indoor/outdoor cat. He hangs out here the better part of the day when it’s nice outside and he eats here regularly.

One day I was outside mowing the lawn when my neighbor, Rose, stopped over in a panic because Blacky never came home the previous night. Most nights he will come home when she calls him and he stays inside overnight.

The last time I saw him was the previous day in the afternoon when he came here to mooch food. She feared him dead because he has his routine and sticks with it. But I knew differently. I had a feeling he was alive somewhere. I feared he was sick and was hiding. Blacky is a true survivor who has lived in several towns in South Jersey and survived Superstorm Sandy while living at the Jersey Shore.

So, I sprang into action. I searched EVERYWHERE with my Mag Lite. Day and night. Called him during every feral feeding since he often came over during their feeding time. I posted on social media and alerted all of the neighbors on our block since Blacky was known to be the Man About Town. His mama went next door to my other across-the-street neighbor and asked them to check their barn since they often have it open during the day while doing yard work. I even crawled under my next-door neighbor’s barn, where Fluffy once had The Kits tucked away, and shined a flashlight to see if he was under there. Nothing.

By Day Three, I Was Starting to Panic

The third morning, I was REALLY getting worried. My hopes of finding Blacky alive were fading and fading fast.

While I was out during the morning Yard Cat feeding, I started calling him. I kept picturing Blacky’s face in my mind and willing him to let me know where he was. I told him I couldn’t help him if I didn’t know where he was. It occurred to me to look UP. I spent so much time checking under things and in bushes that it didn’t occur to me to look up in the trees. Maybe something chased him up the tree and he couldn’t get down? He’s so quiet-spoken, I’m not sure I would hear him if he was stuck up in a tree.

Just as I was saying out loud to myself while looking for him, “I bet he got his dumb ass stuck up in a tree!”, I heard it. A loud “MEOW!” from across the street. It sounded like a cat in heat but any cat on this block is neutered, unless there was a new one I didn’t know about!

I started making my way across the street to the house next door to Rose’s. And I saw his dumb little face in the window of the barn door, crying his little heart for me to come save him!

I got the neighbor to let me into the barn. Blacky knows them since he hangs out on their property all the time. But he wouldn’t make himself known to them while they were in there looking for him. He cried for me when I called his name. But wouldn’t come out until I asked them to leave us alone for a bit and I brought back a can of his favorite food to crack open, knowing he would come out once he heard the can open.

And he did.

But he was skittish. Starving. And I’m sure mildly dehydrated because it was hot that week and he was stuck in that hot barn for three full days.

He wasn’t himself

When his mama Rose came to collect him, I asked her to bring back a carrier because I thought he should be inside for a while so she could thoroughly check him out and make sure he’s eating, holding down food, etc.

Blacky when I found him in the neighbor's barn - May 2018
Blacky when I found him trapped in the neighbor’s barn – May 2018

He was SCARED. So scared that he hid when his beloved mama came in to get him. I had to feed him more food to coax him out. Then she went in for the grab to get him in the carrier so he could go inside for the day.

Blacky, safe and sound and heading home for a while to rest up and recover after his ordeal.
Blacky, safe and sound and heading home for a while to rest up and recover after his ordeal.

What Do Blacky and Blue Both Have in Common?

They are both allowed to go outside. Blacky is one thing. His mama, Rose, found him as a feral cat when she lived down the Jersey Shore. He was already neutered and ear tipped when she found him. He never forgot his feral roots. Although I strongly suggest people keep their cats as indoor-only cats unless they are caring for a feral cat colony, I know Blacky and know how impossible that is for him.

However, Blue’s owner adopted him from a shelter and his owner likely entered a contract to keep him indoors-only. They let all of their cats outside. In the US, in our town, on our street, in this day and age, there is no way I would let my cats outside. I don’t even like my ferals living out there! Blue’s owners have since adopted another kitty and are doing the same thing…letting new kitty out with all of their others. It’s frustrating because I feel it will only be a matter of time before he puts our entire street on “high alert” once again to help him find a cat that he LETS outside to begin with!

That being said, indoor-only cats get out by accident, too. Here are some tips to help you find your kitty! I’ll also talk about tips to keep them safely indoors, as well!

Let’s Find Your Lost Cat!

  1. Scent is EVERYTHING to your cat! The FIRST thing you want to do is put their soiled litter box outside, as well as something that smells like him AND his favorite human in the house. A shirt that hasn’t been laundered yet, his favorite bed..and catnip can’t hurt, either. They say that a cat can smell their own litter box from miles away!
  2. USE SOCIAL MEDIA! I’ve seen SO many pets reunited with their owners using Facebook and the Next Door app! Share, with a GOOD picture of your kitty, in all local pages as well as any lost and found pet pages for your area. Do a post from your personal profile and make it “PUBLIC” so other local friends can share! Make SURE you include location, town and state so local people can share your “Lost Cat” post. And include a phone number. Make it EASY for your cat’s finder to actually get in touch with you! Also, if you report your lost pet to Pawboost, your lost pet will be added to a nationwide database and they will do a Facebook post in your local state’s lost pet Facebook page. While on social media, check all local pages and lost and found pages for “found pet” posts!
  3. PUT OUT FLYERS!! Don’t skip this step! Not everybody in your neighborhood is on social media, especially elderly neighbors. You can use any one of the preprinted flyers on Google or make one yourself on a word processing program. Be sure to use a CLEAR picture in good lighting and include anything that’s unique to your kitty, such as a rare marking, scar, stumpy tail, ear tip, etc. Again, include your phone number on the flyer. You want to make it as EASY as possible for someone to get in touch with you if they find your kitty! Use a staple gun to place the flyers on every other telephone pole for a one-mile radius in each direction of where kitty went missing.
  4. For indoor kitties, search close to your house FIRST. Likely, they won’t be far from the house. My aunt’s indoor-only cat (and my former feral), Junior, got out twice. Both times, she set off her smoke alarm while cooking and, without thinking, she opened her slider door a crack to air out the house. The piercing wail of the smoke alarm scared Junior and he and BOOKED out that door. Both times I found him in the alley behind her townhouse, hiding in the brush. I should note that when I called him, he came crying to me, he ran from me when I tried to grab him. My aunt noticed her sensor porch light lit up a couple of times, so we thought he was trying to make his way back to the house. I sat quietly in the yard and we put wet food by the door. Both times he came back home when we quieted down and she was able to coax him inside.

    Junior's "Missing Cat" post on Facebook
    Junior’s “Missing Cat” post on Facebook
  5. USE A FLASHLIGHT, even if it’s during the day! A flashlight will help you to see their eyes if they are hiding under a deck or in bushes. If your cat is particularly timid to begin with, it may help to wait until dusk or nighttime when everything quiets down and try looking then. Often, when it gets quiet outside, they will work up the nerve to come out of their hiding spot.
  6. LOOK UP! I forgot this when Blacky was missing and almost forgot to mention it in this blog post!! Cats climb trees and forget how they get down all the time. They get up there and then forget how they got up there. Use a flashlight, even if it’s during the day, so you can see the reflection of their eyes.
  7. KEEP CALM! I’m guilty of this one. Cats mimic our energy. I made this mistake with Junior and also when I found Blacky. I couldn’t contain my excitement when I found Blacky alive and well and my nervous energy frightened him.
  8. Use a humane trap. This one works particularly well if your indoor cat has never been trapped in a humane trap before. Here are some tips for trapping cats. Using tuna or sardines works particularly well. If you see your kitty near the trap but just won’t go inside no matter how hungry they are, try using a dog cage to trap them. Here’s a Facebook Live video I did showing how to do that. **PLEASE NEVER LEAVE SET TRAPS UNATTENDED!!**
  9. VISIT your local shelters to check for new intakes! Calling them isn’t enough. You want to visit them every day or every other day and ask to see the new intakes. Find out which shelter does “open intake” for your town or municipality. Check that shelter first because if someone calls Animal Control when they find your kitty, Animal Control will take kitty to that shelter. Also, check with local rescues, as they often take stray pets and adopt them out if the pet doesn’t have a microchip. They see so many dumped off pets, they may assume that’s what happened with YOUR beloved pet.
  10. If you live in an area with commercial establishments like restaurants or fast food joints, check with them. Your kitty may go after the food in their dumpster or the rodents who frequent their dumpster.
  11. Bring cat food and treats with you when you search! If your kitty is anything like ALL of mine, they react to the can of cat food cracking open or the shake of the Temptations treat bag! That’s exactly how Blacky came out of hiding!
  12. PICTURE THEM home safe and sound. Get a mental picture of their face in your mind and talk to them. Tell them you can help them if they will just let you know where they are hiding. I swear this worked with Blacky. Telepathy is not as freaky as it sounds and is much more common than you think, especially if you and your kitty have a tight bond!
  13. DON’T LOSE HOPE! In May 2016, an emaciated gray/blue cat showed up on my property late one Saturday night screaming for my help, despite the fact that my resident ferals were trying to chase him off. We held him in Mom’s bedroom until Monday morning so I could take him to the vet. Luckly, he had a microchip. While I had the vet examine him and treat him for worms, etc, the owner called the vet back. We delivered him home later that day. Smokey was missing for 3 1/2 months from a house 1.5 miles from my house. He was an indoor-only cat. The kicker of the story is that his mama owns an animal rescue!

Me in my PJs coaxing Smokey the Missing Cat into a carrier.
Me in my PJs coaxing Smokey the Missing Cat into a carrier.

Prevention is KEY

The best way to find your lost cat is to prevent him from getting out in the first place!

I looked up articles to link to for this post and I cannot believe how many missed this first and MOST IMPORTANT tip:

  1. SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR CATS! This alone will greatly reduce the likelihood of your kitty ever getting outside to begin with!
  2. DOORS CLOSED! When I moved back home, I noticed how Mom likes to start talking to visitors AS they are leaving. Like, when they open the front door to walk out of the house! They stand there with the door open to continue their visit or just to be polite. I now walk our visitors out when they leave for two reasons…first, it’s the polite thing to do. Second, it prevents our visitor from standing there with the door wide open while I’m silently having a heart attack and stifling the urge to scream, “UH, CLOSE THE DOOR!!”
  3. LOCK THEM UP FOR DELIVERIES OR RENOVATIONS/CONSTRUCTION. I cannot even tell you HOW many times I hear, “My cat escaped while during the furniture delivery!” or any variation thereof. Renovations stress cats out. The noise that comes with large deliveries or renovations scares cats. They may be looking to escape the noise.  Your frightened cat may grab that opportunity to dart out that open door. Just recently, we had to replace our entire HVAC system. And the cats were NOT happy because I locked them in their “safe rooms” for the job. I provided food, water, litter boxes and hiding places in the closets of all three rooms (for five cats). There was a lot of scratching at doors, meowing, and dirty looks from my cats. But, now the job is over and they are SAFE.
  4. When cats are scared, they go into “fight or flight” mode. Try to minimize opening doors during loud thunderstorms, fireworks in your neighborhood, or loud windy storms (nor’easters, hurricanes, blizzards etc). I bring this up as we had the remnants of Hurricane Michael slide just to our South last night. The wind and thunderstorms scared my indoor cats most of the night. If someone opens the door while they are in “flight mode”, anything can happen, even if your cats usually aren’t interested in the door in the first place.
  5. FEAR THE DOOR. This happened by accident with my cats. Our door jamb swells in the humidity and sometimes it’s impossible to close the storm door quietly. As a result, our indoor cats are afraid to approach the door when someone is going in or out. If they are lurking by the front door on a summer night because of the bugs flying around our porch light, I will knock on the door to get them away from the door before coming inside. If I am going outside and Rascal decides to walk me out, I completely ignore him by the door, walk to the other side of the room, then give him love. I don’t ever want my cats associating that front door with positive things. We never open the door when our cats are right near it.
  6. Have a plan for emergencies. My biggest fear is fire. If we have a fire, I have to get five indoor cats safely outside as well as Mom, who is a stroke survivor. She is mobile, but takes her a while. I always remind her if we have an emergency like that to just quietly go outside. She tends to get very anxious and yells a lot when she’s anxious, which will work against me if I’m trying to calmly get five cats into five carriers. I try to make sure I have at least one carrier per cat in accessible locations throughout the house. I also have a lidded hamper with a roll of packing tape near it just in case I have to put a couple of cats in there to get them safely outside.
  7. For more tips on helping to prevent your cat from getting out, Click Here.
  8. If you have a “door dasher”, here are tips for your particular kitty!

Picture I took of Smokey to post on Facebook and make "Found Cat" flyers
Picture I took of Smokey to post on Facebook and make “Found Cat” flyers

Suggestions are Welcome!

I wanted to do this post so I could share on Social Media every time I see a “missing cat” post.

This is by no means a complete list and we are always open to hearing suggestions, tips, and things that have worked for YOU!

Please, if there is something I missed, or something that helped you to bring your kitty home, comment with your suggestion or connect with us on Facebook and share your idea!

Our hope is that our post helps to bring more lost kitties home!

**We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in! Your support is crucial to us as it helps us to continue to advocate for special needs and community cats!**

Any treatments, food and supplements I mention in this post are the result of my own research and experience. Please consult with your vet as necessary.

 

“Help! I Found Kittens in my Backyard!” – How You Can Help

 

 

Oreo and Trouble - November 2017
Two of my TNR’ed Yard Cats, Oreo (right) and Trouble (left) – November 2017

Introduction

Me, along with many other feral cat caregivers, cat enthusiasts, rescues, and shelters, get messages all day, every day that sound just like the title of this post.

I’m a caregiver to my backyard feral cat colony and a cat blogger/advocate.

I am not a rescue, a TNR group, a shelter, or God. I try to help as many people as I can but because of all of the other hats I wear, I cannot guide each and every person through the process of TNR and I certainly cannot go out there and do all of the legwork for somebody else.

Unless I don’t want to sleep!

Which is why I decided to do a comprehensive guide to Trap-Neuter-Return.

What is Trap Neuter Return (TNR)?

Trap Neuter Return (TNR) is a humane method of controlling the feral cat population and minimizing community exposure to rabies. It also helps your area shelters and rescues, because the fewer number of kittens that are coming in off the streets, the more shelter cats are finding good forever homes.

At least in my neck of the woods, my county has taken an official “pro-TNR” stance and my state (New Jersey) is on its way, because it has been proven to be a MUCH more effective method of reducing the feral cat population than antiquated “trap and kill” programs. Not only that, but our area shelters are starting to report higher “live release rates” since my county took this official stance in 2017. And it’s cheaper on local and county government since TNR is often funded by grants and/or caregivers and volunteers.

Like I always say, these cats did not ask to be dumped off. They didn’t ask to be born, much less on the streets and homeless. They have a right to live, as well.

And until the government can find a way to pass and enforce laws requiring pet owners to spay and neuter their pets and stop dumping unwanted kittens off in the woods, etc, this is as close to a viable and humane solution we will get.

Charlie April 2018
Charlie, deep in thought – April 2018

Decide the Cats’ Fate

Only YOU can decide if you want the commitment of caring for feral cats.

Because I was originally feeding the feral Tom cats who knocked Fluffy up and I failed to neuter them, I felt it was MY responsibility to make this “right”.

The Kits didn’t ask to be born to feral parents.

I want to mention that it’s a little-known fact that most shelters euthanize feral cats because they are “unadoptable” since they are not socialized to humans. And they need to make room for “adoptable” cats.

Sad, but true.

There are some shelters out there who are developing Barn Cat programs, but they are few and far between at this point in time (2018).

Please really consider their welfare when making your decision.

And know that the “vacuum effect” phenomenon is very real. When feral cats are removed from a location for whatever reason, if conditions are favorable (ie shelter, a food source, water), new feral cats CAN and WILL move in once the current cats are removed since there is nobody there to defend their “territory”.

It happened here when I rescued the Kits. It happened again when I adopted my former feral Junior to my aunt. And again when I rescued Fluffy and Oreo.

Teddy Ruxpin trapping day-May 2018
Teddy Ruxpin the morning I trapped him – May 2018

As soon as one leaves for whatever reason, another shows up. Every. Single. Time.

Kittens are ALWAYS Better Off with Mama!

I see people so anxious to TNR the mama cats that they make decisions in haste, which are not always in the best interest in the kittens’ survival.

Recently, a friend got a call about a feral mama and her kittens. She’s determined to TNR every female she can. She went out there to trap mama and removed her from the area immediately and figured she would go back the next week for the kittens.

She did this without knowing if the kittens were even weaned and old enough to survive on their own.

As far as I know, the kittens were never seen again.

What would I do differently?

I would ask the person who found the kittens if they knew if the kittens were eating solid food on their own yet. Most people cannot tell a feral kitten’s age just by looking at the kitten, so I ask, but I take their guestimate with a grain of salt unless they are REALLY experienced.

If in doubt, use mama to trap the kittens. If the kittens are weaned, mama still needs to be fixed! And, of course, the kittens need to be fixed when they are old enough, regardless if you decide to adopt them out or TNR them and let them live as outdoor feral cats.

This video by Kitten Lady shows her using a feral mama’s kittens to catch mama. BE CAREFUL taking kittens away from mama! As you see in this video, Hannah is VERY lucky she didn’t get her face ripped off by the feral mama.

Like Kitten Lady mentions in her video, kittens are ALWAYS better off with their mama! Mama can raise them better than even the most seasoned fosters and rescues, which is why The Kits ALL came inside with clean bills of health besides having round worm.

Fluffy napping with her 3 month old kittens - August 2015
Fluffy (center), napping with Spunky (left) and Rascal (right) – August 2015. The Kits were 3 months old.

Since my backyard is relatively safe, Fluffy had The Kits tucked safely away, and had help from Charlie and then Oreo, I opted to leave them with Fluffy until I figured out what to do with them. I already understood that Fluffy knew a whole lot more about raising kittens than I did!

Orphaned Kittens

Have you seen kittens and not mama? Do the kittens look clean and cared for? If so, they are likely under mama’s care but you just don’t see mama yet. Mama could be out looking for food. Or napping elsewhere. When Fluffy had her kittens tucked safely under the barn next door, she used to come over to my picnic table in the backyard to nap. She also left The Kits under the barn while she came over to eat in my shed until they were roughly 4 weeks old. Then they started coming over with her.

That’s how I knew she was weaning them off. They started to eat solid food over here and Fluffy’s food intake slowed down.

If the kittens look well cared for, wait for a while to see if mama shows up. She will usually show up after a few hours to feed and care for them. If mama doesn’t show up after a few hours, assume they are orphaned. They need intervention immediately!

This Infographic from Alley Cat Allies explains what your next steps should be.

Orphaned kittens are better left in the hands of experienced fosters or caregivers. However, if it’s a Saturday night and you can’t get them to a shelter or rescue IMMEDIATELY, Kitten Lady has some great tutorials and information on how to care for orphaned kittens!

A Note on Socializing Feral Cats

I plan on doing an entire blog post just on this subject, but here’s a quick thought.

If the location where you found the cats is “feral cat friendly” and somewhat safe and the cat is TRULY feral (ie: runs from you, hisses and spits when corners with its ears flattened, etc) it’s best to return them where you trapped them. But, please, if you do, make sure you feed it at least once per day, provide it clean, fresh water, and shelter, if at all possible.

Kittens under eight weeks of age are much easier to socialize than adult feral cats or older kittens. The Kits were 16 weeks old when I rescued them, but bear in mind they knew me since before they were born. If you’re committed to helping them socialize so you can adopt them out or even keep them as your own cats, here is a great article by Alley Cat Allies to help get you started.

Patchy and Spunky the day after they were rescued
Patchy (calico) and Spunky (tabby) – the morning after they were trapped and I announced to them that they were now indoor cats and not going back outside. September 29, 2015

Another option is to find a no-kill shelter or cat rescue in your area who has fosters experienced with socializing feral kittens. If you decide to go this route, PLEASE do your homework to make sure they are a “no kill” facility before surrendering the kittens.

Feel free to Contact Us if you need any tips, as well!

Anybody Can Do Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)

This is what one of my Facebook friends commented when someone was asking me to take care of a feral cat problem in their back yard.

“Anybody can be a trapper!”

Everything I’m sharing with you I learned myself only three years ago when Charlie brought a pregnant Fluffy here to enjoy all the amenities the Penny & The Kits Estates had to offer!

I couldn’t find a rescue to take The Kits.

My neighbors were going to take them to the shelter, thinking they were helping them. We were contracted with a high-kill shelter at that time and none of these cats would make it out alive.

I could NOT allow that to happen to these babies.

Since I had no clue what I was doing, I LEARNED! A local friend who TNR’ed a few cats gave me a some tips and lent me a trap. I learned everything else from the internet and then got moving!

Is Your Area “Safe” for Community Cats?

First, you want to find out if you’re even allowed to feed feral cats on your property. It really all depends on where you are located and how enlightened your state/county/town are.

I also STRONGLY SUGGEST building a rapport with your neighbors to let them know what you are doing and why. It’s been my experience that open lines of communication with neighbors and a good rapport with them helps the CATS…and that is our goal.

Feral cats tend to wander A LOT LESS once they are fixed. However, you do have the really, truly feral cats who just will NOT hang out close to your property no matter how hard you try to befriend them. Those are the cats who only come to eat at night, spend the majority of their time elsewhere, and RUN whenever they see you or another human.

Tiggy, August 2018
Tiggy, my one TRUE feral who is finally letting me get close and make eye contact with her! August, 2018

Explain to your neighbors that you have feral cats you are caring for and that you want to neuter them so the population doesn’t get out of hand. Tell them the cats will be vaccinated for rabies (and distemper depending on what you have available locally). Let them know that having feral cats around will reduce mouse, rat, and ground mole populations. (Unless they are MY feral cats and Gus the Ground Mole is living in your yard. If you follow our Facebook page, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, why not? Go follow us!!)

Having this talk with your neighbors will reduce the chances that they will complain about the cats in the future. Keeping a good rapport and a respectful relationship with them is one of the best things you can do for the fate of your feral cat colony.

The Next Steps

You want to get the cat(s) on a feeding schedule because that will make it MUCH easier to trap them. Same time, same place, EVERY day. Pick an area that is sheltered from the elements and an area that you can fit a humane trap when the time comes to trap.

At this point you want to look into getting a humane trap. You can contact local shelters or rescues, or even friends you have that you know care for feral cats or rescue cats and see if you can borrow a trap. Many shelters offer them on loan with a refundable deposit once you return the trap to them.

If you have more than one or two feral cats you want to TNR, you may want to look into purchasing one. Here are a couple I recommend. I personally have a Havahart at the moment but want to upgrade to the Tru Catch because I feel it is a little safer.

Havahart Humane Feral Cat Trap

Tru Catch with Rear Door

Trap Divider for Tru Catch humane trap

They also sell Havahart traps at Home Depot.

The Clinic Appointment

Next, find a low-cost spay/neuter clinic in your area. You can Google “low cost spay and neuter for cats” and your zip code to find programs and clinics in your area.

If you’re in the South Jersey/Philly area, Animal Welfare Association – Voorhees, NJ has a low cost “feral fix it” program. For $35, you can get the cat spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies, and ear tipped. Ear tipping is a universal sign that a feral cat has been fixed and vaccinated for rabies. For $10 more, they will also administer a distemper vaccine.

Other programs in South Jersey/Philly area include CSTAR – Spay our Strays clinic and Camden County Animal Shelter in Blackwood, NJ.

You want to look into getting appointments FIRST because availability for these appointments can be tough, especially during “kitten season”. I know with AWA, it sometimes takes a few days to get a callback. I usually reserve week-long “blocks” of appointments because I don’t always catch my target cat in the first attempt and neither will you. Especially the shyer cats. CSTAR-SOS Clinic only operates spay/neuter clinics monthly.

If all else fails, ask your vet or other vet offices in your area if they offer any low cost fixing options for feral cats. Often, they will set you up with a similar deal.

You want to plan ahead because once you trap a feral cat, it’s VERY difficult and may be IMPOSSIBLE to re-trap them so make sure you have an appointment for them on or around trapping day. If you trap the cat and release them without getting them fixed, good luck trying to trap that cat a second time!

Trap Training and Trapping

I cover this pretty well in a video I filmed in 2016. Please pardon the hair. And if you have the mindset of “this is a comedy” before viewing the video, you’ll appreciate our horrible videography skills. Or at least they won’t get on your nerves as much.

How to Train and Trap a Feral Cat for TNR

I cannot stress this enough…PLEASE DO NOT EVER LEAVE A SET TRAP OR A TRAPPED CAT UNATTENDED. As SOON as you trap the cat, cover it and get it to a SECURE location that is not too hot or too cold and is safe from predators, other pets, or anybody who will do it harm.

It is also VERY important to COVER the trap as soon as Kitty is trapped. Feral cats calm WAY down after being covered. If you have a kitty chatting it up and still trying to get out once the trap is covered, chances are, it’s not really feral. The more “social” cats act more like your pet cat going to the vet…you know, clawing at the door and singing the song of their people!

If you have to hold them overnight or for any length of time before their appointment, you can line puppy potty training pads underneath the trap to catch their “business”. If their appointment day is the same as trapping day, DO NOT FEED them any more food than what you used to trap them and only give water if their appointment is longer than eight hours after the time you trapped them.

Kitty will be getting anesthesia, so the risk of aspirating fluid or throwing up undigested food, both of which can kill Kitty while they are under, is very real.

Kitty’s Spay/Neuter Appointment

Every place is different so I’ll just share my experience with AWA to give you a general idea.

Check in time is 7:30am for the clinic I use. They will NOT accept any cats after about 8am, so if I don’t get there in time, I’ll have to hold that poor cat until the next day…IF I have an appointment. So I do everything in my power to get Kitty there on time.

Once I sign in, I have to fill out a paper for Kitty. At AWA, the only way to get “feral” pricing is if Kitty shows up in a trap and Kitty gets an ear tip during her surgery.

Some people get hung up on that ear tip, hoping maybe they can adopt Kitty out if it’s not so “feral”. They often fight with the AWA workers about allowing them to tip the ear, thinking they will not be able to adopt Kitty out at a future time if it’s ear tipped. Here’s my thoughts on this…I have three ear-tipped beauties as indoor-only cats right now. And I adopted out two of my former feral ear-tipped cats. An ear tip did not stop their new parents from adopting them and loving them wholeheartedly. And if someone doesn’t want a cat just because of a little ear tip, do you really want them to adopt Kitty, anyway?

Fluffy, in all her ear-tipped splendor before I rescued her. January 2018

Back to clinic. When it’s our turn, they take Kitty and keep the trap. They will put Kitty back into the trap after surgery before she wakes up. **(In the recovery section, I’ll talk about instances when you may want to bring a carrier for Kitty’s trip home.)

After Surgery

Pickup time at AWA varies but it’s usually about 3:30. Before I leave with Kitty, I always check to make sure Kitty is awake and alert. I check for excessive bleeding and I make sure they are ear tipped. I double check the paper work they hand me to make sure I have their rabies certificate for my records. AND I make sure they give me back the RIGHT kitty! Yes. They have accidentally switched kitties and the caretakers didn’t realize it until after they left!

Chatty on his way home from surgery September 2015
Chatty (now Cosmo) after I picked him up from his neuter surgery – September, 2015

Again, NEVER LEAVE KITTY UNATTENDED IN A TRAP. And NEVER leave Kitty in a hot car. When I pick up Kitty from AWA, I head straight home. Especially if it is too hot or too cold outside. Often, Kitty is just starting to come out of anesthesia at pick-up time and this is a very vulnerable time for them. When a cat is coming out of anesthesia, they cannot regulate their own body temperature, so make sure the temp inside your car and their recovery area is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. You want to try and control the temperature the entire first night of recovery while they are clearing the anesthesia.

And PLEASE, never attempt to transfer them out of the trap into a carrier or a cage unless you are indoors in a secure location. I hear TOO many stories of people who transferred Kitty into a carrier from a trap outside or at the clinic. Kitty got out and took off. When that happens, there is a disoriented kitty who is still under some degree of sedation and may not be able to defend itself. And a feral cat will DIE trying to find their way back to where they know to be “home”. Wait until you’re in Kitty’s recovery room before trying to transfer him to his recovery cage or pen.

Also, Kitty may still be very groggy and it’s tempting to try and pet Kitty, but unless you knew her to be friendly BEFORE trapping, do not touch Kitty. Feral cats are scared to death of humans and will attack when they feel threatened. Even while drugged up to their eyeballs. An untreated cat bite can lead to a severe infection that may even require IV antibiotics, a tetanus shot, the rabies series, and hospitalization. Please be smart and don’t take that chance.

The Recovery Period

Opinions vary on how long you should hold Kitty after surgery. And, of course, every cat and every situation is different. Here is a general guideline from Alley Cat Allies.

I’ve only TNR’ed one female (Fluffy). She was pregnant, and, unbeknownst to me until after the fact, was pretty far along in her pregnancy. She had complications that led to internal bleeding requiring a second surgery, and she was mildly anemic as a result. We ended up holding her a total of six days and five nights, which is twice as long as I would normally hold a female who is an “uncomplicated spay”.

Other than that, I’ve had all boys. And I have severe space constraints in my house, especially now that I have Fluffy and The Kits inside. I have a small bathroom that has just enough room for the trap I caught them in. Since they were boys and their neuter is MUCH less invasive than a female spay, I let them recover in the trap overnight and if all looks well the next morning, I release them. Basically, I make sure they are eating well, not bleeding anywhere, and they are alert. It’s great if they are acting hostile. Since they are feral, they SHOULD BE once the anesthesia wears off!

Setting Up the Recovery Area

Trooper recovering from surgery, June 2018
Trooper in his feral cat den in his recovery cage – June, 2018. Trooper had an extended recovery because he also had his tail amputated after a nasty tail injury almost cost him his life!

ONE IMPORTANT NOTE! I said this before but it’s THAT IMPORTANT that I will say it again… when you pick the cat up from surgery, they cannot regulate their own body temperature because they are still under the influence of anesthesia. It’s CRUCIAL that you recover them in a climate-controlled area where the temperature is between 68-74 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid the risk of hyper- or hypothermia.

CHOOSE A SECURE LOCATION INDOORS! This one I absolutely cannot stress ENOUGH. Since Kitty often smells like blood, you don’t want them to recover in a cage or a trap outside or even in a barn/shed or other non-secure outbuilding. The smell of blood can attract predators from MILES and Kitty will have no way of getting free when confined to a trap or a cage. Also, since they are groggy from anesthesia and/or pain medicine, they are not as sharp. Their defenses aren’t as sharp. I have heard nightmare stories of recovering cats in cages inside barns or sheds who were attacked and/or killed by predators during the recovery period. PLEASE TAKE THIS ADVICE SERIOUSLY! 

Setting Up for an Overnight Stay

To set up the trap in the recovery area for MALE cats, I flatten a large box (usually from Chewy.com) in the shower stall and line it with a thick lining of puppy training pads. I learned this little trick with Charlie. If you place the trap OVER the pads instead of putting the pads or newspaper inside the trap, it’s easier to lift up the trap to removed any soiled pads and “business” and put fresh pads down so they don’t have to sit on their “business”. I recovered at least ten cats this way and they seemed much more comfortable using this method!

If you do not have a trap divider, you can slowly open the front of the trap an inch or so to slip food in. I use small Dixie bowls for this purpose. If you stick the bowl in first, you can push it with your finger behind the bowl so Kitty won’t see your hand going toward him. If he attacks, he will attack the bowl. You can also use tongs to push the bowl in.

I usually feed wet food only and I add extra water to the food. I put the wet food in the center and do a “moat” of water outside of the food. That’s enough to keep them well hydrated during their overnight stay, and then you won’t have to worry about Kitty spilling the water all over his recovery area. Live and learn!

I also cover the trap halfway or three-quarters of the way. That gives them an area to feel covered and secure, yet allows air flow into the recovery area.

Setting up for an Extended Stay

I personally prefer to recover female cats for a minimum of two nights/three days. If Kitty was pregnant, you may want to hold her longer. A sick or injured kitty will have a longer recovery time. Ask the clinic or vet for their recommendation. We recently TNR’ed a male cat with an injured tail. Since the vet amputated his tail, we held him for two weeks before releasing. Every cat and situation is different!

If you need to hold Kitty longer than overnight, set up a dog cage or large plastic dog kennel. You want enough room for a “feral cat den”, a small litter box, and room for food and water bowls opposite the litter box because most cats will not eat where they do their “business”.

A feral cat den is a cat carrier that creates a little place where kitty can hide in and sleep if they so choose. Likely, Kitty will hide in there when you go in to clean the cage and feed, etc. Actually, I count on that because if Kitty hides in the den, you can use a long stick to close the door of the carrier. Once you have the door closed, hold the stick up against it to keep it closed while you reach in and secure the door by hand. Once Kitty is secure in the carrier, you can pluck the carrier out of the cage to clean it. It’s so much quicker, easier, and safer to clean the cage this way!

**This is a situation when you may want to bring a carrier to the clinic when you drop Kitty off for surgery. When Kitty’s surgery is complete, they will put Kitty into the carrier instead of the trap. When you get to the Recovery Area, you can just place the carrier that’s holding Kitty into the cage. Unlock the carrier door just before you secure the larger cage but DO NOT OPEN IT YET. Once you securely lock the cage, you can open the carrier door with a stick or broom handle and secure the carrier door to the side of the cage in the “open” position using zip ties.

If you’re recovering kittens, use a large plastic dog kennel instead of a dog cage because kittens can easily slip through the bars or slip out of the bottom of a large dog cage.

 

Feral Cat recovery cage
Example of a feral cat recovery page.

You can purchase inexpensive zip ties from Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Amazon. If you use plastic dishes and a litter box, cut a small hole into the side of the bowls and the litter box, just enough to slip the zip tie through. Then you can secure them to the side of the cage. Securing them ensures Kitty won’t spill anything. You can also use zip ties to secure the “feral cat den” door to the side of the cage so the door doesn’t accidentally shut. (I learned this one the hard way with some kittens I recovered.)

Feral cat recovery cage #2
Another example of a feral cat recovery cage. We zip-tied everything to the cage bars.

It’s wise to check on Kitty twice per day as well as twice daily feedings. Sometimes, true ferals will not use a litter box. It’s always good to line the bottom of the cage with newspaper. Just do the best you can to clean up the cage while remaining safe.

Fluffy didn’t go into the feral cat den when I went to visit her. I took some chances cleaning Fluffy’s cage that I probably shouldn’t have. It helped that she knew me and reacted with a friendly squeak whenever she saw me. Therefore, I felt safe taking those chances with her. Know Thy Cat.

Again, cover the trap halfway or three-quarters of the way. That gives them an area to feel covered and secure, yet allows air flow into the recovery area.

The “Return”

Or like I call it, their “Freedom Run”!

This is bittersweet. If they are truly feral, they are happier outside where they consider “home”. I’m happy for them because I know their ordeal is over and I’m about to make their day by releasing them. But it’s sad because just for a short while, they were SAFE and in my care. But, if they are TRULY feral, trust me, you’re doing the right thing by releasing. More on that to come in another blog post.

Like I said above, I only release if Kitty is awake, alert, eating well, and not bleeding. If in doubt, the clinic where Kitty had their surgery should have an emergency line for post-surgical questions and problems. Please contact the clinic or vet if Kitty isn’t looking well at ANY time during the recovery process.

I ALWAYS feed a couple of hours before releasing, especially since they don’t always come back right away.

You want to make sure you release Kitty at the same location you trapped him! Kitty can become disoriented if you release him anywhere else. He will likely become lost trying to find his way home. Feral cats can and will die trying to find their way “home”. More on that here.

Be sure to cover the trap or carrier before taking Kitty to the release spot. She will be nervous because she doesn’t understand what is going to happen to her next.

Once you get Kitty to the release spot, pull back the cover just a bit and see how they react. If they start thrashing around, cover the trap back up. If they are calm, you can pull the cover halfway back so they can see their surroundings.

THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. DO NOT JUST RELEASE RIGHT AWAY. Please give Kitty some time to re-acclimate himself to his whereabouts. Especially if he had an extended recovery. You can see with some cats the exact point they realize where they are. If you watch Kitty, you may see his demeanor change from fear to excitement. He knows he’s “home”. When you see that change in them, it’s okay to release. It can take anywhere from 5 – 20 minutes.

I always make sure my other ferals aren’t around when I release. As you see, they often shoot off like a cat out of Hell. Make sure the area is quiet with no loud machinery, construction or people around, if you can help it.

Awaiting Their Return

This is the absolute hardest part. More often than not, they don’t return to the scene of the crime right away. My cats have taken anywhere from one hour (Trouble) to eight days (Fluffy) to return.

I always make sure the trap is NOWHERE near the “scene of the crime” after release. If I am trapping other cats at the same site, I try to set the traps in a different area. The last thing I want is to scare Kitty when he returns.

They ALWAYS return. I’ve TNR’ed around 30 cats, and eventually they all came back. This was my BIGGEST fear and what stopped me from starting TNR sooner. Charlie and Oreo were coming around for a year before I TNR’ed them because of that fear.

I didn’t act until AFTER I saw kittens. That kinda defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

You’re Not in “This” Alone!

This is by no means a complete guide. I wanted to go as in detail as possible (for a blog post) to help those who are brand new to TNR. The whole process intimidated me because I didn’t know a lot of the “small details” involved.

Community Cats United website provides great information and resources for those just starting out. Their sister Facebook page, Trap-Neuter-Return Community, is full of experienced lay people who will also help you out! This is an awesome community to join to really learn the ins and outs and tricks from feral cat caregivers!

Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions or need guidance for your particular situation.

Follow our Facebook page for tips and tricks on feral cat care. You can also meet our cats and see the daily ‘goings on’ around here! And don’t hesitate to shoot us a direct message on FB!

If you’re not on Facebook, join us on Instagram. 

THANK YOU!

THANK YOU for deciding to be part of the solution by spaying and neutering your community cats!

Together, we can HALT the over-population of feral cats and enable more homeless shelter cats find a FOREVER home!

Orange enjoying the sunshine - August 2018
This is what a neutered, well cared for community cat looks like! Big Orange – August, 2018

 

**We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in! Your support is crucial to us as it helps us to continue to advocate for special needs and community cats!**

Any treatments, food and supplements I mention in this post are the result of my own research and experience. Please consult with your vet as necessary.

 

 

Meet Weeny the Wacko – Nee Irene

Weeny in 2013
My favorite pic of Weeny in 2013

Her Beginning

“On the day I was born
The nurses all gathered round
And they gazed in wide wonder
At the joy that had found.

The head nurse spoke up
And said leave this one alone
She could tell right away
That I was BAD TO THE BONE” – George Thorogood & The Delaware Destroyers

She Couldn’t Find Her Forever Home

I first saw Weeny at my local Pet Smart when I was there buying food for Tabby.

Every week, I would visit the adoptable cats when I went cat food shopping. And week after week, Weeny was passed over even though the other cats were being adopted and new cats were coming in. I felt so bad for her. But at Tabby’s age and the fact that Tabby was an “only cat” for the past five years, I didn’t know how she would react if I brought a kitten home.

One week, shortly before Tabby crossed The Bridge, I asked a volunteer what will happen if Weeny doesn’t find a home. Will she be put to sleep? That’s when I learned that Jersey State Animal Rescue, a no-kill rescue, houses their adoptable cats there. I felt SO much better because, at that point, Weeny was up there for MONTHS and couldn’t find her forever home. The volunteer I spoke with said that she was shy and, therefore, had problems connecting with potential adopters.

When Tabby crossed The Bridge in April, 2012, I was devastated. I never took a pet loss SO hard. Tabby and I moved back to my folks’ house four years prior and after Tabby passed, it didn’t feel like “home”. I realized that Tabby made this place “home” for me.

It occurred to me that there was this cat who desperately needed a home and we had an “opening”, so why not give her a chance? I knew she could never replace Tabby and I wasn’t looking to. I just wanted to help this beautiful baby who deserved a good home.

Meeting Weeny for the First Time

That next weekend, I went to Pet Smart to “meet” her. She was a little shy, but very sweet. I was already “sold” before I even officially met her!

There was another cat there who was SO beautiful and was trying to get my attention SO badly that I studiously avoided eye contact with her because I didn’t know how the folks would react to having TWO cats in the house!

The next day I brought them to meet Weeny. My dad became VERY attached to Tabby and was just as heartbroken as I was when she passed, so I really wanted him to be okay with adopting Weeny, even though she was going to be my cat.

Weeny in Dad's Cooler
As SOON as Dad put his cooler on the table…

That day a volunteer was there cleaning out the cages and all of the cats were in the cat room playing. We watched Weeny play for a few minutes. She was a TOTAL PUNK with the other cats. She would ambush, then hiss and hide! That’s when I saw her little personality sparkling through! She LIVED to play.

And, boy, was she BAD!!

She won my heart!

I tried to hold Weeny and get her to bond with my parents, but she wasn’t very interested in us. That’s probably why she kept getting passed over. She was more interested in playing than she was in us. But I didn’t care. She was already coming home if my application was approved.

In the meantime, Penny attached herself to me and practically BEGGED me to get her out of there. By the end of that visit, I put in applications to adopt BOTH of them!

I Met Weeny’s Angel…

On May 2, 2012, we went to Pet Smart to bring Penny and Weeny HOME!

I was lucky enough that night to meet Weeny’s rescuer. She was a tiny girl, a vet, and had balls of steel. She used to go around Camden, NJ, the most dangerous city in the US at that time, and demand that gang members and drug dealers hand over their pit bulls that were being used in dog fighting rings. This lady was crazy and she was fearless…and absolutely wonderful!

She often tried to help this Hispanic gentleman who kept hoarding cats. Every time the authorities were called, she would broker a deal with them to let her take the cats to rescue so they wouldn’t be sent to a shelter. She rescued Weeny from this house on one of her trips. That’s how Jersey State got involved. They were often the recipients of these cats. This particular rescue took MANY a Camden cat off the streets over the years because they know just how awful conditions are for them in that city.

Weeny was just about a month old when she was rescued. They named her after Hurricane Irene since she they rescued her around the time that Irene hit New Jersey in August, 2011.

How appropriate.

Weeny TOTALLY lived up to her name!

Weeny napping in her favorite place, Grandmommy’s desk chair

Coming HOME

On the ride home, Penny was serenading us the WHOLE WAY, while poor Weeny sat in the back of her carrier, scared and shaking. She had NO IDEA her life was about to change for the better!

We had a plan to put them in an isolation room together since they already knew each other from the rescue. However, Weeny was so shaken and SCARED TO DEATH she kept hissing at Penny every time Penny went anywhere near her. Since Penny was so relaxed about the entire ordeal (she knew she was home already and was excited to explore), I decided to let Penny out so that Weeny could just calm down and decompress.

“Institutionalized”

Red, talking about Brooks in Shawshank Redemption…

“These walls are kind of funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized.”

My dad and I quickly figured out Weeny was suffering from this phenomenon. She lived at Pet Smart for eight of her nine months. She didn’t know any other way to live.

By the next morning she came out of hiding and was eating. She was very afraid of my dad when we would go into her room to visit and let her get to know us. That’s when I figured out she was still semi-feral. She was my first experience with a feral or semi-feral cat. She wasn’t mean….just extremely afraid of people and fearful of change or new conditions.

I had Mom and Dad sit on the floor with her so they would seem less intimidating and I had them feed her treats so she could associate positive things with them. We all played with her and that was the absolute BEST way to bond with her.

It took her WEEKS to come out of her safe room “for good”. The first time I opened the door to let her start exploring, I chose a night that my parents were out since the house was quiet. Weeny started by sniffing near the door, then running back in and hiding. Then she took a step out into the hallway, got scared and ran back in. A few more steps, then back into her safe room. And so on and so forth.

Eventually she got comfortable in the rest of the house, but it definitely took some time and patience!

She Finally Found Her Way!

Like I said…she LIVED to play! So we had every toy imaginable in her room. Linda, the rescue’s director, told us her favorite toy was the Turbo Scratcher, so we made sure we got one for each of the girls. I never really got the whole point of a Turbo Scratcher until I saw Weeny in action with it! She played with it for HOURS and HOURS. She ate her treats on it and slept on it. That thing was her bestest friend!

Weeny sleeping on her Turbo Scratcher
Weeny napping on her beloved Turbo Scratcher on Cat Beach-2013

We brought Penny in for many visits to allow them to get to know each other. Penny was only up at Pet Smart for a couple of weeks before I adopted her, so I suspect that they really didn’t know each other all that well and were not friends at Pet Smart. For a while there, I was afraid they wouldn’t get along. After having Taz and Tabby, who were as bonded as two cats could possibly be, I was a little worried that these two would never bond the way Taz and Tabby did. But, in time, they forged their own little friendship.

Penny Became Her “Mentor”

Penny & Weeny on Cat Beach, 2013

Weeny learned EVERYTHING about being a house cat from Penny. The first time Weeny saw the cat water fountain, it scared her. She had NO idea what it was or what to do with it. One day, she watched Penny drink from the water stream. I could almost see her taking out a notepad and pen and scribbling notes down…”and then you stick your head near the water, then you stick your tongue out, and then you lap the water…” After Penny was done, she went over the fountain to try it herself and proceeded to spill water all over her bib.

She didn’t like that.

She shook her head “no” and ran off! To this very day, I hold that memory near and dear to my heart and WISH I took video!

Weeny drinking from water fountain
Weeny drinking from the fountain-2012

Weeny the Comedian

When my dad was dying from cancer in 2014, Weeny provided very much-needed comic relief for all of us. My dad had bilateral cataracts and couldn’t see very well near the end. But he could HEAR. And Weeny had a habit of running through the house at random times for random reasons, or for NO reason, all the while squeaking and making this trilly chirpy noise. When she ran, it sounded like someone was doing demo work in the house! Dad would hear her and just laugh.

It takes a very special cat to make a dying man smile!

My mom doesn’t understand cats very well. She bonds with dogs much more easily. Yet Weeny, who had trouble bonding with people, and Mom, who had trouble bonding with cats, became really close. Mom spent hours playing with Weeny on her favorite computer chair with a feather or tossing a plastic milk carton ring for Weeny to chase. She even set up cat videos for Weeny to watch on the computer!

Weeny watching cat TV
You thought I was kidding? Grandmommy setting up Cat TV for Weeny – 2013

Weeny also loved to chase bugs. Mom spent many summer nights catching miller moths in a plastic cup to bring in for Weeny’s amusement. Sounds sick and morbid, I know. But what Weeny wanted, she got, especially from Mom! Dad always warned us that Saint Bugnacious was watching and would make Mom repent when the time comes…

On the rare occasions that Weeny wasn’t playing, she spent her time sunbathing on Cat Beach by our glass slider door in the kitchen, where we had direct sunlight for nine months out of the year. She liked to take shady breaks behind my dad’s NJ State Police jacket that he always had hanging on one of the kitchen chairs. After he passed, we had to leave it up on that chair for her. I buried Weeny with that jacket. It’s what Dad would have wanted, I’m sure.

Weeny with her favorite jacket
Weeny and her beloved NJSP jacket. On Cat Beach, of course!

Weeny actually turned out to be a pretty affectionate cat when she was in the mood for love. She absolutely LOVED belly rubs! She had the softest fur of any pet I ever touched. Her fur kind of felt like velvet.

It Wasn’t “Just” a Lump

In May of 2015, I noticed a lump on her side. Around the same time I noticed her ten hours of play each day was slowing down a bit. At first I chalked it up to her hitting maturity. Weeny was coming up on 4 years old, after all!

She also started vomiting every so often, which was not like her AT ALL. Weeny was always very healthy and she was still so young. We took her to the vet and he diagnosed the lump as a sebaceous cyst. He drained it and gave her an antibiotic.

By mid-July, she was itchy all of the time and was vomiting more frequently. We took her back to the vet. This time a more experienced vet looked at her. She still didn’t think it was anything major, but just as she was finishing up her exam, she felt it.

A swollen lymph node under her forearm.

My heart DROPPED.

I knew.

She pulled some tissue from the lymph node and the skin lump to biopsy.

The results came back as an aggressive, malignant mast cell cancer. Typically, cutaneous (skin) mast cell tumors in cats are “in situ”, meaning they don’t spread. There are more rare forms, like this one, that spread to the lymph nodes and spleen. This cancer is usually more common in dogs than in cats.

Quality of Life v. Quantity

Most veterinary cancer treatment is not curative. The majority of the time the goal is to extend their life a bit. Treatment of aggressive mast cell cancer has a 50/50 shot at working to extend life for maybe a few months. If it was in the spleen, removing her spleen would have bought Weeny maybe a year, at most.

I know Weeny. Going to the vet scared her so much she shook uncontrollably. Her favorite activities in life revolved around playing and running. To take that away from her by making her undergo surgery and chemo, just to possibly extend her life for a year, would have been for ME, not for her.

I firmly believe with our pets that the goal should ALWAYS be quality of life over quantity. So I opted for palliative care until I couldn’t keep her comfortable anymore.

For the most part, we did a good job of that. I kept her vomiting in check as well as her itchiness. She possibly ate more while she was sick than when she was well because the medication she was on for the itching also works as a mild appetite stimulant in some cats.

As her illness progressed, she wasn’t really herself anymore. She would still play and chase bugs sometimes, but not near as much as she used to. She didn’t feel well despite our best efforts to keep her life as “normal” as possible. Her lymph node tumor turned into a big gaping, oozing wound that I did my best to keep clean. At this point, she was also on pain medication and antibiotics for the tumor.

Playing with her plastic ring on Grandmommy’s desk chair – 2013

Weeny Told Me She was “Ready”

The day before she died, she gave me “the look” just after I medicated her. Her eyes said it all.

People say your cat will TELL you when they had enough. Tabby did, albeit subtly. When I looked into Weeny’s eyes that day, she told me LOUD AND CLEAR…”I just can’t do this anymore.” She just wanted freedom from her pain.

It was Saturday evening and my only choice was to take her to the emergency vet. I couldn’t do that to Weeny. Not while she was still stable. I promised her right then that we would call her vet first thing on Monday so they could come out and free her from her pain. Since the going to the vet terrified her, I wanted them to come here instead.

The next day, she seemed a little better. She ate very well and even played a little. She ate her 4pm meal with no problems…clean plate and everything.

Just about an hour later, she was sitting on her favorite afghan by the picture window when she actively starting dying. She started projectile vomiting and pooped while she tried to jump off the couch. She was scared and you could see it.

Then the seizures started.

It was a Sunday evening. Our only options were an emergency vet a half hour away or Lap of Love out of Philadelphia.

I Had to Honor Her Wishes

She was going to die that night. I saw my dad during the active dying process and I know what it looks like. I called Lap of Love to see how quickly they could come out instead of allowing her to suffer all night.

Penny kept trying to approach her to check on her and comfort her, but it was just freaking Weeny out. I had Mom take Penny down to the basement to occupy her.

Lap of Love called back within a half hour and the on-call vet was on his way out to assist her in crossing The Bridge.

While he was en route, Weeny’s seizures finally slowed down and she settled in the kitchen on Cat Beach. She was still terrified and struggling to breathe. I wanted so badly to put her on my lap, but Weeny was NEVER a lap cat. She was a “next to you” cat. I had to honor what I knew she wanted by just sitting next to her and talking softly to her.

She took her last breath on Cat Beach with me by her side just about five minutes before the vet arrived.

Bird Watching – 2012

I Meant “FOREVER”

Weeny was a cat who deserved to live life on her terms.

And she deserved to die on her terms.

I won’t lie…it was heartbreaking to watch her in those last hours of her life. However, I did not want to terrorize her by rushing her off in a carrier to go to the emergency vet in her last moments.

For a shy cat who waited SO long for her forever home after being in the public eye at Pet Smart for nine months, to this very day, almost three years later, I’m still glad she got to cross the Bridge in her very favorite spot in the whole world with her very favorite person by her side.

On Cat Beach. AT HOME.

I promised her a forever home when I adopted her. And I never broke that promise.

NICKNAMES: Weener, Weeny-Schnitz, WeenerSchnitzel, Booger, Boogie Board, Der Veener Schnitzel, Wacko, Squeaky McGee, Bad Bad Weeny Brown

SONGS: 

“Rock You Like a Hurricane” – The Scorpions

“Bad to the Bone” – George Thorogood & The Delaware Destroyers

“Bad, Bad LeRoy Brown” – Jim Croce

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We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in! Your support is crucial to us as it helps us to continue to advocate for special needs and community cats!**

 

Meet Blacky – The Nosiest Neighbor EVER!

Blacky being a spoiled brat
This picture describes Blacky to a TEE!!

Like He Owned the Place

Blacky first came into my life on August 17, 2015. I thought he was another feral cat or maybe a stray since he literally moved right on to our property as if he owned it!

He was already ear tipped. I LOVE when cats come to me already ear-tipped!! Ear tipping is a universal sign that a feral cat was trapped, neutered, vaccinated for rabies and then released/returned.

Since he was so friendly and looked well-kept, I posted his picture on Facebook to see if he was someone’s missing cat. My friend Ken, who works across the street from my house at his folks’ business, commented that it was his sister’s cat.

She recently moved back home with her husband and children.

He Needed a Home

A few days later, she came over and asked me to help her figure out what to do with him. She recently got a dog and Blacky and this dog didn’t get along. Plus, her folks had two cats upstairs that Blacky scrapped with. Unfortunately, in August it’s really difficult to find rescue around here because it’s the height of “kitten season”. The Kits were still outside at the time and I couldn’t even find a rescue to take four adorable 3-month old kittens let alone an adult cat with an ear tip!

She worked something out for him that he could stay on their screened-in porch and he could live outside. Plus, he had a home in my yard if he wanted it. He was originally a feral cat so this is the life he was used to.

A True Survivor

Rose told me that she met Blacky in Wildwood, NJ, when she lived there. An older neighbor was feeding him but really couldn’t afford to feed him anymore. It’s a mystery who neutered him. After Superstorm Sandy battered the NJ Shore in 2012, Rose rescued Blacky, (who was living outside as a feral cat at the time) packed up her family, and moved inland to a town neighboring ours.

Sandy was a horrendous storm that destroyed parts of the Jersey Shore. Blacky lived about 75 miles South of the worst damage, but Wildwood, NJ also was gravely affected by the storm surge, wind, and beach erosion. If you haven’t heard of Sandy, watch this video that shows some of the storm and damage.

Blacky is TRULY a survivor.

Blacky's First Visit
Blacky, the first day he “adopted” us as his second feeders, er, I mean, family!

Growing Pains

Blacky adopted us as his second family very quickly. Like, as soon as I fed him the first time, he decided this was his home, as well.

As if he always lived here and paid the taxes!

Blacky terrorized every other cat here. Fluffy and The Kits were still outside, Oreo was on patrol here many times per day, Chatty (now Cosmo…read about his rescue) showed up a couple of days later and was extremely frightened and sick. At the time, Oreo was living next door to the house where Blacky was staying and Blacky ran Oreo, the head honcho..the Lion King, out of there more times than I can count.

Blacky’s TOUGH. I guess with his life he HAD to be!

He also terrorized Big Orange when Orange moved here in 2016. That entire Spring and Summer I would have to hold the outdoor hose in my hand and warn Blacky that I was “cocked and loaded” if he chased Orange ONE more time!

He eventually settled down and co-exists peacefully with the Yard Cats as well as his doggie brother, but it took a good two years to get him to that point!

So Blacky was living here almost full time and slept here in a shelter I provided for him. He bounced back and forth between our house and the neighbor’s house with some stops off at their next door neighbor’s when it tickles his fancy.

Then He Became Very Sick

Blacky, sick, just before his mama came over and brought him home.
Blacky on January 18, 2016, just before his mama came over to take him inside.

In January, 2016, he was in his heated shelter out back. We get direct sunlight there in the Winter and that area gets nice and toasty. I went out to feed the cats and Blacky would NOT eat and wouldn’t come out all day. I called Rose and told her something was wrong. She came over to see him and he finally came out of his shelter for her, so she snatched him up and put him in a carrier to take him inside. We took him to the vet the next morning. He was burning up with a 105 degree fever and was diagnosed with eosinophilic granuloma complex. The vet gave him a Convenia injection and I had him give Blacky a Cerenia injection for nausea and an appetite stimulant. The vet directed Rose to keep him inside for as long as he would tolerate.

And thank God she did. Just a couple of days later, we got socked with the Blizzard of 2016. It would have been very tough for him to endure the 2′ of snow and high winds we had with that storm, especially if he was sick.

A New Arrangement

Blacky, being Blacky, could only be held inside for so long before he started to scheme his escape. Blacky does things HIS way and ONLY his way. He returned 8 days later. Since Rose figured out a way to keep him separated from the upstairs cats and he was getting along better with Buster, his doggie brother, Blacky became an indoor/outdoor cat. Rose now brings him in overnight and he stays in when the weather is bad.

Everything happens for a reason.

Blacky Keeps Us on Our Toes!

Recently, Rose came over here and told me, “Blacky’s gone!” He didn’t come home the night before and the last time anybody saw him was the previous afternoon when he came over to hit me up for food.

This was VERY unlike Blacky.

He has a schedule. He normally goes in when she calls him in at night, comes here at 7am to eat with my Yard Cats, goes back home to nap until around 10am and then bounces around our block for most of the afternoon, with naps on my property in between his escapades.

Rose thought he was dead. She believed something or someone got him.

But I just had a feeling he was around somewhere. I was concerned he was sick and went off to die alone. He’s probably about 9 years old and has been losing a little weight so it wasn’t out of the question.

We knocked ourselves out for three days trying to figure out where he could be so we could help him. I posted all over Facebook, talked to all of the neighbors on our block, looked high and low and nagged the hell out of Rose to make sure she was doing the same on her side of the street. I even crawled under my next door neighbor’s barn (where Fluffy had The Kits in 2015) with a flashlight to make sure he wasn’t under there.

For three days I called him. Rose called him. We asked her next door neighbor to check around inside HIS barn, outbuildings and shrubs. I kept picturing his face and telling him to let me know where he was so I could help him. I told him that I couldn’t help him if he didn’t make himself known to me!

Blacky v Wild Turkeys, 2017
Blacky blocking a flock of wild turkeys from exiting our back yard…October, 2017

The third morning, it dawned on me that I should look UP. Maybe he climbed a tree and couldn’t climb back down? He’s so soft-spoken under normal circumstances that I wasn’t sure if I would hear him if he was in duress.

I went out front to put food out for the Yard Cats. I called Blacky a few times. The next thing I hear is what sounds like a cat in heat across the street, next door to Rose’s house. I started walking to the street to get a look. As I approached my street, I saw Blacky’s dumb little face in the window of the barn door across the street!

Just like I thought…he got himself trapped! He must have wandered in their barn one day while they were doing yard work and they didn’t realize he was in there when they locked up.

Reunited and It Feels So Good!

Lucky for us, our neighbor returned home just a few minutes later and let me into the barn. Blacky wouldn’t come out with them in there so I asked them to leave us alone out there. He still wouldn’t come out so I ran home (in flip flops, no less) and got a can of his favorite food. I walked back into the barn, cracked open the can and he finally came out.

By then I got in touch with Rose and she came over with a carrier to grab him and keep him inside for a while to make sure he was okay. The weather was hot that week and he didn’t eat or drink anything for that three days he was missing! We both fed him all he could eat the next few days to help him recover. Luckily, he was in pretty good shape for being in a hot barn without food or water for so long!

Blacky and his mama Rose the day I found him
Blacky and his mama, Rose, May 4, 2018. I just found him that morning!

He Changed My Life for the Better

It was then that I realized I love Blacky as much as my own cats. I consider him one of my pets even though he has a home and a mama. A cat can never have too many families, right?

Rose keeps talking about moving out of her folks’ home. And I keep trying to talk her into leaving Blacky to live here. But I can’t bring him inside like she can, and I have to remember he is HER pet, but sometimes it’s hard. He LOVES her. He knows she rescued him. Remember when he was sick and he came out for her and not me?

I have to remember that myself.

Sure, he loves me, but Rose, her husband and kids are his FAMILY. I’m just the nice neighbor with the good food!

All I can do is keep hoping Rose doesn’t move anytime soon! And if she does? I have to PRAY that he will be happy and be okay. And stalk her for weekly updates!

TRULY One of a Kind

He is THE MOST UNIQUE cat, animal, LIVING BEING, I ever met in my ENTIRE life. He marches to the beat of his own drum. It’s HIS way or the highway. He stalks me from across the street when he wants food.

Blacky stalking me in my bedroom window.
Blacky was across the street watching me put suet out in the bird feeder. I tried to duck him and come right back in. The next thing I know, I look at my window to see who Rascal is talking to and see THIS!

EVERY SINGLE TIME I pull up in the Jeep on nice days, he comes running over to greet me and get a snack. If he doesn’t see me and wants something, he will jump outside the windows and STARE into the house until I go out there to tend to his needs.

Blacky stalking the Jeep.
January, 2018. And you thought I was exaggerating, right?

And I’m not the FIRST neighbor that he adopted! Apparently he has done this to Rose’s other neighbors before he moved here!

Blacky has a fan base of neighbors all over South Jersey spanning three counties and 70+ miles!

He has plenty of attitude and plenty of MOXIE.

And a TON of personality!

I’m forever grateful that God and Saint Frances brought Blacky into my life, and I enjoy every single moment I have with him. Even when he’s being bad! Or eating enough cat food to put me in the poorhouse!

Blacky and Lefty the Reindeer, 2015
Blacky, ever the nosy neighbor, is always the FIRST to check out what I’m doing outside. Here he is with his pal Lefty the Reindeer in 2015. It’s our tradition that he helps me decorate for Christmas every year!

Nicknames: Sylvester the Cat, Daddies, Fuss Pot, MOOCH, Nosy Neighbor

Songs: “My Way” – Frank Sinatra, “My Way” – Limp Bizkit

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!

Your support is crucial to us as it helps us to continue to advocate for special needs and community cats!**

Any treatments, food and supplements I mention in this post are the result of my own research and experience. Please consult with your vet as necessary.

 

 

 

 

Tabby Wonder Cat Wilson July 22, 1996 – April 24, 2012

Tabby – Summer, 2011

We Almost Got a Dog Instead…

I’ll never forget the day my ex and I adopted Tabby and her “brother” Taz. We just moved in together a few months before and he decided he wanted a dog, so looked in the paper and found a beautiful older Alaskan Malamute. She had to be re-homed because her owner was moving into a nursing home.

We did a meet and greet with this beautiful, ginormous white gentle giant and I fell in love. She reminded me of a bigger version of my Siberian Husky I had growing up, Dipsey. Her owner was ready to adopt her to us ASAP.

I got home and really thought about it. We had a small one-bedroom apartment at the time and she was a BIG dog. I was a bank manager and since we had one car, I had to drive us both to and from work. We were gone most weekdays from 7am to at least 5pm, if not later.

Dipsey and Robyn 1977
Dipsey as a puppy and me in 1977. I was five years old.

Dipsey had her own doggie door and a fenced yard that she could go out and relieve herself anytime she wanted. This poor pooch would have been stuck in that apartment crossing her legs for over ten hours per day. That was no kind of life for a pooch. I had to call her owner and explain why our home was not the best fit for her.

To this day I hope and pray she found a great home to live out her Golden Years.

The Best $5 I EVER Spent!

We decided a cat would be a much better fit for our home. We saw an ad in the paper selling kittens for $10 each. Labor Day Weekend, 1996, we drove out to meet these kittens.

When we arrived at this private home, they brought out two carriers full of kittens. One was full of Siamese kittens and one was full of regular domestic short hair kittens. I’m writing this 22 years later and I don’t really remember all of the other cats besides Taz and Tabby! Of course, once I met Tabby I KNEW we belonged together and I didn’t really even bother meeting the other kittens.

I didn’t ask too many questions but I imagine these kittens were the product of two unspayed pet cats and the people just wanted rid of them. At least they were charging an adoption fee for the kittens!

My ex immediately fell in love with Taz. I thought he was adorable…but I was distracted by this little tabby thing who just came right up to me and sat on my right side like she had always known me. It was almost as if she was saying, “Okay, Mommy…we can go home now.”

Tabby's First Christmas
Tabby’s First Christmas, 1996. Watching the train under the tree. I wish I took better pictures back then!

Here’s the problem. We only had enough money to adopt one of the kittens. We argued back and forth for probably 20 minutes. But, thankfully, she got tired of hearing us argue and let us have both kittens for $10.

It was the best $10 I EVER spent!

We had no carriers, no litter box or litter, no food bowls or food…nothing. Nelson (ex) held them in the car while I stopped at the store on the way home to pick up litter, a litter box, food and bowls for them.

I think back now and realize how LUCKY we were that neither one of them got out of the car or got away while we carried them into our apartment!  We got them safely home and they promptly hid under the TV stand.

My Apartment Was Finally a “Home”

I set up their stuff and was so excited I called Mom to come over to meet them! I’m reliving that moment right now. I remember this as being one of THE HAPPIEST days of my life. I’ve always had pets. I couldn’t bring my cat Smidgen with me when I moved out of my folks’ house because Smidgen was an indoor/outdoor cat and I knew she would NOT be happy as an indoor-only cat in an apartment. Smidgen was very bonded to her land, and I couldn’t take that away from her. For many cats, their bond with their territory is stronger than ANYTHING, including their bond with their humans.

After we adopted Taz and Tabby, our apartment felt like HOME. Finally!

Those poor cats hid under the TV stand their first three days with us. Tabby wanted to creep out, but I believe she was responding to Taz’s fear and wanted to stay with him. I’m not sure if that lady had them together before we adopted them, but they were bonded from the very beginning of their life with us.

They were not blood related. I believe they were two weeks apart in age. Their birth dates were guestimates by me going by how old they looked when I adopted them. Tabby was only about 6 weeks old and Taz was 8 weeks old when we brought them home.

Taz and Tabby Christmas 1999
Taz and Tabby – Christmas, 1999

Miss Congeniality

As a kitten, Tabby was pretty independent and low maintenance. Honestly, she was low maintenance her entire life. She never demanded much attention and was a pretty healthy cat until her senior years.

And she never complained about anything.

Even when I had a frying pan full of hot canola oil in my hands and tripped over her and spilled it on her, she didn’t complain. I’ll never forget that night. Nelson grabbed a towel and put cold water on it and threw it on her to stop her from running like a maniac. We wrapped her in that cold towel and rushed her right to the emergency vet. Luckily, my quick thinking worked! She had no permanent injury from that oil, although she was oily when we got home. The vet felt it best that we wait a day or two before bathing her since her skin was tender.

After we got home from the vet and settled in for the night, she came over to lie on my lap. Taz jumped up and proceeded to clean her for at least two hours that night.

Her first 10 years, Tabby had to take a back seat to her much needier and not-as-healthy brother. Taz suffered with health issues his entire life. He was a super affectionate cat and hogged all of the attention, but he was also a very shy and skittish cat.

But, again, she never, ever complained. And she loved Taz as much as we did!

My Rock

Tabby saw me through some of my most trying times…active alcoholism and constant fighting with the ex, recovery, marriage, divorce, several moves. After my divorce I was gone even longer hours between work and a hellish commute and just my general need to run away from the house where I had so many bad memories with the ex.

Tabby and Me – Christmas, 1999

Yet she STILL never complained.

When Taz died in 2007, I didn’t adopt another cat. Tabby was 10 by then and I wasn’t sure how she would be with another cat in the house. And I felt it was finally a chance for me to make it all about her. And I did, believe me! She was my daughter and I DOTED on her.

Tabby lived indoor-only but when we moved to a house in the woods, we would take her and Taz outside for supervised outdoor time. In the beginning, she would scratch and protest when I picked her up to carry her inside when it was time to go in. But by the time we moved back to my folks’ house in 2008, she was very well trained. She would stay by my side and even stop, wait, turn around and meow for me in her quiet little way when I was lagging behind.

I had to move back home in 2008 when I was laid off and was one paycheck away from homelessness. By then, my folks were pet-less so it was a very easy transition for Tabby.

And it was actually a very good thing. Tabby liked people and I think she missed living with other people besides just me. Dad was a cat person and she knew it. She and Dad took to each other right away and he doted on her maybe even more than I ever did!

I always say Tabby turned cat haters into believers. My mom was always more of a dog person. Cats don’t like my mom very much..probably because she just doesn’t understand them and treats them like dogs. But Tabby was different. She was just SO good-natured and she LOVED my mom.

She showed Mom what the hype was all about!!

Her Brush With Death

Tabby was getting up there in age and she wasn’t on the best diet because I didn’t know back then how bad most commercial kibbles were for cats. I always fed half kibble, half wet food, but Tabby never really liked wet cat food all that much. She started having problems with chronic constipation when she was 12-13 years old.

In 2011, she had a bout of constipation that almost killed her. I didn’t catch it early like I would have now because I didn’t have much experience with feline health problems and honestly wasn’t paying attention all that much. Up until that point, Tabby was a very healthy cat.

But, she stopped eating and was very lethargic. I took her to the vet and we had complete blood work and a chem panel done. Her blood work showed full-blown fatty liver disease, which will happen when an older, overweight cat stops eating for over 24-48 hours. The vet did an ultrasound and felt strongly that it was liver cancer or possibly an infection.

The vet gave her a Convenia shot that day in case there was an infection. They sent me home with Denamarin, fluids to give her, and an appetite stimulant.

Great! But at the time, I was NO GOOD at medicating cats!

I took her back two weeks later. She still wasn’t eating and now was very weak. She also had some pretty bad jaundice.

Tabby while sick with fatty liver
Tabby – Spring, 2011. See how bad her jaundice is?

I was afraid it was the end. I thought maybe they should admit her. However, my vet is not a 24-hour vet and it was a Saturday morning, so there was a chance she could die in a cage alone. I couldn’t let that be her end. NO WAY. Instead, they had the vet tech show me how to give her fluids and syringe feed her. They gave her another Convenia shot and we brought home a bunch of supplies to save her life.

I was able to force feed her to a point with Mom’s assistance. As for the meds and sub q fluids? Forget it. Wasn’t happening. Remember, I was NO GOOD at medicating cats at that time.

Penny taught me how to become a pro at that stuff a few years later!!

I couldn’t shake the fact that the vets were missing something. This wasn’t denial. My gut was SCREAMING at me that this was NOT her end and we were missing something.

This is when I learned to play Dr Google and taught myself everything I could about fatty liver disease.

I took her back to the vet later that week and INSISTED they check her to see if she was constipated. She wasn’t well enough to have anesthesia, so I had to allow them to attempt a fecal extraction with just lube and a finger.

I bought some Wellness pouch food at Pet Smart later that day and tried feeding her.

And for the first time in six very LONG and stressful weeks, she ate on her own. She didn’t eat the food but she did lick all of the broth up! I ran back to Pet Smart and must have purchased 50 of those packets. Pretty much their entire stock. And I fed her as much broth as she would drink by squeezing the broth out of the packets. She was starting to blow through at least 8 packets per day.

I didn’t care about the cost. WE HAD HOPE!!

She Made a FULL Recovery!

It was a few days later that Tabby started to eat her regular food on her own again. She was becoming more active. Gaining weight and looking less jaundiced as each day passed.

Three weeks later we took her to the vet for a follow up and did another chem panel to check her liver values. When the vet called me the next day, he was AMAZED! He told me that her liver values were almost completely back to normal. Her bilirubin went from “off the charts” to “mildly elevated”.

She was on the road to a FULL recovery! And earned her new nickname…Tabby Wonder Cat Wilson.

I will get more into this with another post, but I did switch her to better quality, all natural food after that. Knowing what I know now, it still wasn’t the BEST diet for a feline, but it was progress and it did make a difference! I also added Miralax to her wet food every day. I gave her 1/8 tsp once per day but if she went longer than 24 hours to defecate, I increased her to 1/8 tsp twice per day. And I PRAISED her every time she pooped!

It worked like a charm.

Tabby Spring 2011
Tabby on one of our walks together shortly after she recovered from fatty liver disease – Spring, 2011

Our Last Year Together

She had another great, quality year after that. I remember her last Christmas was her best one yet. She was playing with all of the ribbons, bows, tissue paper, and had a blast with her new toys. It was like she was a kitten again. She must have known it would be her last Christmas.

The following Spring, she developed some really bad breathing problems. I had her checked by her regular vet and my current vet (who was my 2nd opinion vet at that time). We tried steroids and an asthma inhaler with a spacer, hoping against hope that it was only asthma and not something terminal.

But it was something terminal. We found it was a tumor pressing on her trachea. Likely lymphoma. The steroids worked temporarily but I didn’t want her on long-term steroids to put her at risk for Feline Diabetes (go figure, right?). Knowing what I know now, steroids would have only worked for so long, anyway.

The weekend before she passed, I knew it was time. She wasn’t really eating. She would only lick water off of my fingers so I spent the better part of that weekend dipping my fingers into water for her to lick off. The poor girl couldn’t breath to be able to drink or eat. I had her litter box up on the bed with her because she couldn’t make it to the box and kept having accidents. I slept on the floor since it was a twin bed. To this very day, I wish I could have made room on that bed to sleep with her on her last night.

Her Final Good-Bye

About an hour before the vet arrived to put her to sleep, she actually got off of the bed for the first time in four days. Dad and I were like, “Omg..what do we do NOW? Maybe it’s not time?” Remember, Tabby was the Comeback Kid! She was a fighter!

Tabby used the litter box in the other bedroom and walked around the entire house. By the time she got back to my room, she had such trouble breathing that she collapsed on her side and it took her 10 minutes to catch her breath. That’s when I knew for sure it was “time”.

The vet arrived a few minutes later. This vet, who has since passed on, had a bedside manner like no other vet I ever met. He went in to my room where I put her back on my bed and I knew by the way she reacted to him that she was ready to go. She just wanted her suffering to end. And so did I.

She passed very peacefully, although it took him some time to stop her heart. That last little part of my strong daughter was holding on. But I know in my heart of hearts that I could not have let her suffering go on for one more minute than I already did.

After the vet left, I was BROKEN. Inconsolable. So was Dad. There were many, many tears that week.

Her Last Gift To Me

I went into the bedroom where her litter box was in the corner.

Remember I said that I always praised her when she pooped? When I looked in her litter box, I realized she left me her last little gift. I totally lost it when I saw that. I know now that when she got up to walk around the house that last time, she wasn’t rallying. She was doing one last check of her home before she crossed the Bridge.

She took a large chunk of my heart that day. There’s always that one Special One. And that was my Tabby.

Tabby wrapping gifts
Tabby – Wrapping gifts with me in 2009

July 22, 2012 would have been her Sweet 16th Birthday. Tabby sent a stray balloon to my side yard. None of my immediate neighbors had any graduation parties or BBQs that previous weekend. I know that Tabby sent that balloon to let me know she was okay, flying free, yet still with me. And celebrating up at the Bridge with her beloved brother, Taz.

Keep flying free Tabby. Til we are together again… I love you!

SONGS:

“You Are the Sunshine of My Life” – Stevie Wonder

“Pretty Little Angel Eyes” – Sha Na Na

“If You Only Knew” – Shinedown

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

Any treatments, food and supplements I mention in this post are the result of my own research and experience. Please consult with your vet as necessary.

 

 

 

Cat Rescue Fraud – The Clues and How to Avoid Being Scammed

Just a picture I plucked off the internet when I Googled “litter of kittens”.

NO…I do NOT have kittens! lol

This is just a picture I pulled off the internet when I Googled “litter of kittens” and clicked on images.

“Why is Robyn pulling cat pictures off the internet when she has plenty of her own,” you ask?

Because I want to show you how EASY it is to create a fake “animal rescue” fundraiser through Go Fund Me or You Caring or any other fundraising link.

All you need is a picture of cats, an email address, and viola!

The Back Story

I’ve gone back and forth in my head about posting this for DAYS. Because it’s not my job to discredit people or accuse anybody of anything without having the correct authorities investigating first.

So I won’t name names. It would be wrong of me to ruin someone’s efforts and reputation based on my suspicions.

However, one of our Facebook followers directed me to a “cat sanctuary”. I checked it out because it’s always good to have local friends in rescue, especially if they rescue feral cats!

After checking out their Facebook “like” page and the director’s personal page, I have some SERIOUS doubts that this “rescue” is real.

There are Tell “Tail” Signs

She claims on her fundraiser that feral cats in her town are rounded up by local Animal Control and taken to the County shelter to be euthanized. Yet she lives in a TNR-friendly town in a TNR-friendly County. Her town is contracted with a County shelter that is officially a “no kill” shelter with a 92% live release rate, including feral cats, thanks to a very successful barn cat program.

The shelter’s Cat Director specifically told me that they no longer euthanize feral cats just for being “feral” and haven’t in the past couple of years.

Now, if she was involved in rescue local to her area, wouldn’t she know this?

More Red Flags…

I found several fundraiser campaigns (You Caring, Go Fund Me, etc) on her personal page over the past two years and they are all closed now. She is spamming Facebook group after Facebook group (and other websites) with her fundraiser.

I see ONE CAT her personal page. On the “like” page there is a stock picture of kittens (no pictures of them growing up or as adults) and a video of one other cat being pet by a hand. Whose hand is anybody’s guess. Anybody can save videos off of social media and pass it off as their own. All they need is a smart phone.

There are no updates, intakes, or adoptions. I didn’t see any pictures of feral cats being TNR’ed…and no ear-tipped cats. As far as I can tell, this woman has two cats. That’s not a rescue!

MORE Red Flags…

Furthermore, someone asked her on her “like” page if she could rescue a feral cat and her answer was very evasive. As was her answer on how to tame feral cats after she supposedly tamed one.

She claims to be recently approved for 501c3 exemption, but I have not found her organization listed on the IRS “Exempt” database.

However, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt that the IRS database is not up to date just yet. But, please, when in doubt and before you donate, ALWAYS verify that they are listed on the database if they are claiming to be a registered non-profit.

It’s Not Just About the Money – It’s About Right and Wrong

It really ticks me off when I see so many fraudulent “rescues” out there taking advantage of your good hearts to help pets in need when so many LEGITIMATE rescues need your help! For every fraudulent rescue collecting money, pets at REAL rescues are doing without much-needed food, medical care, and shelter. Rescues can’t intake more pets if they lack the funds to properly vet and care for them.

Questions to Ask Before Donating Money

Here are some of the questions I ask myself before I donate to an animal rescue…

1. Are they a legit 501c3 non-profit? If not, I personally will only donate directly to their VETERINARIAN or purchase through their Amazon Smile or from their Amazon Wish List (Amazon will ship their Wish List items directly to them)… UNLESS I know them in person and know that they, in fact, rescue animals and that the animals will be the recipients of my donation.
2. Do they show pictures of the rescue animals at intake? Are they posting progress reports with pictures and/or medical bills?
3. Do you see them posting successful adoptions? A legitimate rescue typically posts their rescue pets with their adopters to share the good news!
4. Do they talk about spaying and neutering their pets, post pics of their rescue pets when they are recovering, etc? If not, you may be donating to a hoarder and I’ve seen that happen!
5. Here’s a good one…if they are sharing about feral cats, do the feral cats have tipped ears? That’s a universal sign that a feral cat has been neutered and vaccinated for rabies.
6. Another good clue…do you see the kittens growing up? For example, they took an 8-week-old kitten in and you’ve been following them for two months. Does that 8-week-old kitten now look like a 16-week-old kitten?
7. Do they ever post videos or go Live on Facebook or Instagram (assuming you found them on social media) showing the cats? Do you ever see their volunteers or directors in pics and videos?
8. Do you see the same background in the pictures? For example, the cat room at a shelter, an adoption room at Pet Smart or Petco, etc.

9, Are they listed on Petfinder?

Diabetic cat BooBoo for adoption
BooBoo-A diabetic cat waiting for a home at HART of Maine

What Legitimate and Reputable Animal Rescues Look Like

Jersey State Animal Rescue (a 501c3) often posts pics of their adoptables at Pet Smart and you always see the cat room or the store in the background. You see the cats doing different things like playing or interacting with the volunteers and they are always posting videos! The young kittens are growing up as the pictures progress. Every time someone adopts one of their cats, they post pictures of their cats going home with their new parents.

There are many people locally who know their director in person and have adopted great cats from them, including me (that’s where Penny and Weeny came from). In turn, when you talk to local people in rescue, you often hear that they’ve taken in pets in need.

Weeny on her favorite chair 2013
Weeny (RIP) on her favorite chair-2013

Taming Gracie – Feral Cat Care (not a 501c3 yet but LEGIT) posts pictures of her intakes, progress pictures/videos and stories, trail cam pictures of her ferals, and the only ones who aren’t ear tipped are the cats she is planning on TNR’ing. She shows pictures and updates of the sickies recovering after getting vet care.

She is well-known in our area and any rescue worth anything in this area knows the director personally, including me (although I’m not a rescue). Local shelters sometimes send feral cats to her when they cannot find a solution for them.

The Scammers are Taking Away from the Pets who TRULY Need Our Help!

Have I beaten this point into the ground yet?

So many of these fake rescues make it that much harder for the REAL rescues to get donations they so desperately need! I felt it my duty to share what I know and what I’ve found to help stop the frauds where it COUNTS…by stopping the money from coming in.

Please, if you found this useful, SHARE! And if there is anything I missed, comment below so I can update this post! Together, we can STOP the scammers!

Rescues I Know and Stand Behind

Among the many phenomenal animal rescues besides the two I already mentioned, there are a few more that I try to help whenever I can and regularly feature on Facebook.

Diabetic Cats in Need (DCIN)

DCIN is a 501c3 that works tirelessly to help diabetic cats all over the US and Canada in various ways. They help the parents of diabetic cats with care costs related to Feline Diabetes when the cat owners want to keep their cats but can’t afford the care.

DCIN profiles diabetic cats from shelters across the country to assist in finding them homes. They pull death-row diabetics and arrange transport to get them to safety.

DCIN  also has a network of volunteers who will transport diabetic cats across the country to approved adopters. Their work is tireless and I know their directors and some of their Case Managers well.

HART of Maine

HART often takes diabetic (and other special needs kitties!) whose lives are in danger and works tirelessly to find them forever homes. They work closely with DCIN.

Taming Gracie – Feral Cat Care

Denise at Taming Gracie stepped in to help a few times. The first case was Lucy the Basement Feral (blog post to come). She was feral but living in her caretakers basement because they didn’t know how to socialize her. Most recently, Denise helped me with two feral cats found on the property where their caretaker passed away. She is socializing them and then will place them up for adoption. She works tirelessly to help special needs and cats who wouldn’t otherwise have a chance!

Jersey State Animal Rescue

This is Penny and Weeny’s Alma Mater. I’ve been to their home facility as well as their cat room at Pet Smart. Both are always meticulously clean. Linda, their director, has come to my rescue more times than I can count. And although I get donations for her when she does rescue for me, her help is never contingent on bringing in X amount of dollars before she will rescue. She knows her stuff when it comes to cat care. She puts the cats in her care above all else. As it should be!

 

Please look these rescues up on Facebook and give them some love! If you do nothing else but interact with their posts by liking or commenting on them, that helps, because the more people interact with their posts, the more Facebook places those posts in the News Feed!

 

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Fluffy’s Sudden and Unplanned Rescue from Feral Life

Fluffy…INSIDE! April 2018

Did you notice that Fluffy is listed as an “Innie” (indoor cat) rather than a “Yard Cat”?

She Was Stuck Outside in the Sleet

February 17, 2018, started out like any other day. I noticed a couple of days previously that Fluffy wasn’t hanging out on her Queenie Throne in the shed as often as usual. It was a nice morning, but by evening we were getting heavy sleet and snow. The first of four Nor’Easters were forecasted to hit NJ later that week.

I was still outside getting the Yard Cats situated for the night when the heavy sleet started. Fluffy couldn’t use her heated Queenie Throne because Domino was on it and wouldn’t stay off no matter how many times I moved him. He can be very passive aggressive and he had his mind set on using her heating pad that week.

Fluffy is a creature of habit and would not use the two unoccupied heating pads in the shed. She FINALLY went into the shed after a lot of coaxing and treats.

There was a loud bang in the shed while I was in Charlie’s Corner waiting for him to finish eating. I looked over to the shed area and Fluffy ran out of there and across the yard like a cat out of Hell.

I ran to the shed and saw Trouble and Domino standing there with their fur bristled as if they were about to fight or something spooked them. To this day, I have no clue what caused the bang. My guess is that Fluffy tried to jump up to her Queenie Throne and saw Domino there. The heated food bowl was flipped over and kibble was spilled on the shed floor. I’m thinking that when she jumped back down, she knocked it over.

I called and called her and finally found her under a large tree in the driving sleet. After a particularly dramatic week with the Yard Cats not getting along, this was the climax. I was fed UP.

Fluffy’s Rescue

I was NOT going to have Fluffy, who raised her Kits so amazingly and risked her life to protect them, out there in the driving sleet storm afraid to use her shelter.

I ran into the house, grabbed a cat carrier, ran back outside, and used food to coax her in.

Then I questioned my sanity. I planned on rescuing Fluffy at some point in the future since I worked intently the past year to tame her. However, she still routinely turned around to swat at me with her claws out when I attempted to pet her. Up until that point, I could only pet her while she was eating, and she often would position herself in front of the food bowl and pretend to eat so I could stroke her back. Only for a few seconds. Then she turned around and swatted.

I also have Mischief and Patchy still living separate lives inside the house since they don’t get along. Something I still have to blog about.

That first night, she hid inside the closet most of the evening. She woke me up at 2am sitting in her window, squeaking her little heart out. The next couple of days she would squeak whenever she saw Trouble or Oreo out front. I came VERY close to putting her back outside, especially since the weather got really nice that week.

Fluffy sitting on the windowsill
Fluffy-Sitting on the windowsill trying to figure out how to get outside the morning after her rescue.

But the weather was about to change with an impending Nor’Easter. I had an opportunity to save her. I couldn’t lose the thought that if I put her back outside and something happened to her in the future, I would never forgive myself.

Her Health is at Stake!

I took her to the vet that Monday (the night I rescued her was a Saturday night) and she did very well for a feral cat. She weighed in at 12lb, which confirmed my fears about her weight. She, at most, should weigh 10lbs since she’s such a tiny little thing. Siberian, Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest Cats have a higher risk of Feline Diabetes than other breeds, and Fluffy is a mix of one of those breeds, for sure.

And I knew. I looked at Fluffy the past two years and knew she was at high risk. That’s why she was on “the list” to begin with.

I knew to get the excess weight off of her, I had to remove the high carb kibble from her diet and feed her Young Again Zero (Carb), a food she flat out refused to eat while she was outside. Since there are other feeders on my block, I feed the Cat Chow out there so my Yard Cats won’t cross the street to get to the junk food. But once she’s inside and has no choice, she will eat it!

Fluffy playing with a feather
Fluffy loves play time every night before bed!

She Adjusted to Indoor Life Beautifully!

I will get more into that later, but the change in Fluffy this past six weeks has been remarkable. She is in SUCH better spirits and was so good when I brought Oreo, who was dying, into her room with her. Fluffy LOVES to play and I’m able to pet and handle her more and more each day. I’ve made more progress with taming her the past six weeks than in the entire previous year! I am now training her so I can pick her up and fully handle her. We have to go MUCH than Mischief and I did, but we will get there.

I honestly never believed that she would transition to indoor life as well as she has. We haven’t officially started introductions with her Kits yet, but so far the entire process has gone much more smoothly than I ever imagined it would with her!

I got a very strong feeling when Fluffy and I left the vet that day that Penny played a part in her rescue. It wasn’t something I planned or even wanted at this time, but I firmly believe that everything happens for a REASON.

She’s a completely different cat, and I get the sense that she’s enjoying the kitten-hood she never had a chance to enjoy. I’m pretty sure she was maybe just six months old when she got pregnant with The Kits.

Hence, after 3 1/2 years of being a Yard Cat, Fluffy graduated to an Inside Cat!

Welcome home, Fluffy!

Fluffy relaxing with me.
Fluffy shortly after her rescue. Relaxing after a play session.

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