Blog Paws or Bust!

If you haven’t been following me on Twitter @writeandrescue or Instagram, you probably aren’t aware that I am headed off to THE pet blogging conference in the world tomorrow.

Blog Paws 2018 is the 10th Anniversary of this amazing conference and the first time I am actually attending.  I have wanted to go since 2014, but have never actually been able to swing it. This year, I planned ahead to make it happen!

I can’t wait to meet experts in the pet blogging field, other bloggers and all the amazing brands who will be there. I am looking forward to learning all the tips and tricks to turn my blog into a full time enterprise, and not just an occasional exercise.

I am also terrified. I feel like this is the defining moment guys; like this is when I decide if I can make it as a full time blogger or if it is time to put those dreams away in favor of more lucrative avenues. I am also nervous about traveling, networking, being away from my own fur-babies, etc.

Tonight, I am snuggling with Sneakers as much as possible.  I am double checking the cat care directions I am leaving behind. I am doing laundry and making sure everything is properly packed. Tomorrow I get up early, go to work  then head home with enough time to grab my suitcase and rush to the airport. Then begins the adventure of a lifetime and three days being way outside my comfort zone.  I will be posting all about it on Instagram and Twitter. So scroll over to the right and follow Instagram, or head over to Twitter to keep up to date!

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Sneakers is unimpressed by Flat Sneakers and Flat Fuzzy George, who will be accompanying me to Blog Paws.

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Now What?

After a false start on Wednesday, I managed to trap Little Black and get her to the vet on Thursday. She had a full exam, blood and urine, fecal test and even a nail trim (because she likes to swat at me and those daggers of her tear my hands to pieces).

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Waiting at the vet, growling.

But let’s back up a bit. Wednesday I gave the girls a tiny breakfast so Little Black would be hungry when it was time for trapping. I started work nice and late, which meant I had plenty of time to try and trap her. I set the newspaper up, put a plate of food in the trap and waited.  Both Mamma Kitty and Little Black circled the trap, trying to get the food. I had to go out a few times to smoosh down the newspaper that kept blowing in the wind.  Since I was outside, she was much more interested in flirting with me.

We spent a good five minutes with her rubbing back and forth along my side, meowing at me. I crouched down and she continued to rub and yell. I got severely reprimanded when I tried to touch her. I was only to touch with my eyes, not my hands. She rubs on the trap a few times, making the door fall shut and scaring herself in the process. I finally gave up on her and went back inside. I made sure to stay away from the windows so she wouldn’t come look at me through the windows.

As I was about to give up my mom looks out the window and says “Is she in the trap?” I look out and the first thing I see is the trap door wide open. I start to say no, then realize she is indeed in the trap. All the way in. Eating the food at the back of the trap. And not stepping on the trip plate. She finishes eating, backs herself out of the trap, and walks away. Damn cat. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, she didn’t survive ten years outside by being pretty.

I tried again Thursday, simply because the schedule at work was super light. I had a half hour window in which to trap her. I tried again, not really expecting to catch her. I go out, get the trap set then come back inside to get myself ready for work. In the time it took me to brush my teeth, she trapped herself. I look out the window and was shocked to see her calmly trying to get herself out of the trap. If she could talk she would have been saying “Umm, excuse me!? A little help here, you can let me out now!” Instead I tossed the towel over her all the way, picked her up and put her in the car. Poor Mommy was running around the deck, torn between trying to help her friend and running in terror so I didn’t do the same to her.

After I popped Little Black in the car, I ran inside and grabbed everything I would need for a super long day of work. I felt a bit like I was on a 90’s game show-grab as much as you can, as quick as you can. I raced out of the house and in to work. By this point Little Black is NOT a happy camper. She meowed and yowled the whole way in.

Once at the vet she got a complete work up from the best team around. They sedated her to do a full exam. She got several different topical anti-parasite and anti-flea treatments. Surprisingly my little girl did not have any obvious fleas!  She was super skinny- only 5lbs!-and has some severe diarrhea, but otherwise nothing was obviously wrong with her.

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“Satellite Dish” to make sure she didn’t try to bite if she woke up from anesthesia early.

 

I spent all day yesterday worrying about her, and all morning today fretting about her lab results. Thankfully everything came back really quickly and I was able to get a diagnosis. Hyperthyroidism.

My feral cat is hyperthyroid.  This is a completely treatable disease, I treated Crash for over 5 years.  Unfortunately, the most common medication is a twice daily pill.  Also unfortunately, it requires regular blood work. There is also I-131, or radioactive iodine treatment (the only known cure for the disease). I would take a cure over a treatment any day. Unfortunately, I can’t justify spending the 15k and keeping her locked up in a cage for two weeks. I just can’t justify it when she lives outside-she would hate, hate, HATE being in a cage for that long. Mamma Kitty would be lost without her buddy.

So, for now, we go the  tablet route. I figured it wouldn’t be an issue giving her a treat with a pill in it. She is super food motivated. She laughed in my face, eating the treat and flicking the pill out the side of her mouth. I was able to give it to her later in her food, but making sure she gets the right plate of food is going to be tricky.

I have answers. And I have options. And Little Black is happy to be home, prancing around her yard and snuggling with Mamma Kitty. I am going to do my best to not worry about the future, instead focusing on the day to day treatments. I have so many questions though. There are so many variables and so much I don’t have control over for her. And it scares me.

After my last post, I realized I wasn’t ready to give up on Little Black and Mama just yet. I was concerned because I was unable to get Little Black in to the vet right away. I justified it by saying she has waited this long, what’s another week. Really, I know this is just an excuse and a way to make myself feel better. However it has been too busy at work for me to squeeze her in. Between shortage of staff due to spring break, and injury plagued staff, I just couldn’t justify forcing her into the schedule.

So I spent the past week and a half acclimating Little Black to the humane trap. It has been ages since I tried trapping anyone, and as such the trap has not been out much. I wanted to make sure Little Black did not feel threatened by the trap before trying to catch her. I  started by setting up the trap on the deck and rigging it so it won’t shut behind anyone that walks inside.  Then I started feeding the girls most of their meals next to the trap.   I put the food right at the side of the trap, so they had to accept the trap without actually going in the trap for food.

After a few days of this, I started trap rehearsals.  I find trap rehearsals to be so important and a great way to get reluctant kitties used to the trap. Of course it is not always a feasible option-if you don’t know the cats’ schedule, or it is imperative the cat be removed right away.   Since the trap was already out and rigged to not close, I simply had to add a plate of stinky wet food. Then I went inside and waited.

Since Little Black is somewhat familiar with the trap, and somewhat fearless, I put the plate pretty far in. If you are rehearsing with a nervous kitty, it is best to start by putting the food close to the front of the trap.  As usual, both cats circled the trap, trying to find a way to get the food without going in the trap. After a few moments of this Little Black pops herself into the trap, eats unmolested and then backs herself out.  Check out the slideshow below to see how trap rehearsal works.

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Everything is in place for me to trap Little Black and take her to the vet on Wednesday. With any luck, this will all be happening while you are reading this.  Please cross your fingers, toes and paws for us.  I am very stressed about trying to trap her and managing a to get myself out the door for work at the same time.

Heartbreak Comes with the Territory

For some time now Mama and Little Black have been declining. They are senior cats, at least 10 years old. They look like seniors-ratty coat, skinny, that “senior look” about their eyes. Unfortunately, they are also feral cats, which means I can provide minimal medical care. Trapping them to take into the vet is an ordeal, and it would be impossible to take them in for regular senior blood panels. Even if I could take them in, providing daily medication would be impossible.

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My lovely old ladies.

This winter, more than ever before, I lived in fear of them dying from the winter. I was sure that the brutal cold would be too much for their frail senior bodies to handle. They made it through the winter. However, I have a feeling they won’t make it to another one. I went outside today to spend some time with them and provide new catnip toys. Little Black ran over to me and yelled at me, as she is prone to do. I reached down to touch her as she sometimes lets me do. I was able to sneak in a touch on her back, and she is now so skinny I can feel her spine.  My heart broke.  For some time she has been dealing with bald spots and getting skinnier. Someone has been vomiting frequently and I have reason to suspect it is her. I don’t remember the last time they had properly formed stool. But to know this once relatively round kitty is now so skinny I can feel her spine just makes it all hit home.

My lovely ladies are old. They are declining. And I am faced with a dilemma-when do I start the attempts to trap them and take them to their final vet visit? Right now they both seem happy. Little Black is still out exploring her territory. She is as fearless as ever. Mama, well Mama never went far from home. She seems to still be comfortable though. I find them both sitting in the sun on beautiful days like today. They come for food and eat well. They are both bright eyed.  I want them to live and enjoy every moment possible. I also don’t want them to suffer. And I know that trapping these ladies is going to be incredibly hard.

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Little Black and Mama in their prime. BFF for sure!

My plan right now is to focus on the day to day. Make sure I can make each of their days the best possible. Keep providing them with lots of food, fresh water and a comfy house. Play with Little Black as much as I can. Formulate a plan as best as possible to get a drop trap. Figure out the logistics that will go into trapping both girls at the same time. Since they are so bonded, the only way to do this will be to say goodbye to them together. That way they can journey across the bridge together, there will be no confusion or pain for either of them.

I just hope I have the strength to do this before they start to suffer. Finding the sweet spot between giving them enough time and waiting too long. I hope I can find the strength and courage to do this very, very difficult thing for my sweet girls.

Stinky Cat Problems

I am trying to look at this as a teaching moment. One of those situations in life that happens, and drives you absolutely bat-sh*t crazy, but teaches an important lesson.

The challenge-two intact male cats, one of which urinates on my windows. His chosen spot for marking leaves my house stinking to high heavens. If you have ever had the misfortune to smell the pee of an un-neutered male cat, you know exactly what I mean. I am so grateful that Sneakers and Fuzzy George are not upset by this. They get concerned by the smell, stick their noses up in the air to get a good whiff, then do the kitty equivalent of a shoulder shrug. I thank my lucky stars every time that they simply walk away. No fighting, no marking over it, no displaced aggression, etc.

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Little Black laughing at my attempts to keep cats away from the window sill. She literally just walked over and around everything.

I strongly suspect the cat who marks my windows is an indoor-outdoor house cat. He is unconcerned about me when I am out there. He never stops for food. He is not regular, sometimes he will come twice in one day, other times I don’t smell him for days at a time. He is also much more concerned about the cats inside than the cats outside. And finally, he sometimes comes by in the day, as opposed to every feral cat I know who I only see at night. *I should note, we have security cameras on our back deck/door, so I have been reviewing the footage whenever the house smells. That’s how I know so much about his habits without actually ever seeing him*

So. I am stuck with a multitude of quandaries. First: How do I trap this dude? He is not food motivated, and he never comes at the same time. I can’t just leave a set trap out on the deck all day in hopes of catching him (though that just might be what I do on Sunday with constant vigilance for monitoring the trap). I might have to track down a drop trap for him.

Second: How the fluff do I get him to stop urinating on my windows until I do trap him? I have set up nifty little barricades along the windows and on the “steps” leading up to the windows. He laughs at them. I may have to resort to a motion activated air canister. It just sprays canned air at any motion that triggers it, so it won’t be harmful, just surprising. I am holding out against this because I don’t want to scare Mama and Little Black, who also like to walk across the window ledge.

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Some of the barriers I set to keep cats from walking across the window.

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Specifically designed to keep cats out of gardens. The spikes are o sharper than the back of a the plastic chair mats for office chairs.

Third: How am I going to pay for this? The TNR clinic I used closed down, and the only two remaining in the city are super inconvenient for me. Both their hours and their locations are awful for me, particaularly in relation to my work schedule. So it seems like I am going to have to take him to work with me if/when I catch him, which means paying full price for a neuter. Which I can’t afford- particularly not on a cat who isn’t mine.

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Anti-Icky Poo is the BEST enzymatic cleaner out there. Feliway works to calm cats with pheromones

In the mean time, I keep scrubbing with Anti-Icky Poo, spraying Feliway in the house and outside. Keep my Feliway diffuser plugged in inside to keep the boys calm, and pray that I can catch this boy soon.  I will also try to embrace this for the teaching lesson that it is. I have more appreciation for just how frustrating it must be to people who have cats in their yards or coming by their house and no desire for them there. I never looked to be involved in TNR, but when my girls showed up I stepped up to fix the problem and help them out.

This stinky cat on the other hand, is doing nothing but aggravating me. This understanding of the true level of frustration that people have will hopefully make me a better advocate for the cats in the future. I will be able to connect with frustrated people that much better, offer solutions for their concerns and address their fears while working for the best outcome for the cats.

There are no Coincidences

At first I was struck by the lucky coincidence, January 20th is National Love Your Pet Day. It is also Sneaker’s fifth “Gotcha Day.” Then I realized, there really are no coincidences. It is just perfect timing. Because how can I not love this cat?

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Sneakers favorite spot to sit

I am having a hard time believing he has been my constant shadow for five years. On one hand it feels like he has been my friend forever, and yet, it also feels like he just got here. We’ve been through so much together, Sneakers and I. He was the start of the “changing of the kitty guard.” When Sneakers joined me 5 years ago, he was the young whippersnapper in a home of two grumpy old seniors. And I am so glad he joined me when he did.

About 9 months after he arrived, my sweet Muffin died. She hated him so much, and there were a few months of utter stress for all three of us as she tried to teach him his place. Sneakers has never been good about reading cat body language, and every time she told him to back off, he thought it was a game.  Thankfully, he did stop harassing her when she got sick.  As hard as it was to socialize him and care for an ailing old lady, I did it. And I don’t regret a second of it on either of them. Because that is one of the ways we love our cats- by doing everything we can to make their lives as comfortable and happy as possible.

After Muffin cross the Rainbow Bridge,  it was just Sneakers and Crash for about  18 months. Oh was I glad to have Sneakers around, especially those last few months. Watching your “ride or die” cat deteriorate is incredibly painful. I knew the end was coming for him, but I also wasn’t sure exactly how close it was. Sneakers was a blessing during this time because he helped me see life after Crash.  Crash was my everything until the minute he passed. And when he passed, I had a Sneakers to help me carry on.

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Sneakers was my transition kitty. He helped me transition from the loss of two childhood cats. He was around to help me transition jobs, and the loss of dear friends. He has also helped me transition personally.  Socializing Sneakers also helped me, I found some aspects of myself that I didn’t know needed tending too.  His skittishness and fear have helped me identify those aspects in myself as well. Unlike Sneakers, I am trying to grow past the fear. Sneakers and I became incredibly close in the year between when Crash left and Fuzzy George joined us.

Sneakers has made it clear from the beginning that I am his person, and he is my cat. He is all about me.  Before Fuzzy George came around, Sneakers would watch me from the window as I was leaving for work, this sad look in his eyes. He would greet me at the door when I came home and demand attention. He still has his moments of neediness, but has calmed down since Fuzzy George joined us.

IMG_1371Sneakers has shown me his love in hundreds of ways. From constantly shadowing me when I am home, to planting himself on me when I sit on my bed, to his role as alarm clock (telling me when to get up & when to go to bed).  He has shown me that I am needed and loved. On days when I am feeling down Sneakers is right there to show me that he needs me. He has absolutely become my emotional support kitty. And tell me how I am supposed to resist those eyes!

How do I even begin to show Sneakers that I love him on Love Your Pet Day? I will never be able to return half the love he gives me. I do what I can. I sleep in uncomfortable positions and tolerate a cat butt in my face. I leave an extra blanket on the bed so he can make a nest to sleep in. I also do things like chase him through the house to administer heart worm preventative-something he might not consider love, but really is. There are so many ways to love him, but none of them do justice to the amount of love I get in return.