Author Archives: Camille Hulen

An Unfinished Story

posted May 15th, 2011 by

By Camille Hulen

Doc asked his upstairs apartment neighbor, John, if he’d seen the little orange kitten around lately. “Yeah, Doc, I’ve been feeding him, but I can’t get close to him. He’s really wild,” John said. Then, as they stood talking, the kitten appeared at the top of the steps. He slowly inched his way down, tumbling half of the way because he was so tiny. As they silently watched, the kitten approached Doc’s legs, climbing straight up and eventually perching on his shoulder. The kitten had found his human!

“Well, Doc, it looks like you’ve got yourself a cat!,” John said.
But Doc didn’t want a cat. He had never had one, and had never sought one. And, although he did not know it then, at this low point in his life, he needed this kitten.

A disabled Vietnam veteran, he had served 23 years in the Army, but recently the federal government had somehow declared him “dead” and removed his military pension. While he fought through the legalities, he was subsisting on his greatly reduced income, and didn’t have much to live for. That was four years ago. Doc took the kitten into his apartment and into his life. They became inseparable, and the cat was appropriately named “Buddy”. Buddy’s veterinarian said he was mostly a Ragdoll breed, as obvious from his laid-back demeanor.

Buddy was the perfect house-cat. After finding his home, he never attempted to go outside. He and Doc established a routine, just as one would in the Army. Every morning, Buddy got his daily brushing in strict military fashion: First, the back, then roll over for the tummy, then the arms, finally the tail. And Buddy grew into a handsome 25-pound-plus Ragdoll, gentle as the name.

Recently, however, new management came to the apartment complex and pets were outlawed. Apparently, the former managers had been more understanding. So this is how I met Buddy. Doc called, seeking temporary housing for his buddy. He would move to a new home as soon as his financial situation improved, but Buddy had to be out of there “now,” he said. We have all seen the ads: “moving, cannot take my cat” or “new roommate, need to re-home my cat,” and a myriad of others. It would have been easiest for this man to give up his cat. Instead, he tried to provide, so Buddy is staying at Camille’s Cathouse for awhile.

When Buddy first arrived, he was depressed and wouldn’t eat.
It wasn’t until Doc came to visit and reassured him that he had not been abandoned, that Buddy became comfortable. When Doc visits, he has words of comfort, and Buddy enjoys a thorough brushing. It is therapeutic for both.

Since gas prices have increased, Doc cannot visit as often as he would like, but Buddy waits. As I write this, Buddy sits in the office beside my computer. He prefers human companionship to socializing with the other cats. Buddy knows that his special human buddy will return soon. And that will bring the happily ever-after ending to this unfinished story.

Little Black Bundle Mends Hearts

posted March 15th, 2011 by

By. Camille Hulen


Paul is a WWII veteran and holds the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts. His wife Gurney is a cancer survivor. They have endured the death of their only son, followed by the death of one of their daughters.

Living alone, their dog Fritzy was a special comfort to them. During Fritzy’s golden years, he received special care, eventually dying in his sleep. That left only a pet turtle which the couple nurtured for 27 years.

Paul and Gurney had some good friends who visited regularly. Marcia and Philip entertained with stories of the stray cats and kittens who visited their yard.

Unfortunately, Marcia and Philip also had some sad stories to tell of their neighbor who did not look so kindly upon the strays. This neighbor routinely trapped cats who invaded his yard and took them to the pound to face certain death.

To him, kittens were nothing more than “rabies infested vermin to do away with!” When Gurney learned of the trapping, she wanted to save at least one of them. Although she knew that the kitten would be wild, she was confident she could tame it.

Our Story Begins:

One day the neighbor trapped a little black kitten. Although Marcia told him that she had a home for it, he loaded the terrified kitten into his truck and took it to the city shelter. Marcia sprang into action and went to the shelter to retrieve the kitten.

Although there were several black kittens there, she was confident that she could identify the right one, because it had a short tail. After paying the fees and waiting the required time, she brought it home to begin the domestication.

Marcia had done this before, so she knew that it would take time to gain the trust of this little creature. She covered his carrier with a “security blanket” and took it from room to room with her so that he would become familiar with her voice.

Finally, he became more curious than sad, and began to trill like a small bird and even purred slightly. Although it would mean another change for him, he was ready to go to his permanent home.

And Paul and Gurney were more than ready for him! Nothing was too good for this baby. They set up a large cage in the room where they spent most of their time, and from Marcia’s description, it was like a luxury motel complete with padded bed. Instead of mints on his pillow, this kitty received a new toy every day. They named the kitten Precious Angel.

Precious Angel responded quickly to their love and within a week he was ready to be picked up and held. Perhaps it was the songs that Paul sang to him. Although Paul admits that he cannot carry a tune and sometimes forgets the words, he likes to sing hymns to Precious Angel. Precious Angel sleeps in his arms as he sings, and routinely put his paws on Paul’s hands as he says his prayers.

About a year later, Marcia’s neighbor trapped another kitten. This time he called Marcia, because he had seen a picture of Precious Angel sleeping in Paul’s lap, and began to realize that stray cats are not so evil after all. (And, of course, you know where this kitten would go.)

Precious Angel got a sister to play with. Paul and Gurney took this baby and set up Fritz’s old cage for her right next to Precious Angel’s. She adapted quickly, and now the kitties run and wrestle, providing constant entertainment as only young ones can do, instilling new vitality to this senior household.

Colony Cats Take Up Life on the Farm

posted January 15th, 2011 by


Recently, I have been involved in the rescue of a colony of 40-50 feral cats from a site adjacent to a motel and restaurant. The property owners wanted the cats removed, viewing them as a band of thieves, nuisances roaming the premises raiding garbage cans and annoying customers. They considered the cats mean and wild, diseased, and wanted them removed.

So what is a feral cat? The term feral can apply to any domesticated animal without human contact. A feral cat colony is a cat population (or “clowder”) living together in a specific location and using a common food source. A colony can range from 3-5 cats to about 100. Feral cats are generally unapproachable at first. This is understandable since they are usually threatened and shooed away. Hissing and growling are self-defense behaviors, which, over time, may change as the cat (whether “feral” or “stray”) begins to trust humans providing food, water and care.

When I first visited the site and watched cat after cat come from the shadows, I was reminded of the song “Memory,” sung by an old rough and ragged female cat, standing alone, in the theater production of “Cats.”

“I can smile at the old days I was beautiful then I remember the time I knew what happiness was Let the memory live again.” Most feral cats were once someone’s pet. They were dumped, somehow managed to survive, and began reproducing. Due to their dependence on humans, domestic cats and dogs cannot properly fend for themselves for very long. A feral cat’s average lifespan is about two years when living independently and five years in a colony.

A cat that lives indoors with human care can live 15-22 years.
Almost all cats that are left to survive outdoors will succumb to starvation, thirst, parasites, predators, hypothermia, or disease. Feral cats that are born outdoors, living without human contact or care, have been shown to be adoptable and can be tamed by humans.
Throughout Tulsa, compassionate people care for several feral colonies.
They trap the ferals, spay or neuter them, and release them back to the original site, visit daily and provide food.

In many communities, “trap-neuter-release” (TNR) has proven to be the most successful method of stabilizing and maintaining healthy cat colonies with the least cost to local governments and residents, while providing the best life for the animals themselves.

Spaying/neutering homeless cats:
• Stabilizes the population at manageable levels.
• Eliminates annoying behaviors associated with mating.
• Is humane to the animals and fosters compassion in the neighborhoods.

Tulsa has no city-sponsored program for feral cat colonies.
StreetCats, a rescue and adoption organization, loans traps and offers a limited number of vouchers for low-cost sterilization. Spay Oklahoma, a nonprofit organization, offers low cost spay and neuter.
Beyond these services, individuals must take the initiative. The Oklahoma Alliance for Animals assisted with funding the rescue, veterinary evaluation, disease testing, spay/neuter, and placement of the cats in the colony described here. Donations to the Oklahoma Alliance for Animals earmarked for “Sonic Cats” are still welcome ( and barn homes for the ferals are much in need.

Because the property owners insisted that the cats be removed, homes in barns were found and residents agreed to feed them. The cats were first evaluated and tested for F IV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) and feline leukemia by area veterinarians. If negative, they were spayed or neutered and vaccinated for rabies. A few of the lucky ones are now living as pets. Life is better for all of them, with the comfort and warmth of a barn and regular meals!

More from “Cats” “Memory”:

“Touch me It’s so easy to leave me All alone with the memory Of my days in the sun If you touch me You’ll understand what happiness is.
Look A new day has begun.”

Camille Hulen is the owner of Camille’s Cathouse, a bed & breakfast exclusively for cats.


posted November 15th, 2010 by


SCAMP AND HIS TWO fellow housemates had visited me many times while their human mom Betty Anne traveled far and wide. Their last visit was at Thanksgiving, while Betty Anne visited relatives back east. This trip was not a happy one, for her cancer had returned. Then, in December, she was hospitalized. When I visited her on December 17, she wrote me a note with a shaky hand saying, “As I go into hospice, I’d like for my cats to be with you. I have funds to provide for them.” Less than a week later, just before Christmas, Betty Anne died.

Scamp is a cat who lives up to his name. In past visits, he was a challenge. He was a very independent and dominant cat, confronting everyone he met, feline or human. He ruled the kennel just as he ruled his home. However, when he arrived after Betty Anne’s death, he was different. He still wanted to be the boss, but he became very loving toward me. He would rub against me and follow me about, as if he knew that he was now dependent on me.

When visitors came, he was especially beguiling, as if auditioning for a home. He would roll onto his back, lure them into petting him, but, if they didn’t do it just right, he would bite them. Several people looked to adopt him because he was a beautiful Maine Coon, but no one wanted a cat that would bite!

Months passed, winter became spring, spring became summer, summer turned to fall. At last, a lady saw his picture posted on an adoption board and came to visit. As soon as she saw him, tears welled in her eyes. “He looks just like Harley!” Charlene exclaimed. She petted him and talked to him and he responded appropriately. A little nip did not dissuade her. “Harley used to do that,” she said. “Well, he is very dominant,” I cautioned. Charlene then turned to the friend who was with her and asked, “What is on Harley’s box of ashes?” “The Boss,” her friend replied. I knew instantly that Scamp had found his new home. He even went into the cat carrier that she had brought for his ride home without persuasion.

Now, as Christmas approaches, Scamp has settled into his new home with two dogs, another cat, and even a new kitten. He is playfully jumping into every box and pouncing on every loose ribbon. He doesn’t need any presents, for he has found the greatest gift of all: someone to love him. This year will be a very Merry Christmas!

Cat Buddies

posted October 15th, 2010 by


I have heard from many cat owners that their cat is an “only child” because it simply doesn’t get along with other cats. Cats are solitary animals, the myth goes. I believe otherwise.

1. Feral Cat Colonies
It is true that cats are not “pack animals” like dogs. In the wild, they do not necessarily form a group with a distinct hierarchy and hunt together as dogs do. The lion is unique in the feline world in its formation of a pride which participates in group hunting activity. However, feral cats on the street do form groups who appear to enjoy each other’s company, but the group is loosely structured, more like a social club. When a new cat joins the group, there is no need to fight and establish a strict pecking order.

My focus here, however, is on the domestic cat: the cat who is pampered by her owner and thinks she is human. Through my catboarding business, I have had the unique opportunity to observe the interaction of these very special cats who are introduced as strangers to one another. They do socialize.

2. Cats “feel each other’s pain.”
When a new cat comes to board, the other cats are typically curious and go to its carrier to greet it. They follow me to its cage to check it out. If the newcomer is calm, they ignore it and go about their business. However, if the newcomer is upset, they all become disturbed. Similarly, if for any reason at any time, a cat becomes agitated, all cats respond in like manner. They clearly pick up on each other’s stress. Ever wonder why your cat is stressed at the vet’s office? I believe it senses the distress of sick cats in the area.

3. Cats Have Territories.
When a newcomer is released from its cage, there is no fighting, because the kennel is neutral territory. Visitors marvel at how all of these strange cats co-exist at my facility. In general, there is no confrontation. If there is a confrontation, it is usually between male cats (although they are neutered). There is no question that some cats, particularly male, are alpha personalities. Usually this alpha simply needs to be confined until he learns what is acceptable behavior. (Yes, cats do understand discipline.) Typically, the female cats are like women, they just complain and hiss at one another.

In its own home or yard, a cat is more likely to become defensive when a new cat enters the picture, for this is his territory. Cats have distinct territories. I cannot say the exact size of these territories. Anecdotally, I have observed that one of my cats did not do well on a small postage-stamp city lot, but did fine when he had 1/3 acre as his domain. The larger lot seemed to fit his sense of space, and other neighborhood cats were happy in their own similar spaces. No one had the urge to intrude on another. On the small lot, there were regular cat fights: not so on the larger lots. They could comfortably visit each other over the fence.

Cats who are strictly indoors will choose particular places as their own within the home. One may choose the highest spot, another a favorite chair, and someone else his own side of the bed. For this reason, when introducing a new cat to your home, it is important to keep it separate for a little while until it can gain self-confidence in its own space. Put it in a separate room and let the resident cats become curious about it. Then exchange spaces between the newcomer and the residents so that they can check out each other’s scents and then introduce them gradually. Very seldom is it love at first sight. Sometimes they become good buddies; sometimes they simply tolerate each other.

4. Cats Choose Their Own Friends.
Unfortunately, I am often called upon to bottle-feed an orphan kitten. Most of my resident cats say, “Oh, no, here comes another one!” and hiss and walk away. Usually, it is my female cats who are most accepting of the kittens, as their mothering instincts conquer all. In one case, however, one of my male cats adopted a little brother, as shown in the picture (Mister and Duncan). To this day, they are the best of friends, sleeping together and grooming each other. On the opposite side of the spectrum, one visitor, Miyagi, will never get along with PomPom, the Persian. He always seeks her out and chases her. Is it because he loves to tease her and hear her squeal?

In the kennel, cats from different households will frequently visit each other’s cages and play together. They will run and chase and even share toys. In fact, one of the best ways to introduce cats is to play with them with an interactive toy on a string. The cats become so focused on the toy that they forget their differences.

5. Cats Teach One Another.
We have all heard that mama cat teaches the kittens to hunt. On several occasions, one of my older cats has brought in a lizard or bug, presented it to a kitten, then backed off to watch it play. Often, several older cats will gather to watch and not compete. Similarly, I have seen one boarder introduce a newcomer to a toy.

6. Cats Respect Old Age.
Kittens will always play together, but what about old cats? I have observed that old cats actually seem to enjoy watching the younger ones. I remember one cat, Sultan, in particular. He would sleep in his cage most of the day, but then take a morning and evening stroll through the kennel, as if to review the troops. All of the old cats seem to gain new vigor from watching the young ones, like old folks sitting on the porch watching children at play. What is more interesting is that the younger cats respect old age. They let the old guys go at their own pace and never challenge them. The conclusion? I believe in the adage: “Cats are like potato chips. You cannot have just one.”

Camille Hulen
Camille Hulen is the owner of Camille’s Cathouse, a bed & breakfast exclusively for cats.

Cat Tales The Biggest Looser

posted April 15th, 2010 by

By Camille Hulen

Barni, a long-haired Torti Manx, Sami, a long-haired black cat, and Max, an orange and white Garfield look-alike. All of these cats are overweight.

Barni was found in a barn at approximately eight months of age, weighing only five pounds, abandoned and starving. After a trip to the vet and much loving care, she literally blossomed. By the age of four, she had grown to 18.5 pounds, and was literally a “pillow,” lying around like a couch potato. Perhaps her metabolism over-compensated for her previous starvation? Her owner became extremely concerned when Barni could no longer groom herself.

Sami was adopted from a rescue group as a kitten. She was chosen because the kind people thought no one else would want her, as she hid at the back of her cage, while the other cats clamored for attention. Once in a loving home, Sami grew and grew and grew. Age two, 12.3 pounds, age three, 15.9 pounds, age four, 17.4 pounds. She was not very playful, so everything she ate went to her tummy. (We all know how that goes!) Trying diet after diet as prescribed by the vet, she could still not lose weight, but was still beautiful, even being an indisputable “plus size.”

Max came to me as a long-term boarder, so I do not know his early development, but I do know one thing: Max was appropriately named. Max had the stature of a football lineman and loved to eat. He would literally hug the food bowl. When he went to the vet, he weighed in at 20.2 pounds. The answer to their successful weight loss: canned food. The clue came from two friends who deal with diabetic cats. As with human diabetics, diet control in feline diabetics is extremely important.

In fact, many cat diabetics can be put into remission strictly through diet. Although we cannot assume that what is right for humans is necessarily right for cats, in the case of diabetes and obesity, many of the same rules apply. What do diet books suggest for weight loss? Watch your carbs. Even more so for felines. And guess what dry cat food contains? A lot of carbohydrates.

When you think about it, the answer is logical. What did cats eat originally? What would a feral cat choose to eat today? Birds and mice. You’ve never seen a cat raiding a vegetable garden, have you? According to Lisa A. Pierson, DVM, a bird or mouse accounts for only three to five percent carbs, while most dry foods contain between 35 to 50 percent carbs. In addition to larger amounts of protein usually contained in canned food, another essential ingredient is water. Through the natural eating of prey, cats consume a lot of water.
I do not pretend to be a veterinarian or a dietitian or a cat food salesman, but there are two valuable web sites for reference on cat nutrition: http:// and I would encourage you to visit these sites, do your homework, and read labels carefully.

Back to the story. Okay, this wasn’t really a “Biggest Loser”contest, but here are the results. Barni now weighs 13.5 pounds (27% loss), Sami weighs 14.2 pounds (19% loss), and Max is under 18 pounds (11% and still losing), all on a diet of primarily canned food. And they all feel better! Her owner now describes Sami as having “spunk,” while Barni’s owner wonders if she isn’t a bit too active as she tears around the house. Max no longer just plops on the floor by the food bowl, but jumps from perch to perch like a normal cat. They are all happy cats and these cats are definitely all winners!

Camille Hulen is the owner of Camille’s Cathouse, a bed & breakfast exclusively for cats.

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