Cat Tales

A Cat Tale – Livin’ the Good Life

posted September 30th, 2014 by
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Cat Tale

by Camille Hulen

“Hi there! It’s Rio here. That’s me in the first picture, basking under the sunlamp in my ‘beach house’.  At least that’s what Mom calls it. You see, I moved here with my roommate, Oso, last winter when it was very cold outside. Mom set up double adjoining crates on a table in the barn and furnished them with nice, warm beds and heating pads. Sure is lots better than life on the street!”

 

 

“I was found in a shed at an apartment complex where people moved away and left me. I was a pregnant teenage mom when some nice lady found me. She took care of me and found homes for my babies, then got me ‘fixed’ so that wouldn’t happen again.”

 

 

“Oso tells me that another nice lady helped her even more because her situation was worse. She was found with four babies behind a vacant house and was so young that she didn’t know how to care for them. The lady helped feed them and gave her assurance; so much, in fact, that she was able to nurse another orphan.”

 

Unfortunately, this happens all too often. People get a cute little kitten, but care little about it when the novelty wears off. Then circumstances change, so they simply move away and leave it because they cannot afford the pet deposit at the new apartment. Every apartment manager could repeat this story verbatim.

 

Others fail to get veterinary care and let their cat outside because it is crying to get out. Chances are that the cat wants outside because it is a female “in heat.” Many do not realize that a female cat can become pregnant as young as four months of age. Since they didn’t care properly for one cat, they certainly do not care for a litter of kittens either. Hence they are abandoned.

Now back to our story. Rio and Oso were found in different neighborhoods but under similar circumstances. Their plights became known through a network of emails. (Email through personal contacts is the most effective way to rehome rescue cats because shelters are usually full.) Ideally, all of these cats would be placed in loving indoor homes. However, many now prefer life outside, and therefore, make ideal barn cats.

It so happened that Nancy, one person in this network, was looking for barn cats to control the mice in her husband’s shop. She had barn cats in other outbuildings on the ranch, but the cat guardian of this building had died recently. She sought two cats, so they could have the companionship of each other. Rio and Oso should fill the bill.

“Hi! Oso speaking now. I’m the sleek, black little girl with big eyes. The lady who found me called me ‘Hooter’ because my eyes were as big as an owl’s, but Nancy renamed me the minute she saw me. She said that I was ‘oh, so beautiful.’ Hence my name became ‘Oso.’

“I met Rio, formerly called ‘Stripes,’ at Camille’s Cathouse where we were introduced. We were both recovering from our spaying and bunked together in a double cage. I wasn’t sure about Rio at first because she seemed a little rowdy. However, we decided that we were now starting our lives anew, so we might as well be friends. Nancy came to visit us regularly and spoke to us gently, using our new names. Plus, she brought us treats!

“When we first came to our home in the shop, we stayed in our cage (aka: beach house). After we were here for a couple of weeks, Nancy opened the cages at night, so we could explore. What fun!  There are lots of nooks and crannies for mice. Rio is the best hunter, but I help her; we usually bring our prizes to show the people. Mom still feeds us morning and evening, ’cause the cat food has a lot more nutrients than just mice.

“Rio has told you a little about life here. Let me tell you more. When Mom Nancy introduced us to her husband, he talked to us and petted us, and then he went to work. Oh, the noise! He ran these big machines that made a lot of noise, but we knew we were safe. Sometimes he stops work and fires up the grill. Yummy! It has become a tradition to share his lunch with us. Now we just hang out during the day up high, away from the noise, but always come when called.”

This illustrates several things:

 

1. When cats are introduced to the barn, they must be confined in order to learn that this is their new home;

 

2. Give them a comfortable bed to keep them warm;

 

3. Introduce yourself to them gently;

 

4.  Feed them daily, so they know that you are their food source. Cats cannot live healthy lives by mice alone;

 

5. Give them food in small quantities, so they look forward to your next visit;

 

6. Call them by name, so they learn to come when called.

 

“It’s spring now, and Mom opens the door to let us outside during the day. The sun is glorious!  We really don’t need the sunlamps now, but still appreciate our nice soft beds. We stay close to the shop, ’cause that’s our home, but we have gotten to meet some other cats and even horses and dogs.

“We have a special cat door up off the ground that only we can access, so we can come and go during the day, but Mom locks us in at night after she feeds us to keep us safe from all the wild things. Yes, we’re livin’ the good life as barn cats!”

A Cat Tale – The Ugly Duckling

posted September 20th, 2014 by
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Cat Tale

by Camille Hulen

They came to me in a box—four kittens, filthy, cold, and lifeless. There was one of every color: black, Tabby, tuxedo, and a dirty white one. It was the day after my birthday, and not exactly the present for which I had wished.

Step one: clean them. This case was worse than usual. Instead of dipping them in a solution of Dawn detergent and giving a complete bath as I would normally do, I wiped them gingerly, as they still had umbilical cords and birth sacs attached. The woman had found them on her porch, obviously born the night before.

Mama cat was nowhere in sight throughout the day, so it was clear they had been abandoned. We later determined by their size and slow development they were probably premature.

Step two: raise their body temperatures. My husband pressed them to his body while I prepared baby formula. I try to keep powdered KMR (Kitten Milk Replacement) on hand because it is easy to store and can be reconstituted in small quantities. Then we put the kittens on a heating pad.

Step three: feed. These babies were so small that syringe feeding was necessary. This is usually the best method with small kittens because they are too weak to suck on a bottle with a nipple. The kitten must be held upright, never on its back, and a syringe can force some milk into its mouth. If you are lucky, they will respond by licking. These did not.

The watch began. For 48 hours, I got little sleep (cat naps) as I tried repeatedly to feed them. We must realize that mama cat is normally always available so that kittens can nurse at will as they wake up and then quickly fall back asleep. Sadly, the first two kittens did not respond and died within a few hours.

Step four: feed and monitor care-fully. As the kittens respond to feeding, they must also be stimulated to defecate and urinate. Mama cat does this with her tongue; we use a soft tissue or wet cloth. At the age of one week, the dirty white one was responding well, while his tuxedo sister was struggling.

However, he was the ugliest kitten I had ever seen! He was the color of a dirty sweat sock with no distinctive markings—like a dapple gray horse, only he was a “dapple tan” kitten…  or maybe a dirty little mouse.

Two weeks later: eyes began to open. The ugly kitten’s eyes did open, but his sister’s eyes did not. In spite of additional expert care and supplemental nutrition from a veterinarian, the female kitten died. Unfortunately, this is the disappointing reality of neonatal care, but it hurts nonetheless, and we cry with each loss.

But how we relish success!

Although I was still losing sleep, and feeding him every three hours, the ugly duckling was thriving. He was a survivor! And he now had a name. My husband began to call him “Dirty Dingus,” after a movie character from many years ago named Dirty Dingus Magee played by Frank Sinatra. Dingus slept happily.

By the age of three weeks, Dingus was “out of the woods,” but at this time we had a previously plan-ned vacation, and he still needed special care. Fortunately, my fellow rescuer Gail graciously helped. She was fostering orphan squirrels, so a kitten would  just add to her menagerie.

And of course, Gail spoiled Dingus, giving him a new Teddy Pug to cuddle with. She sent me pictures through-out the week, as he began to develop color. At first, the ears and  tail were darker. Was he a Siamese?  By the age of one month, Dingus was a most unusual taupe color, and stripes began to appear. Was he a Tabby?

As the weeks passed, he became more beautiful. He developed not only stripes, but also swirls on his sides like a Bulls-Eye Tabby. He retained the blue eyes of a Siamese, and in some light appears gray, while in other light is definitely taupe. True to the children’s story, Dingus is an ugly duckling no more, but a beautiful swan.

And now at 4 months old, a cover boy for TulsaPets! 

The Homeless – A Cat Tale

posted January 25th, 2014 by
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Cat Tale

by Camille Hulen

You see a stray cat outside your office. It will not come to you, so after several days you take pity on the poor kitty and put out food and water. The food disappears quickly. Then you know why. You are feeding more than one cat! You are feeding a feral colony of cats. I prefer to call them “the homeless.”

This scenario plays out all too frequently in Tulsa. Although city ordinance requires that pets be vaccinated for rabies, be registered, and be spayed or neutered, the law is not enforced.

Irresponsible owners fail to keep their cats inside and allow them to breed, then dump the kittens, or sometimes even move away, and leave their pets in vacant apartments. Is it any wonder that these cats become feral and wary of humans?

However, just feeding homeless cats is not enough. These cats will reproduce, a colony will develop, and the colony will grow even more rapidly when well-fed. If these cats are too feral to be rehomed, the most effective way to help these cats is TNR.

TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release) is a management technique whereby homeless cats are captured, evaluated by a veterinarian, vaccinated and sterilized, then returned to their habitat if homes cannot be found. TNR requires patience and diligence.

Traps must be placed and monitored, cats transported to the vet, then sheltered for recovery before release back to the colony. If you truly care, you will do this. Rather than go into the details here, I refer you to www.alleycat.org for detailed how-to guidelines.

What are the benefits of TNR? TNR programs improve the lives of free-roaming cats and reduce their nuisance behavior. When males are neutered, they are no longer compelled to mark their territory or fight over mates, while females will no longer yowl while “in heat.” Also, they are no longer forced to endure giving birth and fending for their young.

TNR can put an end to the perpetual cycle of animal control officers capturing and killing by maintaining a stable number of cats unable to multiply. Wouldn’t the job of a city employee become much more rewarding if he/she was not faced with assisting in euthanasia daily?

Through the help of Best Friends Utah, TNR has been successfully implemented in many cities as diverse as San Antonio, Atlanta and Los Angeles. Although this technique is not sanctioned by the City of Tulsa, there are several rescuers in Tulsa acting individually.

These tireless volunteers follow up TNR by going to the colony sites daily to feed the cats and monitor for newcomers, often spending several hundred dollars per month on food and care. One local Good Samaritan has maintained a colony of 18 cats for close to 10 years, and even pays a caretaker for them when he is out of town!

Organizations do exist to assist in this effort. StreetCats will loan traps and provide vouchers accepted by participating veterinarians for spaying and neutering. A StreetCats’ voucher costs the user only $20, is taxdeductible, and covers the cost of a oneyear rabies shot and sterilization.

The remainder of the discounted rate is paid by donations to StreetCats. To use this program, a person calls the SteetCats message line at (918) 298-0104 to reserve a voucher, picks it up and pays for it at the beginning of the month, and may then use it within three months by making an appointment with one of the participating vets. Through November of last year, 870 vouchers had been issued for the year.

Oklahoma Alliance for Animals also has humane traps to loan, and frequently subsidizes the cost of sterilization through SpayOK. The cost at SpayOK is only $30 and includes the sterilization and a rabies vaccine.

The mission of SpayOK is to mitigate the problem of homeless cats before they become homeless “by providing a highquality, low-cost spay and neuter service for low-income families who want to be responsible pet owners.”

SpayOK has two convenient locations: one in North Tulsa and another in Bixby. They may be reached at (918) 728-3144 or 970-4222. During 2012, SpayOK spayed 3,401 females and neutered 2,187 male cats. During its 10 years of existence, it has helped over 75,000 animals!

Yes, the task may seem overwhelming, but you the reader obviously care or you would not be reading this magazine. By all means, spay and neuter your own pets and educate and encourage others to do likewise. Do it now, before kitten season! TNR is most admirable, but if every pet owner acted responsibly, it would not be necessary.

Until then, TNR is a great tool to cut down on the homeless population. 

Zoe

posted November 16th, 2013 by
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by P.J. Witte

May 3, 2001, I was living in Cluj- Napoca, Romania, studying for a Romanian language test with the windows wide open to embrace the warm spring afternoon. I heard the sound of a cat wailing in the distance, not an unusual sound as stray animals roam in abundance in Eastern Europe.

Soon I heard the sound again but now it seemed to be from across the street on a weedy hill which was home to squabbling hens and roosters. I set out to investigate and met Vali, the downstairs neighbor boy. We climbed the steep slope toward a circle of agitated fowl that were pecking at a small cleft partially covered by weeds.

There, crouching and making a pitiful sound, was a tiny black kitten. Vali immediately warned me not to touch the animal, but I was already bending in for the rescue. The creature leaped into my outstretched hands and clawed her way up and onto my shirt.

On closer inspection, we noted the peanut butter markings and caramel sprinkled black fur—our little find was a Torti. While the kitten clung to me, and Vali tried to dissuade me from the venture, I carried the trembling cat to my home. After coaxing some milk and giving her a bath, washing off the chicken stench, we set out to find a litter pan.

I found a copy paper box lid along with some sand and settled in to decide what was next. I put her on a towel for the night, and she never moved for the next 12 hours. She was exhausted from trying to stay alive on the mean streets of Cluj.

I knew finding a home for her was highly unlikely so my choices became euthanasia, returning her to an early death on the streets, or making her a part of my household. Clearly, the latter was my only real choice. Now I needed a name.

She was in poor shape, bony and parasite ridden, so I wanted a hopeful name. Zoe, which means “life of God,” seemed hopeful. Zoe it was. The vet estimated she was 8 to 10 weeks old.

Finding pet accessories was not easy in Cluj, but I did find a mini litter pan and some very odd litter. Since I could not find toys, I balled up tin foil and was surprised to watch her play with it. She quickly made a game of “paw ball” in my foyer, batting the ball at the wall and running to hit it again and again.

She also was quick to learn hide and seek. I would run and hide behind a door. She would find me and then run and hide behind a door. (I am not joking.) Every day she would greet me after work and want to play a game.

After the first night and every night until the end of her life, she slept with me with one paw stretched out to touch me. Don’t get me wrong though. This was no snuggly kitty. Zoe was very feisty and would snap and bat at you if she didn’t want your attention. I attribute her survival to that scrappy attitude.

In late summer, I unexpectedly moved back to the United States. My choices were to leave her to fend for herself or bring her home. The vet warned she was too young and frail to travel in baggage. Also, although she had her shots and her kitty passport, there was a rabies outbreak in our area, and it would be difficult to get her over the border.

Having no animal sedation, the vet gave me a children’s Benadryltype substance for the transatlantic flight. I also packed the mini pan, litter and some dry food. Zoe was in a nylon carrier. Happily, all three legs to Tulsa were open to an animal in the cabin.

During the eight-hour van ride to Budapest, Hungary, Zoe slept unmedicated in her carrier. Although I had told the driver I had her and had given him her papers, he didn’t mention her to the border guard.

I wish I had a video of us in the airport bathrooms. Putting litter in the pan, I would put Zoe in it. What cat eliminates on command? Sometimes the bathroom matron could come in and see me squatting in the corner with a kitten. No one thought it cute or interesting though.

Finally, in Amsterdam, I found an unused concourse and let her run around a bit. She was delighted to be out and enjoyed the large windows. Near flight time I found a single handicapped bathroom on the empty concourse and decided to give her the meds there. She freaked; I chased and had more of the sticky substance on me than in her. When we emerged there was a handicapped person waiting.

I felt awful and got quite the look. After seven hours in Amsterdam, we boarded for the long flight home. Zoe remained quiet until about an hour from landing. When she started to wail, the flight attendants took her in the galley and gave her ice cream.

We went through Memphis customs. I had marked the customs declaration where it asks about “having plants, food, or animals.” I was literally the last person to go through. The agent looked at my declaration and asked sarcastically if I had brought in a granola bar.

I was so exhausted I didn’t know what he meant at first. He pointed to the check mark. I sharply retorted, “No, I have a cat!” and gave him Zoe’s papers. I did not know what to expect bringing an animal into the U.S. I didn’t expect what happened. Nothing!

The agent never even looked at her and waved us through. I was relieved but also conflicted. Should it really be so easy to bring in a foreign animal? I knew she was fine, but how did he? He couldn’t even read what her papers said.

At last we boarded our final leg into Tulsa where we were met by family, and Zoe began her new life in America.

Zoe and I were together for 12 years and eight weeks. She was feisty and funny to the end. I was saddened to be in the position we all dread with our critters, of helping her leave this life. On June 28, 2013, I said goodbye to Zoe. It was an honor to have known her. I will miss her!

The Luv Train – A Cat Tale

posted November 16th, 2013 by
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by Camille Hulen

The story begins in June, when Dorothy, a hard-working professional woman in her 50s, died suddenly. She lived alone with her two cats: Hara and Ama. Dorothy had no children or family; what is more, she had no living will or other instructions. What would happen to her beloved cats?

Co-worker Jenny knew that something must be done, and sprang into action. She retrieved the scared felines from under the bed at Dorothy’s home and took them to her vet. They were given a medical check-up and remained there for boarding. However, after a few days the kitties remained terrified, cowering in their cages. These 5-year-old girls had never been away from their safe and comfortable home.

It was then that I met Jenny, when she brought Hara and Ama to board with me for socialization. She knew that if they were ever to find new homes, Hara and Ama must learn to trust people. At my facility, they would be in a relaxed setting, not in a cage, co-mingling with other cats and people.

Meanwhile, a fund in Dorothy’s memory was established to care for her kitties. What an awesome tribute! Even former colleagues from out of state contributed, in addition to her local friends—a display of love for a deceased person, as well as for the cats.

As the kitties began to adapt, another crisis ensued. They began to show some symptoms of upper respiratory illness, probably induced by stress. To avoid transmission to other boarders, back to the vet they went, this time, in isolation.

After a two-week stay, they were deemed healthy, so they came back to me. Now they adjusted quite quickly, head-butting and demanding to be petted. They became more comfortable with other cats as well as people. Giant strides, but it was now August; we needed to find a permanent home. Emails were circulated.

An amazing thing happened! A former colleague from Boston wanted to adopt them! She was a real cat person with one cat of her own and had loved Hara and Ama when she had visited Dorothy in the past. Only one dilemma remained: how to get the cats to Boston.

Air travel was not an option. The danger of transporting cats as cargo is well known. Someone could fly with one cat accompanying her in the cabin, but not two cats. Someone might drive the 1,600 miles, or perhaps meet the new owner (“meowmie”) halfway— it still remained a long journey.

Then another friend, Samantha, discovered the Underground Railroad Rescued Kitty Network (URRKN). And so the saga of Hara and Ama’s journey begins. The URRKN is a volunteer organization working to transport rescued cats anywhere in the United States. A route is mapped out, and the trip is divided into manageable segments so as not to be a burden for any one person.

In this case, 17 volunteers participated. Hara and Ama left Tulsa on August 10, arriving in Cambridge, Mass., on August 17. The route was Sapulpa to Vinita to Joplin to Springfield to Lebanon to Rolla to St. Louis to Toledo to Elyria to Youngstown to Brookville to Bellefonte to Bloomsburg to Wilkes- Barre to Milford to Danbury to Hartford to Cambridge and their new home! Whew!

Is it any wonder that we choose to call this operation “The Luv Train?”

At last report, Hara and Ama have settled comfortably into their new home. According to their new meowmie, “The only fatality thus far has been the couch as they take turns shredding it.”

To volunteer or learn more, visit the Underground Railroad Rescued Kitty Network on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/URRKN/ ).

FIV – Not A Death Sentence

posted September 21st, 2013 by
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by Camille Hulen

The Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a retrovirus in the same family as human HIV, but it cannot be transmitted to humans. FIV can live in many different tissues in cats, and typically causes a weakening of the cat’s immune system.

FIV positive cats are more prone to getting infections such as upper respiratory, skin, and bladder infections, along with dental disease. There are no specific signs of FIV, and a cat may not show any symptoms for years, so the only way to determine it is through a blood test.

A positive result from an FIV test can have a devastating effect on a cat owner. There is much misinformation about this disease; so much, in fact, that many consider it a death sentence. The purpose of this article is to dispel that myth.

The most common test is the SNAP test, performed by your veterinarian to look for antibodies to FIV. An initial positive result is usually followed up by a more extensive laboratory Blot test. It should be noted that tests on kittens under 6 months of age frequently result in false positive results and should be deemed unreliable. Antibodies from an infected mother may have been spread to the kitten in utero or via milk, but they may go away with time.

It is estimated that perhaps 2 percent of cats in the United States are infected with the virus. FIV is mainly passed from cat to cat through deep bite wounds, the kind that occur outdoors among intact males fighting to defend territory. It is very unlikely to be spread by sharing food bowls or litter boxes, by casual contact or by grooming.

There is no way to rid the cat of FIV, but FIV positive cats can lead normal lives both in quality and duration. They should be monitored with careful veterinary care to treat any secondary infections. Unfortunately, most rescue organizations will euthanize FIV positive cats, because people are hesitant to adopt a “sick” kitty. This is not necessary, as you will see in the following stories.

Cheryl in Oklahoma City has helped many FIV victims. Big White Cat (BWC) is just one of them. He was the neighborhood tom. He was at least 10 years old and showed up on a neighbor’s doorstep, looking rough and feeling worse: dirty, matted, stinky with fleas, ear mites and bad teeth.

Following treatment and neutering at the vet—and a bath which he enjoyed— he immediately relaxed indoors with the comforting sleep of rescue. He was adopted by his foster mom and now enjoys life as an indoor kitty, getting along fine with her dogs and another cat.

Bobby, a stunning bull’s-eye Tabby, was also a neighborhood stray. Jane and John fed him for months but could not get near him. Finally, he would let Jane approach as he ate. Then one day, he showed up with an injured eye; plus, it was cold outside. Trapping was the only option. After his treatment at the vet, he lived inside in a cage while Jane and John gained his trust. Eventually he became a wonderful loving pet, sharing many hours on the lap of John as he watched T.V. Bobby is gone now, but would Jane and John give up the two plus years of love that they shared with Bobby? I think not.

Another story comes from Angela. “FIV kitties are great; I have one!” she says. “My vet feels that FIV has been around much longer than we have had a name to place on the condition, and that many cats over the years have lived out a seemingly normal life while having FIV, and no one [knew] any different.

“Not to say we should dismiss the condition or allow conditions that would enable it to spread, but after my panic when I got the diagnosis on Murphy, I thought it was a death sentence for him. I spent a lot of time researching it and found FIV positive cats can live successfully with other cats and not share the condition. I have found this to be true, as Murphy lives with two other cats that have not contracted FIV. Hopefully, these guys can continue to hang out together for the rest of their lives.”

Sisco’s story is a little different because he is still waiting for his forever home. Sisco is an affectionate guy with a big purr, currently in foster care. He was an indoor/outdoor kitty that adopted a little orange kitten, Alfred, showing him the ways of the world, leading him around and grooming him, then inviting him in.

Unfortunately, through no fault of their own, Sisco and Alfred were later turned outside. Sisco was easily captured, and it was at that point that he was diagnosed as FIV positive. Alfred the kitten was more elusive, but when Alfred was found, Sisco welcomed him with kitty hugs and grooming, as if to say, “Where have you been, Buddy?” They are pals for life; all they now need is a home.

Stories of FIV cats abound. Best Friends Animal Society in Utah has a wing devoted to them, and even the official greeter at Best Friends is FIV positive! They are strong advocates for saving all lives, as is Dr. Janet M. Scarlett of Cornell University. To quote Dr. Scarlett, “There is no disease or condition of companion animals that takes more of their lives than euthanasia.” Some food for thought.

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