Saturday, June 30, 2012

This and That

Cripes!  Where did the month of June go?  Apparently, having kittens in the house just eats the days.

Oh, SURE, lady.  Blame your lack of blogging on cute adorable little me!

OK, it's not all the fault of the kittens.  I will admit it.  Life is just life sometimes, right?

So, to catch everyone up.  I still have the kittens, but not for long.  They're scheduled to return to the shelter next Saturday for their spay and neuter surgeries, and unless something truly odd happens, they'll be staying there at the shelter to go out onto the adoption floor.  Everyone keep their fingers crossed that my little bitties get adopted quickly!  I have gotten so attached to all of them.  They started out as a quartet of frightened, hissy little creatures, but now they purr and snuggle with me, and vie for my attention with one another.  It's adorable, and I'm simply going to have to "suck it up" and take them back to the shelter because no way, no how, is there room for four more permanent residents!

Foster cat Tom is still with us, though he went up on the shelter's Facebook page last week.  This did prompt someone to come and meet him last night, and she's going to let me know her decision in a couple of days.  Keep your fingers crossed for our handsome guy!  I would so love to have him in his very own forever home.

The past week has been an exercise in keeping as cool as we possible can in this heat wave...  I know that some of you midwesterners probably sneer at our "paltry" 96 degrees, but that is the hottest I think I've seen in the eleven years I've lived in Pennsylvania.  Ugh!  We don't have central air in our house (one of the drawbacks to living in an older house with steam heat, I guess) so keeping cool is not always easy.

We have a nice air conditioning unit in our bedroom window, so that we can sleep, and a smaller unit in the study window, so that we can use the computers (and Jeff can work from home) without broiling in a hot room made even hotter by humming electronics.  So during the work day when we're not home, the cats get the air-conditioned bedroom if they choose to go in there, the kittens get shut into the air-conditioned study, and the dogs have to tough it out downstairs.  I worry about them, but I do give them tons of water to drink, and they've got three fans pointing at them.  They seem to be handling it OK. Then of course they get to sleep in the bedroom in their crates at night.

Argos, keeping cool.
Except that Miss Maera randomly decided that she didn't want to be crated overnight, at the beginning of the week.  She'd whine, whimper, start panting and drooling and shaking all over...  her heart would be racing, and it seemed to me that she was in a full-blown panic attack.  We honestly had no idea of what to do about it.  We didn't want to "cave" and teach her that it was OK to cry to get out of her crate, but we also didn't want her to completely melt down either.

So after a couple of baffling sleepless nights, with one or the other of us downstairs on the couch with her, ascertaining that it wasn't a physical or health thing (I was worried that she was hurt, and for some reason the crate was aggravating a wound or something) we decided to just let her sleep on the bed with us for a couple of nights.

I can see a couple of you wincing about that precedent... except that it hasn't been that bad.  The next night, she slept the entire night inside her crate, with the door open.  Last night she stayed in her crate most of the night, only coming out to jump up with us shortly after 5 AM.

I have no idea of what that was about.  We may try to shut her in again tonight and see how it goes.  Could it have been that for several nights, they were jack-hammering a giant hole in the pavement at the intersection at the foot of the hill?  It WAS loud, and  those WERE the nights that she spazzed out.  And though she mostly calmed down once we let her out, Jeff did report that when he was downstairs with her, she randomly barked out the window.

I'm baffled, and hope that it's resolving soon.  Maera is a dog that really needs to be crated because she's just too mischevious for her own good.  If I'm not awake, I'm not able to keep her from pestering cats, finding yummy trash in our trash cans, and generally terrorizing the household.

So to end this blog post, please enjoy the above short clip of how Maera stays cool in the summer.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Kitten Line-Up

My foster kittens have, in turns, driven me completely batshit crazy and been a source of calm and soothing for me.  It all depends on the day.

They're actually GOOD little kittens, and I have not had much of a problem keeping them contained and out of danger - maybe being born outside they just had more of a sense of their own mortality than the last batch, which had grown up in someone's home?  They run and romp and play, don't get me wrong, but it isn't the same swinging from the chandeliers type of activity that I had last time.

Ways they have soothed:

1.  I am a feminist and I have a white-hot temper.  It is a bad political season to be a feminist with a white-hot temper, and I often feel like screaming and pulling my hair out by the roots when hearing some of the stuff that's going on lately.  And I think that probably lets people know where I stand without getting too annoyingly partisan about it.  I've come home raging and fuming and stomping my feet.  Jeff, perceiving my weaknesses, sticks a kitten in my arms, and lets a dog lie on top of my feet.  Ahhh... rage drained.    Kittens = Antidote to politics.

Which causes me to forgive them when they lay on top of my dress pants.  I guess I should have been more diligent about picking up my mess, hmm?  I think that Miss Jean here decided that gray pants were perfect for a gray kitten's bed.

Is that a look of "What are you going to DO about it?" or what?  So young to develop such a 'tude.

2.  They give me an outlet for my mothering.  OK, I don't have kids, and I don't want kids, but that doesn't mean that I don't have an instinct for it.  They are the perfect outlet because they are, let's face it, so needy.  When we got them, it was a victory to get all of them to eat, and I needed to spend oh-so-much time with them, winning their trust.  I can mother my own animals too (and I do) but the little bitties just tug at the heart strings.

And now that they've started to relax enough to play...  I can't help but to be all smiles.

Logan, at play.

Logan, flirting to be picked up and cuddled.
Actually, Foster Cat Tom has been completely adorable.  He, unlike certain other adult cats that I could name, actually LIKES the kittens.  He'll come into their room with me and sometimes groom the tops of their heads, and play with them (and steal their high calorie kitten food.)  They love him, and mob him as soon as he shows his face.  It makes me love him all the more, and I really wish that someone would adopt him so that I don't get irreparably attached.

Ways they are driving me batshit insane:

1.  In the beginning, Jean would not eat food.  This drove me to complete and utter distraction because you could feel her tiny little skeleton and her spine.  She needed to eat or she was going to die.  In desperation, I bought powdered kitten formula and mixed some up with water.  She fell on it with a vengeance and drank to her heart's content.  Ah.  She wasn't as weaned as we'd thought she was.

She's eating food now, by the way.  And she's gaining weight and starting to fatten up.  I think she's going to make it, but I was not entirely certain of that at first.

2.  Jailbreak!  Two of them got out last night, which means my days of keeping them baby-gated into the relatively safe bathroom are over.  Now they're in there with the door closed.  Sigh.  Jean ran down the stairs as fast as her little legs would carry her.  Meanwhile, I saw Argos doing his best impression of a Pointer, staring into the corner behind his crate.  Ah yes, Rogue.

Rogue is the biggest of the litter, and she is indisputably the queen.  (What is it about black and white cats?)  She is the one who will sit at the doorway and demand that I let her through. She is also the biggest.  And the most daring.

Yeah, Rogue has no fear of dogs, I guess.  Poor Argos is plenty afraid of HER, though.  That's his desperate, "get me out of here" look.

Really, these guys have given me absolutely nothing to complain about.  The best batch of kittens ever.

Last but not least, here is Storm.  She is the one that had the enormous pink bandage on last week.  She still has a bandage, but it is smaller and allows some bend in the leg.  You can't see it in this photo.

Actually, hurting her leg may have benefited her more than any of us could have thought... it slowed her down just enough that she was the easiest kitten to catch.  So she got more holding and cuddling than the others.  She is, as a consequence, much more tame and easy to handle than the others.  (Don't get me wrong, the others get lots of attention too, and are doing fantastic.  But Storm hits all of her social milestones just a little bit earlier.)

They've come a long way since that first night in my house, with terror in their eyes and no idea at all of what we strange hairless creatures wanted with them.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Animal Rescue

Most of the time, people are very supportive of you when they find out that you do animal rescue of any sort.  Sometimes, people can be negative, which always catches me by surprise.  Why would you oppose animal rescue? 

Probably the worst one was someone taking me to task for doing rescue work because it interfered with the profits of breeders.  Something about if everyone was out there getting free dogs, then they weren't buying dogs.  I'm not even going to pick apart that argument here and now; it's just too easy for anyone over the age of 5 to see the flaws.

Here's some of the more "normal" things that I've heard that portray rescue work in a negative way.

1.  You can never save them all.  I've talked about this one on the blog before.  This is a piss-poor reason to never try to do anything to rescue any animal.  Are dogs and cats still going to die?  Yeah.  But maybe one won't have to die.  And after that one is saved and adopted out, then another one can be saved.  No, I can't save them all.  The shelter and rescue group that I work with can't save them all. And maybe some will die despite our best efforts.  But goddammit, it's better than sitting on your butt and doing NOTHING, because then they will die for sure.

I think that this argument gets brought up a lot by well-meaning people.  They see the huge scope of the problem (millions still euthanized in this country despite all of the rescue efforts) and get overwhelmed by the numbers.  I think the numbers shut people down and they're just not willing to "go there" and think about it, which means that they don't get involved. 

One animal at a time.  That's all that we can do.  

2.  I could never...  I'm not judging anyone for making this argument at all.  I'm in fact "guilty" of doing it.  I don't think that I could ever be a "cat cuddler" at the shelter because it would break my heart.  But I'm sure glad that there are some people that can get past that, because the cats really NEED someone to come in and pay attention to them, to keep them grounded and connected to humans.  To show them love, maybe just enough to get them through their days at the shelter until they can get adopted.

I've heard this argument made about fostering as well, and used to make it myself.  "I could never foster, I'd never want to give any of them up."  I was brought up short last year...  someone who has been involved with fostering for a long time made the argument, "Of course you never want to give them up.  You fall in love with them because you love cats.  But that's the kind of people that we NEED to foster cats (or dogs, but at the time she was talking about cats.)  It would be ridiculous to foster them with someone who didn't love them.  Who wouldn't get their heart broken.  You do it because it's the right thing to do, and give them up so that you can take another equally needy animal in."  I was stunned, and had to admit that I'd never thought of it that way before.  A month after hearing this argument, I started fostering when we took in Patches and Mitchell.  

That said, we all need to know our limits.  We all have busy lives, stressful lives.  We've all got our own problems and heart-breaks and emotional difficulties.  If fostering or working in a shelter or walking dogs is going to cause too much heart-break, then a person needs to take care of themselves.  But those who can, should.  

3.  Someone else will do it...  Actually, this one bothers me quite a bit.  I think it's the apathy that gets to me.  Maybe someone else will do it, but maybe they won't.  I've volunteered to foster a couple of times when there have been zero other takers.  So thinking that someone else will do it is wrong, because they might not.  And a life hangs in the balance.  

Again, we have to know our limits.  There are all kinds of reasons that a person might not be able to rescue or shelter or foster an animal, that they shouldn't feel guilty about it if they genuinely cannot.  I can't take in cats with URIs for fear that Charlotte might get infected.  Even though I know that the need is great. Some people have animals that won't accept fosters, some people are allergic, some people simply don't have the time.  Or space.  Or maybe they've got an apartment and a strict animal limit.  And that's OK.  But if it's apathy that drives that statement, then it's wrong-headed, infuriating, and an altogether inappropriate argument to make to someone wanting to do something good for rescue animals.  I have very little patience for apathy, particularly when I feel like an apathetic person is using the "someone else will do it" argument on me to dissuade me from doing something that I've already decided that I'm willing and able to do.

Those are the three reasons that I have heard most often.  I try to be gracious about it when it comes up.  The person is speaking from their own life and experiences, and may not have a very clear understanding of what rescue work is about and what drives people that do it.  Still, sometimes it's really difficult to not feel very angry at someone who looks at the work that you're doing and either judges that it's not enough, implies that you must not have a heart, or tells you to not try because someone else will do it instead.  Feh.  It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, period.

But on a better note, we had a kitten party at our house yesterday!  Our current foster litter is growing up so fast, and I'm pretty sure that they'll be going back to the shelter really soon to be adopted out.  We rearranged the living room and stuffed blankets and towels under the furniture to block kittens from crawling under,  then turned them loose in the living room.  We had friends come over to hang out with us and hold and snuggle and play with kittens.  

It was a HUGE success, and I can already see an enormous different in the kittens...  they're much more confident around people, seem to like being held and handled more, and magically started eating more.

The above picture is of Rogue, playing with this fantastic feather toy that a guest brought.  It was a fishing pole that you could cast across the room, and reel back to you.  Usually the reeling process was difficult because there would be at least two kittens attached to the "lure."  It was a big hit with the kittens.

This one was admittedly taken prior to the party, but it is absolutely one of my favorites.  Do you think that this should be Storm's "adopt me" picture for the shelter's website?

The same guest that brought the "kitten pole" also brought a bundle of fresh garden-grown catnip with spearmint mixed in, tied with a pretty ribbon.  The kittens were intrigued.  ANNIE came in, however, jumped up onto the table where it was, and started rubbing her head on it and then drooled everywhere.  I do not lie when I say that there was an actual puddle of drool on the table that had to be cleaned off afterward.

And everyone went home, and we finally went to bed...

The next morning, I came back downstairs and saw that the catnip bundle was gone.  I was puzzled, until I looked all the way across the room in the recliner.  Her Majesty gazed back at me, coolly.

Majestic ruler?  Stoned kitty?  You be the judge.
I fell in love with this picture.   I would give a lot to have been down here when she was carrying that bundle across the room and leaping up into the chair with it.  It was hardly disturbed, so she must have been graceful about it.  

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Reason I Haven't Been Blogging (as much)

I seem to be just full of reasons for not blogging faithfully this year, but this time I assure you, it's a really really really good reason.  OK - they were good reasons in the past as well.  But THESE reasons are tiny and fluffy and infinitely cuddle-worthy.

Yes, we took in a another litter of foster kittens.  As you can see, these little fuzzies were quite scared the first night that we took them in (Tuesday.)  It just broke my heart.  Unlike the last group (and the first group, to be honest) that we fostered, who were wary of me the first night, but obviously had been socialized and warmed up quickly...  these guys were found stray in someone's yard.  Their only exposure to people had been getting captured and transported to the shelter, getting their exams and shots and blood tests and microchips at the shelter, then loaded up by me and taken through a punishing thunderstorm to my house.  So they were terrified Tuesday night.

And they are slowly, slowly warming up to us.  We'll each hold one (or two) while we're watching t.v. to let them get used to us, and to being handled by humans.  They're starting to enjoy the attention, though they're still a bit skittish when I'm trying to pick them up.

The biggest one, a female, we've named Rogue.  I think that she's the shyest of the bunch, though is quite adventurous in other ways.  This is her, learning that human laps can be nice places to rest.  Even if the human keeps doing alarming things with its hands, like taking pictures.

The smallest, the gray one, is now Jean.  You can see her here on my lap, tolerating me giving her hoods out of the blanket.  You can also see that Maera is fascinated with her.  She really, really, really wants to play with the kittens, and is upset with us that we won't let her. I just have no way of knowing that she completely understands that these little guys are be treated gently, and that they are not just really sweet squeaky toys.

Unfortunately, as soon as we took them out of their carrier on Tuesday night, I saw that one of them was favoring her back leg, unwilling to put any weight on it.  We both gently felt the leg for breaks and didn't find anything obvious.  We waited a day just to see if it was something that would self-correct, but it didn't.  Jeff took her to the shelter vet on Thursday, where they x-rayed the leg after putting her under anesthesia.  Come to find out, it's a minor problem:  a small tear in her achilles tendon (ouch!) but it's also one that requires that she not move her leg.

How, you might ask, do you prevent a kitten (who we named Storm, by the way) from moving her leg?

By putting an enormous bandage on that forces her to keep her leg extended.  She has to wear it like this for quite a long time, too.  We're taking her back in a week to get the leg checked out, and then rebandaged.  I am assuming that we'll keep repeating this cycle until she's able to put weight back on her foot.

The only one that I don't have a picture of here (yet) is the only male of the litter, who we named Logan.  He was the only one to actually hiss at me when I went to take him out of the cage.  (He is far less hissy now.)  He is still a bit frightened of us, but once one of us has picked him up and snuggled him up against us, he relaxes and purrs and enjoys the warmth.

We have a little more work to do with socializing them, but they're going to be lovely pets for someone when they gain their confidence.  They're already very sweet, and despite their fear, are very gentle with us.  To think that their lives have been completely disrupted from where they WERE going is amazing to me.  I think that we all know what happens when kittens grow up stray...  if they've never had the opportunity to interact positively with humans, then they become feral.  So here's four little lives that are no longer going to be feral.  My hopes for them:  a home for each, with a good family, soft, warm and sunny places to sleep,  full bowl of food every day, and all of the cuddles and petting and attention that they could possibly want.