Sunday, December 19, 2010

PK: My Ray Of Sunshine

PK's story begins 11 years ago, when a friend who volunteered at Howard County Animal Control was leaving the shelter and saw a woman walking across the parking lot carrying a box. Despite the woman's best efforts to hold on, the box was squirming, and orange legs were forcing their way out through the top. Anne suggested the woman return the box to her car before the contents escaped. Then, she gave the woman the Howard County Cat Club's phone number.
PK trying out the harness and leashhe wore to Walk For Paws

The next day, the woman brought Peanut, the orange cat in the box, and his housemate, Lucky, to our adoption show. They were her daughter's cats, she said, and her daughter had just moved back home with her husband, new baby, her unneutered male cats, an unspayed female and many kittens. The kittens were all Peanut's and Lucky's fault, she said, and they had to go. We agreed I would keep the cats overnight and get them neutered the next day. She would pick them up from the spay/neuter clinic and keep them until they got adopted. I never heard from her again.

On his first night as a foster cat at my house, Peanut befriended all the other cats who lived here. His personality was as sunny as his bright orange fur. Lucky, meanwhile, was hiding in a closet, and that's where he stayed until he got adopted. Although we never separate litter mates and lifelong friends, Lucky and Peanut clearly disliked each other, and I didn't even give a second thought to sending Lucky to his new home alone. Peanut was a dilemma though, because my wonderful, elderly Van Gogh adored him.

It wasn't long before I decided Van Gogh should be able to keep his cat. But we couldn't have a cat with a name like Peanut. He needed something more dignified. Maybe PK, for Perfect Kat or Pretty Kat, depending on the mood we were in.

For 11 years, the foster cat who quickly became a member of my family went for walks with me and rubbed around my legs and rolled on my feet while I was talking with neighbors. He slept with me every night, kneading my arm but being very careful to keep his claws in. When I was upset, he was upset and tried to comfort me. When I was especially unhappy about a cat who desperately needed help, I'd cry on his shoulder.

The week after Thanksgiving, we lost PK to cancer. It was very sudden and totally unexpected. But when I think about him and remember him, that bright ray of sunshine returns to my life, if only for a few minutes.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Patches and Lea: 'Dogs Have Masters; Cats Have Staff'


College cats have a way of getting left behind when their young humans finish school. Patches and her daughter, Lea, were no exception, but with a slight difference. Their new graduate took them home to live with her dad, even though he despised cats and shared his home with a dog who hated cats almost as much as he did.

When she left home for a new job in Pennsylvania, Dad wasted no time handing her cats over to the first rescue that would take them -- us.

Over the years, I've noticed that cats in no-kill shelters tend to wait for the perfect family to come along. Patches and Lea waited two years. Every Sunday, they attended an adoption show at PetCo, and people would be drawn to the beautiful Patches like a magnet. Some people wanted to make her a "safe" indoor cat (she loves to be outside), and some people wondered if we would declaw her before they adopted her (cats have claws for a reason, and our contract stipulates that under no circumstances are our cats to be declawed). Everyone wanted Patches, but no one wanted Lea. So they waited, and waited and waited some more.

Then one of my clients who had lost her two cats and was ready to adopt again stopped by our show at PetCo. She, too, was drawn to the magnetic Patches. My heart sank. But then Lea reached out and touched her gently with one paw. Carol and her husband, Drew, had just met the perfect cat, and they wanted her mother, too. Patches and Lea went home after the show.

Today, Patches and Lea are Phoebe and Princess Leia, and they give new meaning to the saying, "Dogs have masters. Cats have staff." They have two huge, beautiful cat tress to climb and window seats at every window with a view. When they're home, Carol and Drew spend much of their time opening the door so Phoebe can go out and then opening it again so she can come back in because she wouldn't dream of using the cat door that leads to the deck and woods where she loves to hunt. They also have a wonderful cat friend named Franny. But most important, they have humans who adore them, and that's really all they wanted all along.

You can help us save more cats like Patches and Lea. Please help us find a new location in the Columbia area for our group home.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Kitty's Story: The Last Chapter

Kitty on our balcony
Last Tuesday, Kitty stopped eating. But even before that, I'd noticed some other changes. She didn't growl at cats who dared to enter her (my) bedroom. She tried out different chairs and beds and cat baskets in my apartment. She asked to go outside. She still sat at the entrance to the kitchen and watched me with disapproval written all over her face if I gave her the wrong food. But she seemed slower, calmer, slightly less engaged. I wanted to think she was finally settling in and had decided she wanted our home to be her home forever. But a tiny part of me wondered if she was okay, or if something might be wrong.

Tuesday night, I took her to the local emergency room, and blood tests showed she had severe unregenerative anemia. When I spoke to my vet the next day, she agreed with the ER doctor that Kitty needed to see a specialist. I chose the referral hospital in Towson, although that might have been a mistake. After three days of testing and imaging and living in a cage in a brightly-lit room surrounded by barking dogs, Kitty was diagnosed with pancreatitis and possible, or probable, lymphoma or mast cell disease. The tests showed no signs of cancer, but the doctors were sure it was there, lurking, waiting to be found. But they agreed that I shouldn't subject my precious Kitty to more tests just yet.

At home, she didn't eat on her own, and she rarely left her bed on the vanity in my bathroom. I gave her fluids and what seemed like truckloads of pills and liquid medications and syringed food into her three or four times a day. But nothing seemed to make any difference at all, and although I tried to be optimistic, I felt that the end was near.

On our last night together, I sat with her and told her how much I loved her. I congratulated her on getting adopted again, this time by me, and promised that she would never, ever again be "returned" to a shelter. She purred, but I sensed that the Kitty I knew and loved was no longer there.

The Kitty I knew talked nonstop and always let me know exactly what was on her mind. She sat on the pillows beside mine and purred me to sleep every night. She loved to dip her paw into her food and lick the food off the paw (messy, but cute). And she did the same thing with water. Her larger than life personality always made me laugh.

Her story doesn't have the happy ending I envisioned. But for her, maybe it was a happy ending, after all. She was in her forever, really forever, home with someone who loved and respected her. For a cat who had been kicked around by heartless humans her entire life, maybe that was a happy ending. I hope so, but I wish it hadn't come so soon.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Kitty: A Success Story In Progress

Kitty when she was in the shelter.
Some of our success stories are still works in progress. Kitty is one of those stories still waiting for a happy ending. She was adopted from the Baltimore County shelter as a kitten and was returned six years later. Luckily, she was adopted again. But then a new baby arrived, and her humans had no room for a cat in their hearts or their home. Now 12 years old and diabetic, Kitty was returned to the shelter.

When we met, she was living in a cramped cage. I was there to meet her and report back to Diabetic Cats in Need, a rescue group that grew out of the Feline Diabetes Message Board. The last thing I expected to hear was that she was going to be killed if she wasn't pulled by a rescue very soon because the shelter's budget has no room for diabetic cats. Kitty came home with me!  

As we made our way through rush hour traffic on the Beltway, Kitty talked nonstop. Maybe she was telling me how hurt she was that her people moved her into the basement after the baby arrived and how much she enjoyed all the attention she got from the volunteers at the shelter. She's a very social cat and loves being front and center when people are around.

So now she's with me, making me laugh with her many personality quirks and truly hating the other cats who live here. We're both eager for her to go to her forever home where she can be the one and only cat. But until then, I'll love her with all of my heart and enjoy her company because she's a wonderful friend. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Davy and Goliath: Mr. Mom

Davy was just a tiny kitten when he and his big brother, Goliath, moved in with us. He was the only survivor in his litter of kittens. And with their mother gone, too, Goliath moved right in and became Mr. Mom to his tiny baby brother. A woman in Baltimore found them together in her backyard and watched as Goliath nurtured and cared for Davy. But she was ill and couldn't keep them. Over the months, we watched Davy grow from kitten to teenager to energetic young cat. We rarely have kittens in our group home, and all of us loved watching him grow up under Goliath's watchful eye. Because Goliath was too shy to live comfortably in a home, they went to live in a barn with an older cat, miniature horses, a couple of cat-friendly dogs and people who adore them.

You can help us save more cats like Davy and Goliath. Please help us find a new location in the Columbia area for our group home.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Leonardo and Friends

Our group home began with Leonardo, Spencer and their 20 friends from the same household, who were all in urgent need of a place to go. A friend had just moved to a huge house in the country, and she invited the cats to stay in her basement until they got adopted, making it possible for us to save them from Baltimore County Animal Control. We quickly mobilized a team of volunteers to care for our new family of "basement cats." I loved just sitting on the floor in the basement watching the cats swatting around toys and climbing on the ladders and platforms we'd set up for them. It took almost two years, but they all got adopted in groups of two or more. I loved them all, but Leonardo and Spencer, were my favorites. They were brothers and were the oldest and wisest of the cats and my good friends.


We were packing up after an adoption show at PetCo when we noticed a shopping cart with a cat carrier in it. When we opened the carrier, we found a tiny orange cat curled up in a back corner. She was literally frozen with fear. A store employee said the shopping cart and carrier had been there since the night before. Peaches was too traumatized to go to our shelter, so she went to a foster home instead. The foster home soon became her forever home. Years later, she's still very shy but happy.

Taz and Mia

Taz and Mia were abandoned outside when their family moved. Mia was old, although we have no idea how old. Taz wasn't young, either. Mia wasn't well when she joined out cat family, and her health continued to decline, no matter what we did. The only thing that seemed to help at all was acupuncture, and a house call vet came weekly for a little while to do her treatments. Fortunately, the vet loves cats and didn't mind sitting on the floor treating Mia with one hand while waving off curious friends with the other. Finally, Mia had to be hospitalized one last time. She began her journey to Rainbow Bridge all alone in a cage at the vet clinic. We were devastated when we found out, because we wouldn't have wanted her to be alone. And we were worried about how Taz would do without his friend. But just a few days later, a woman spotted him on and wanted to meet him. A week later, we took him home to a family of four cats and a human who adores him and loves having his companionship while she's working in what she says is now his garden.


Cosmo already had an appointment for a lethal injection when his human decided to try one last rescue. It wasn't that Cosmo was a "bad" cat. In fact, he was his mom's best friend. But she'd been assigned to travel in Europe for a year, and no family members, friends or rescue groups were willing to keep him while she was overseas. We'd been "stuck" with cats whose families never returned for them before, and we were a bit hesitant about Cosmo. But he didn't deserve to die... His mom signed a contract specifying the date she'd return for him, promised to keep in touch and delivered her buddy to our group home. While she was traveling, he had a great year hanging out with his cat friends and snuggling with the volunteers. As the date for his reunion with his mom approached, we began making plans. She and Cosmo would be moving to Italy, and all of us wanted to make sure his arrangements to fly in the cabin with her were in order. As a farewell gift, we gave him a soft fleece harness and leash to wear on the trip. She was nervous about their reunion and worried for weeks that he wouldn't remember her. He did, of course. It was a long trip for our boy but worth it to be with his mom again and living with her in a lovely country home with a fenced garden in Italy.   

Jasmine And Company

Jasmine and her 15 housemates were already in the Baltimore County shelter, when their "ex" realized she'd made a terrible mistake, and her elderly cats would probably be killed. A victim of domestic violence, she'd been told by the police to stay away from home and had asked Animal Control to pick up her cats. The shelter gave us three business days to find places for the cats, and the two of us networked frantically. Friends of Animals offered to help and ended up taking two kittens. Fancy Cats Rescue Team found foster homes for many of the senior cats. I'll always remember the day I went to the shelter in a borrowed van to collect the cats. They were in a room in a little house at the entrance to the shelter grounds, and there were cats everywhere... perched on shelves in the closets, sitting on windowsills, lounging on the furniture... As we loaded the last of the cats into the van, the officers who picked them up stopped by to say goodbye and wish them luck. They were big, burly men with tears in their eyes. All but three of the senior cats went to foster homes.  I figured Harry, Jasmine and Leo would be fine in our group home since they were used to living with a lot of cats. Besides, it was only a matter of time until a softhearted person came along and offered them a home where they could spend their golden years together. That softhearted person turned out to be me. Leo, who was 14 when he moved in with me, was cute and fun. But living with Harry, who was 15, was like living with a crotchety old man with chronic digestive problems. And then there was Jasmine, also 15. She looked like a powder puff but beneath the long, silky fur was a tough Baltimore street cat. She was smart and shrewd and wise, and the most nurturing cat I have ever known. She was a once-in-a-lifetime cat, and it was an honor and joy to share my life with her for five years.

The Pfister's Cats

When the Pfister's Mobile Home Park in Laurel closed to make way for a huge ice cream factory, 40 feral cats and a couple of tame house cats were left behind. Every evening for two months, I went to the abandoned mobile home park to feed the cats -- a colony of 17, including a calico with attitude named Grandma; a tame cat who never left the porch of the trailer where she'd spent her entire life; two orange brothers who lived across the street from her; two mother cats with kittens near the front of the park; and a black and white tuxedo cat and his friend who moved from trailer to trailer, always together. I named them Buddy and Ben. Being in what felt like a small town inhabited only by cats and squirrels was both scary and fun at the same time, and I looked forward to my daily visits. The friend who rescued Puck trapped all the cats. Then we carefully labeled all the traps so friends and family members wouldn't be separated and would go to barns together. I'll always be grateful to the wonderful family in Lynchburg that took the entire colony of 17. Grandma, who was never fond of her offspring, chose to live separately with her newest litter of kittens in the mobile home park. Being the kind of cat she is, she chose the trailer with the nicest front porch. At her new home, she soon discovered that the house has a beautiful porch, and that's where she spends her time while her kids catch mice in the barn.


Puck was just a kitten when a friend broke the window of an abandoned inner city apartment and snatched him off a windowsill. He grew up in our group home but never quite learned how to play nicely with people. He's one of those cats who loves you one second and sinks every tooth and claw into your arm the next. After a couple of disastrous adoption shows, we decided he'd be happiest and safest in a barn. Puck was the first cat I'd relocated to a barn, and I wanted to make sure he had everything he needed in his new home. So he arrived with two shopping bags full of "stuff" -- a bed, snugly baby blankets, catnip toys and the dog toy he loved to cuddle. The adopters were a bit surprised that a barn cat would have so many possessions, but Puck wasted no time showing his new family he was ready for full-time work as a Mouse Manager. When his "dad" reached into his crate to pet him, Puck bit his finger. Puck's name is Honcho now, and he's living large on his horse farm. He invites the neighborhood cats over for sleepovers in his barn, rides around on the farm machinery and helps his people garden. He's a great mouser, too, but most important, he's a wonderful friend to the people who adopted him.