Nancyeclark's Blog


Bib

Bib

This is Bib…named for the Michelin man as his tummy was always so big as a baby. Bib was special…his eyes, his funny little nose, his one white stocking-and his funny personality. Bib developed breathing problems from a growth behind his soft palate and when he began to have real problems getting enough air, we had to make a decision to end his struggle. We lost our gorgeous boy the same day we lost our Youko…and I just want to say that he was the best boy…the sweetest boy and my heart aches with the loss. Bibby and Youko were a wonderful part of my life – I will miss them always.



Youko

Youko

This is my little Youko; my odd little angel. Only survivor of her litter…she struggled with health issues throughout her short life. We lost her last month, and I haven’t been able to talk about it until now. Lovely and fragile…she gave me so much and taught me so much – I will miss her forever.



Check out what Lush is doing to fight animal testing
December 23, 2013, 1:08 am
Filed under: cats

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Musing on moggies

Fostering cats is one of the most rewarding, wonderful, loving and heartbreaking things you can do with your time, love and effort.

You take in a Mum cat, perhaps, about to give birth. Sometimes you are lucky and get a few days to get to know each other and establish a bond…sometimes she goes into labour in the carrier on the way home and the babies appear before you have even been introduced!!

Occasionally, Mum has already had her babies and you take them home with you when they are a day or two old or somewhere in that newborn to 12 week old area.

And then there are the orphan kittens, singles or litters, that need to be bottle fed…or if they are old enough, introduced to soft solid food. A very messy business!

No matter how they arrive…they are your responsibility and yours to love and care for. They demand attention…warmth…food…fresh water…litter & litter training…playtime…cuddles & snuggle-time…manners…socialization…all the things they need to be wonderful adoptable kittens and cats…because Mum will need a home too, when the babies are old enough. There will be visits to the vet, shots, de-worming…hopefully no viruses, parasites or other problems. They will all need to learn to use scratching posts and have their claws clipped. They will turn out to be the kind of cat they are, depending on their personality, but you do have some influence on their manners.

Fostering is a commitment that should not be taken lightly, because the goal is to find homes, forever homes for everybody…so we have to do our level best to keep them healthy, happy, well mannered and sociable. And we have to be able to let them go at the end of their foster time! Time and love are the big things in fostering. Time is the only one that is hard to find sometimes…the love comes when you look into their faces and you turn to mush. One of my very favourite things is a purring, contented Mum nursing her purring, contented babies…the next best thing is a tiny body on my lap, latched onto a nipple or syringe and getting that wonderful ear waggle going that means they are getting the nourishment they need. And kitten kisses, don’t forget kitten kisses…soft kisses and soft paws touching your nose…then kittens on a tear around the room or the house…full of life and fun and mischief. So really there are lots of favourite things about kittens.

I work hard at fostering…because I have to also make sure my own kitties do not suffer any loss of attention when there are kittens demanding playtime and snuggles. Luckily I have a wonderful family, and a wonderful family of cats who are amazingly patient at having their tails played with, their food stolen and their naps disrupted by kittens running over them and into them. They also understand when I disappear before their breakfast is put out, to feed the newest ones who get theirs first.

Upstairs in my studio I had a foster family…Phoebe and her 3 babies…Yogi, Archie and Zoe. Oops! Sorry…4 babies! The family increased to 4, because an orphan kitten around the same age as Phoebe’s family was brought in and we carried her home to see if Phoebe would take her on. I wrapped the new one in a towel that had just been replaced in the babies bin, so it smelled nicely like them…gave her a hot water bottle wrapped in towels for 15 minutes to warm her up and make her feel hungry…then introduced her to Phoebe. Calleigh, as she became, let out a tiny cry of hunger and Phoebe’s head whipped upright…she stared hard for about 2 seconds…leaned over…sniffed deeply, then licked Calleigh from stem to stern and scooped her in towards her tummy and the other babies. In the space of about 10 seconds, Calleigh had a new family and Phoebe had a new daughter! The ability of cats to accept a kitten not their own is a truly loving and wonderful thing. Not all will do it…but many will gladly take on an extra body or more.

Calleigh got some supplemental feeding…because even with Phoebe giving her extra alone time nursing…the other kittens were just that little bit older and bigger so that Calleigh got knocked off her nipple sometimes…she took in about an extra two tablespoons a day…spread out over several feedings. Soon she was as fat and roly-poly as the others. She was such a feisty little thing…such an odd face and darling personality.

Calleigh day 1…making sure she gets a meal. Calleigh is the little white kitten.

From fostering and from working with feral or community cats, I have learned that mum cats are amazing creatures. In the colony I have been working with most recently, the mum cats share nursing duties and care of the kittens…they share hunting responsibilities and discipline of the kittens too. When, unfortunately, one of the young mum cats disappeared forever (and I wish we knew what had happened) the other 2 mum cats took over her babies and raised them. Having been a step-mum, I know how precious someone else’s babies are and how wonderful it is to be part of their life…but a lot of human blended families don’t work that cooperatively. Cats seem to see it differently. At least this group of cats. They are amazing animals…wild and nervous of humans…but the little ones, caught between 8 weeks and 6 months of age…have socialized beautifully. We believe they simply have the “friendly gene”…as even though some took a long time to trust…they have all become lovely cats. The adults in the colony have been spayed and neutered…the 2 new males that have wandered in looking for food (so skinny we believe they are strays) are on the list to neuter very shortly.

Fostering encompasses so many things and so many situations…babies…mums and babies…socializing community cats (feral cats)…caring for sick or injured cats…it really runs the gamut. It breaks my heart every time I have to adopt one out…but it is also pure joy to know they have a home and family to love them. I have been very lucky that many of the adopters have kept in touch…just to send a picture or two of the cats/babies in their new homes being loved and being happy. What could be better than that?



I Loathe a Rainy Night

With deepest apologies to Eddie Rabbitt.

“Well, I love a rainy night
I love to hear the thunder
Watch the lightning
When it lights up the sky
You know it makes me feel good
Well, I love a rainy night
It’s such a beautiful sight
I love to feel the rain
On my face
Taste the rain on my lips
In the moonlight shadow
Showers washed
All my cares away”

I used to feel the way Eddie’s song goes. I do love thunder and lightning and rain pounding on the roof. I love going to watch a storm march across the lake and the lightning all around me. My fantasy vacation is heading to Tornado Alley to watch storms, wind, rain, clouds and lightning…with or without tornados.

But now I loathe a rainy night. All because of tailless, hopping Anura. Frogs. Peepers. Leopards. I don’t know what kind exactly…but mostly dead.

I loathe a rainy night and driving in the rain because rain…or mist or just the promise of rain…brings out the frogs. By the hundreds. Even thousands. Sitting, gulping, hopping out on the road in the rain…getting shmushed by the hundreds and thousands too.

Driving parts of the roads and highways in this area is like driving through a minefield…full of small, squishy, living, hopping mines. I slow down and swerve a lot…but in most cases there is traffic or too many of them to avoid.

So, I find myself driving to avoid as many as possible with my body tense, teeth clenched and saying over and over and over again “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry” and mentally apologizing to god and the frogs for killing or maiming the ones I cannot avoid. Best case scenario is my husband driving while I close my eyes and apologize until we get home. Sort of the same way I drive over the bridge to the States at Ivy Lea…eyes closed and praying we don’t fall off or get hit by a gust of wind!

Poor frogs. So happy they are to feel the rain. Hopping out onto the dark, wet pavement. Sitting, gulping, blissfully unaware of approaching mayhem…little faces raised to the rain…saying to themselves…”Wow! This feels so goo………..SPLAT!!

How unfair!

I have always wondered why they do this. Why rush out from their homes in the marshes and wetlands to sit in the wet & dark…communing with each other? Praising the gods of rain? Looking for moths and worms? Mating?

Here are 3 of the internets answers…and it seems I wasn’t far off with my theories…

1. -“Frog are cold blooded, or ectothermic animals, which means that they do not produce internal body heat. They go to the warm pavement during rain to maintain their temperatures.”

2. “For sex = to find a mate”

3. =During rainy nights drivers may have noticed dozens or even hundreds of frogs crossing roads in the area despite the danger of being hit.
Tarr said frogs travel out onto the pavement at this time because moist nights make for good amphibian travel weather."They breathe through their skin so they are susceptible to drying out when the sun is out. When it’s rainy they can go wherever they want and not worry about it. They tend to be the most active at night," Tarr said.
Mike Marchand, a wildlife biologist with New Hampshire Fish and Game, said frogs can be seen on the roads throughout the year during storms.
"When they move, it’s typically in the rain," said Marchand, adding the first big spring rainfall tends to bring them out of hibernation.
Experts say many frogs travel across pavement from their winter hibernating spots to get to wetlands where they can breed.
Tarr said the road also provides warmth as it holds the heat from the day better than the ground. Frogs also find things like worms and insects on the pavement to feast on, he added.
UNH Cooperative Extension officials are concerned about roads that run through wetlands because frogs and other amphibians are often run over more often during their travels.
Tarr said frogs and toads are remarkably adapted to their environment with features like camouflage and toxic chemicals that can be excreted to make them the last thing on the menu for many animals.
However, he said they certainly aren’t aware of the danger of vehicles.
"Most of the time the first time they are being educated about a car they are being squashed," Tarr said.
Marchand said the road is certainly a "risky" place for frogs to be considering that many motorists don’t even see them.
"There is certainly a high mortality rate on nights when it’s raining. When I drive I’m cringing and slowing down," Marchand said.”

The most telling part of what I found was this…"Most of the time, the first time they are being educated about a car, they are being squashed”.

So do we need to educate the frogs? Do we need frog tunnels? Signs warning drivers about frogs…like the signs for deer, turtles and other species?

Because it seems to me with all the talk about frogs being an indicator species…with their numbers dropping dramatically due to toxins and pollution, habitat destruction and climate change…we also need to take a look at the carnage on the roads.

So, when next you drive on a rainy night near wetlands…be aware of the little things on the road…they might look like detritus or leaves lying there…but if you really look…they are happy little creatures about to be annihilated…

and if you see a car ahead of you acting strangely…it’s probably me…because I love frogs and loathe rainy nights!



AM I NUTS?

I think I may finally, at the age of 53, found my true path in life. I am seriously considering going back to school. Whether that happens or not (and the reasons would be financial), I believe I must work with animals, in animal welfare, somehow, someway. I have seen, heard, watched and learned enough now to know that it is just as important as working to end poverty, injustice and cruelty anywhere…and those things will still be on the agenda too…but animals are truly where my future lies.

I believe that a society must be measured on the way it treats its most vulnerable…the children…the elderly…and the ones who have no voice of their own…the animals who share our lives, our communities, our supper table and our planet.

I have spent the last two years fostering cats and helping my local shelter, writing letters about whales, seals, cats, dogs, horses, burros, cows, slaughter, round ups and gathers etc., etc., etc.; urging legislation, signing petitions, joining groups, emailing, calling MPP’s, MP’s and Senators, Presidents and Congressmen and women, annoying friends and family and just generally dipping my feet into the pond.

I started this blog that no one reads and I do not have too much time for these days, I have learned about supportive care, sub-cu fluids, bottle feeding, hygiene, multi cat household issues, illness, diseases and viral shedding, disinfection, parasites, injuries, death and euthanization. Now I think it is time to back up my internet and library research and pestering of shelter workers, local vets and vet assist and vet techs…and become one of them.

I would like to learn more about the care of the animals I tend to and love, and maybe it would help me get a job at a shelter where I could make more of a difference than what I am doing now. What I would like to know is if you all think I am nuts to consider something like this at my stage of life. Comments are welcome.



THE ‘”OO” FACTOR

I am sure we have all heard of the  “aww” factor, right? The cuteness, the sweetness that makes you go “aww!!! ”. The warm fuzzies. That is what everyone thinks of when I tell them I am fostering kittens…particularly baby kittens…orphans of a day old, or about a week old, or two weeks old…everyone  says ”aww”.  Everyone who has never done it that is.

4. hungry rodney

The reality about tiny baby kittens is the “oo” factor. As in poop, poop, poop and more poop.

Orphan kittens are the cutest things on the face of the planet. They are also one of the hardest things to feed, keep warm and keep alive. And then there’s the poop.

Orphans, depending on their age, need feeding every 2 hours at the start. They will take to a bottle or not. They will suck or not. They might like syringe feeding. Or not. Sometimes a dropper. Or not. It is all trial & error and a kitten happily sucking one minute will decide not to the next. And then there is the poop.

Orphan kittens need to be kept warm and dry. But not too warm. Hot water bottles need to be refreshed regularly, and heating pads need to be under lots of towels or blankies, so that there are no hot spots…and they need to be able to get away from the warmth if they need to…so there has to be part of their space that is cooler. Their blankets, or towels, or bedding needs to be checked often to be sure they are dry and just the right temperature. And then there is the poop.

Orphan kittens need to be weighed. Need to have a set amount of formula. No over feeding or under feeding. Underfeeding leads to yelling, restless babies. Overfeeding can cause diarrhea and other problems. They need to be burped after feeding. And cuddled. They need skin time and bonding and warmth and lots of love. And they need to poop.

Orphan kittens need to have their little bodies stimulated to pee and poop. Their mum would be doing it for them…so you have to take her place, with cotton pad, ball or washcloth instead of tongue…but the job is the same…to gently encourage them to produce pee and a least a poop a day or so. Never rub…you can irritate their fragile bits. Jiggling works a treat. And be sure to clean them afterwards…so they don’t get scald and so they smell good. A kitten who has a mum is kept immaculate…and we foster parents should keep them that way too. Cats and kittens like to be clean. Bathing is sometimes necessary. Not a lot of fun for either of you…but necessary.

And then there’s the poop. Regular poop should be brown and kind of jam-like….and if you are lucky…that is all you get. However, sometimes you get weird colours and textures and blood and mucus and other horrible things because there are so many things that can cause poop problems. Overfeeding. Formula too rich. Intestinal parasites: roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms or the protozoans; coccidia & giardia.Viral or bacterial infections: there are many, but two of the scariest are FIP & distemper. Allergies. Inflammatory bowel disease. Feline leukemia. Antibiotics. Toxins. Cancer. Diabetes. Some can be ruled out or in fairly easily…but sometimes you just don’t now and it becomes trial and error to fix the problem. Kittens, due to their immature immune systems are wide open to almost anything, sometimes inherited from their mother, sometimes not.

When all is normal in the poop department, thank your lucky stars. Because it so often isn’t normal. Very often very messy and very smelly. And you have to keep the babies clean…it is vital, because they can get scald, they do not smell good and because they cuddle and sometimes lick and suck on each other…you have to not let them keep re-infecting themselves. Besides, it is harder to snuggle, kiss and love a sticky, smelly baby.

When you are raising baby kittens…you have to keep them clean, dry, warm but not too warm, hydrated and nourished. All of these can be huge challenges at times. And the younger the baby is…the harder it is to even keep them alive, much less thriving.

The tiniest, the youngest will not have had enough or any of their mum’s colostrum. They often do not suck well. And if kittens do develop poop issues…keeping them hydrated is difficult…they lose fluid so quickly.

This is not intended as a “go to” instruction manual for babies. It is just my observations of some of the things you might face when trying to hand raise kittens. And in my estimation, it is the “oo” factor which causes the most puzzlement, headaches, grief and heartache.

Sometimes everything goes swimmingly…you heave a sigh of relief when they get to about 16 weeks old and they get spay/neutered and go on to their new lives. Hopefully long and happy ones. Sometimes it goes only partly bad. You spend all your time trying to figure out the poop problems and trying to keep them tidy. Sometimes you lose a baby (or more)…cry a lot, work harder (as if that were possible) on those that remain, cry some more and rejoice when they get over it and grow and thrive. Sometimes they are the litter that makes you want never to do this again…to believe you cannot cry any more tears…that you are the worst foster mum ever…that  god does not exist or these things would not happen to innocents like this…that vets are useless…that you will never recover from the grief…and that no one will ever ask you to do this again, because you have just killed a litter of kittens. Because if all hell breaks loose, and kittens die…you will blame yourself, even if it is in no way your fault. Sometimes you will know why it happened…and sometimes you do not get any answers…it just happens despite your fervent prayers and diligence and love and medicine and whatever else you tried to save them…shelter visits, CPR, syringe feeding, tube feeding, antibiotics,anti-virals, sub-Q fluids, hot water bottles, emergency vet visits, all the supportive care in the world….even making bargains with the devil…sometimes there is not a damn thing you can do. Kittens die sometimes.

But you swallow hard and find the resolve to do it again…and again…because when all goes well, there is incredible joy and satisfaction in seeing these wee things nurse and snuggle and grow and thrive. There is so much joy in watching their personalities blossom. I cannot tell you how deeply it affects me to have the whole litter sitting in my lap, looking at me with love, tapping my face with their soft little paws and purring to beat the band. My heart sings! And there is seeing them spayed or neutered and head off into their new lives with their forever families. It is supremely satisfying to know they would not have had that outcome if it were not for you. Fostering kittens is about hard work, long hours, a weird fascination with poop, fun, love, joy, sadness, silliness, heartache, awe and wonder and lots and lots of smiles and laughter. It really is all about the “oo” factor…but when it works…it is also about the “aww” factor.