10 Dec

Sometimes you are too busy rescuing cats….

….to blog about rescuing cats.

That’s me. I started this blog/website to let people in on my crazy, cat rescuing life (that is, when I’m not on your TV selling you stuff) and lately, I’ve been so darn busy rescuing that I haven’t had time to let anyone in on anything–except for the little kittens that I let onto my terrace, and then onto my landing in a comfy crate, and who are now resting happily at my vet. Adopt them here:http://www.adoptapet.com/pet/17194750-brooklyn-new-york-kitten  and here:   http://www.adoptapet.com/pet/17194724-brooklyn-new-york-kitten 

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….and Mama Floof,  Uncle Floof, and the two wee Baby Floofs (who turned out to be, in this order: Maine Coon kittens, Polydactyl, and friendly, so I socialized them a bit and both are in or on their way to their forever homes..)…

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….and Sardine, now Kani, and his little sister Miso, who are also in their forever home. Sardine/Kani was left behind when Miso and mama Evie were rescued–he was too wily and fast to catch–so I headed over with my trusty kitten trap and he was mine in about 15 minutes (take that, seemingly impenetrable construction site in Bushwick!)….

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….and Tuna! Who we found upstate, and looked high and low to find her people and turned up nothing! Tuna, the most affectionate cat on the planet was eartipped, not micro-chipped, no collar and purrs and tummy rubs for days. Tuna is now in HER forever home and let’s hope Lulu the resident cat accepts her…we’re doing the slow intro 🙂

….and Linus! Who showed up at my colony and was WAY too friendly be out on the street. Not chipped, not neutered, ridiculously friendly. Linus also found his forever home 🙂

 

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So remember, if I’m not posting about rescuing, it’s probably because I’m too busy rescuing.

 

 

13 Sep

RIP Tiny Black Olive

When you do rescue, you never know what’s coming next. Take tonight for example: home for the first time in days after a long weekend, gardening on my terrace when I discover not one but TWO new members of the Rooftop Cat Cafe that is my apt. The new guy is polydactyl, and may be accompanying the new kitten that my cat sitter told me about yesterday. All of these beauties will be TNR’d next week! So at least no kittens this winter (paws crossed, anyway)

As I’m gardening, the cold that has been festering all weekend becomes worse and worse, so I cancel my attendance at Improv practice and settle in on the couch, planning to kick this cold with an early night….

…..until this dreaded text

“Sick kitten in front of Westminster and Glenwood RD. Badly off. Flies all around. Head wound.”

Ok. Jump up. Grab carrier, critter gloves, regular gloves, cat food, wallet, water, protein bar (dinner? What dinner?) and throw on pants and shoes (I was relaxing in my indoor gear which I wouldn’t be caught dead on the street in ). I’m running over to the location, texting the guy who sounded the alarm, hoping he’s waiting there keeping the kitten company in its distress….

No one is there. Except one very small, very sick black kitten, hunched over on the pavement, not even flinching away from the large black flies circling its tiny head.

No time to wonder what kind of person could see a sick baby animal and walk away. No time to think about how many other people walked by, stepping OVER the little one as it lay directly under their feet in the middle of the sidewalk. No time to be angry or disgusted or disappointed or any of the other emotions we rescuers experience every day doing this work.

So here I am at the emergency clinic. Olive is very sick, likely with FIP or advanced FeLV. She is jaundiced and anemic. She would need hospitalization, blood transfusions, fluids and IV meds just to stabilize, and the Vet said her chances for recovery would still be very slight.

So: spend hundreds (very possibly more) of dollars to try and stabilize this tiny body wracked with disease, or send her peacefully off and spend that money on a myriad other animals whose chances for survival are far greater? With such limited resources these are the tough questions we find ourselves trying to answer alone in the emergency vet office deep in Brooklyn late at night.

Not alone, not really–my rescue network is vast, and I love these people and trust their hearts. Together we text, call, and FB message, and we arrive at the same page–not without struggle. Every life deserves deep consideration.

So tonight this little kitten passes away peacefully inside, with people who care enough to stay with her and see that she isn’t alone, sick and in pain. She is wrapped in a warm blanket, and held and pet and crooned to while the feel good drugs pass through her system, so she’s floating on a warm cloud when her overtaxed and exhausted heart stops.

RIP tiny Olive.

~Coda~

No Vet, no matter how lovely, works for free. The care is expert and expensive and without charging a fee, the amazing Veterinarians at VERG South would not be able to continue to save lives, and save lives is what they do. We are grateful to them for their continued work with rescues–and if you can help Small World Animal Rescue pay Olive’s $250 bill, we would greatly appreciate it. Donate here for Olive and everyone else in our care. Hug your animals tonight, and thank you.

 

 

04 Jan

Panda Cat, my new foster and YOUR new kitty?

I found Panda one night a few weeks ago. I was late, rushing to get into the city on time to see a show, and stopped short at the sight of a small black cat with distinctive white markings on it’s face and little white feet. Panda was TERRIFIED, darting behind anything she could find to hide from the traffic of the busy street.

Now, my neighborhood is home to any number of street cats—many of whom are fed by feral feeders like me—and normally my Catress alarm doesn’t go offwhen I see a cat on the sidewalk –after a quick check to make sure he/she isn’t injured, sick or pregnant I usually continue on my way.

This particular corner, however, is not ground zero for street cats—in fact in the 10 years I’ve lived in this ‘nabe I’ve not seen a single one. Add to that the fact that Panda was friendly—coming right up to me and meowing a plea for rescue…I had no choice! All doubt was erased as a garbage truck lumbered past and a panicked Panda squeezed herself into the 3 inch gap behind a metal security gate. Cursing, I ran back to my apt to retrieve a large carrier, a can of salmon, a can of tuna and a large towel. I was hoping I wouldn’t need a trap—she seemed friendly enough and mine was still out on loan.

Success! Panda came running righ back out from behind the metal gate when she smelled the salmon. Into the carrier she went, and I rushed her back upstairs, into my office/foster room. I was still planning to make my show that night, so my preparations for Panda’s lair were harried at best. I threw down a litter pan with litter, gave her food and water and made sure there were a few soft places for a Panda to curl up and sleep…waiting for her rescuer to return, to shower love and affection upon me….

…..or something like that. When I returned Panda was curled up, alright, but as far away from me as possible. She was on top of a stack on old CD’s I’d been meaning to toss out, and when I approached she HISSED. I have to say I was taken aback! She had seemed so friendly…but then I got a hold of myself. This poor kitty has no idea what’s going on. Her fur was so glossy I could only imagine she had either been tossed out or was lost. I let her have her space, and quickly made an appointment for the next morning at my vet. “She should def be scanned for a microchip” I told them.” I’m sure she belongs to someone”.

Unfortunately, it would take a few more weeks of Panda-Care and another vet before we were able to confirm that she wasn’t in fact microchipped. The morning after her rescue Panda was one unhappy kitty at the vet. The vet techs couldn’t get anywhere near her, and I was terrified they’d get hurt if they tried. I had to leave the room while the wrangled her back into her carrier with a pole. Poor Panda. We went home—she to rest, me to order these amazing animal-handling gloves. I also downloaded this guide to clicker-training cats! Pretty cool…

Panda learned quickly. Sure, I had a few moments of terror when she chose to curl up on my chest FAR too close to my FACE…and I found myself wondering if I should be wearing one of these Bee-Keeping masks while the socialization was underway…

Thankfully, in a matter of weeks I no longer needed the gloves, except when I brought Panda back to the vet, just in case. The vet and I decided to tranquilize her so she wouldn’t be traumatized by the vaccines, and while she was under we decided to spay her as well, which was FABULOUS. Later that evening I brought home a slightly sore but newly spayed and vaccinated Panda back to her lair (insert photo), and all was well in Catress’s world…

Meanwhile, Momo and Sweetie seemed unaware that a new foster had taken up residence in the office. I guess they assumed I went in there for 30 minutes a day to work? Not sure, but at least they didn’t seem bothered when I emerged from my Panda petting sessions (or, as my cat sitter calls them, “Panda pet-pets”…

Soon I will list her for adoption. I do want her to be able to leave the confines of my office because she is a social kitty and longs to be explore and stretch her little Panda paws. That said, so many kitties are in crates right now—and those are the lucky rescued ones!—so I’d say Panda has a pretty good deal until I find her a forever home. Keep you posted!

UPDATE 1/4/15:

Panda has become QUITE the smush-cat. She loves being cuddled, DEMANDS that she be picked up and likes nothing more than a long snuggle after a meal (and she loves her meals!)

She is FeLV and FIV negative, spayed, and has all her shots.

We’ve returned to the vet for our rabies booster and Panda was a perfect sweetheart. She’s a fast learner!

Panda is a very talkative ladycat, but we are pretty sure she will pipe down once she is allowed to roam free in her new home. Right now she is still relegated to the back office and this very social lady would far prefer to be mixing it up at your place and curling up in your lap 🙂

14 Apr

The Story of Tater Tot

It was October. I was lying in bed at my father and step-mother’s cottage in Maine listening to the loons somewhere out on the lake and feeling sad that I had to head back to NYC the following day. I LOVE Maine in October–the quiet, the woodsmoke, the sudden heat of an Indian Summer day. For years I’d been taking an annual solo trip to the lakehouse and relishing every moment (Ok, I’ll cop to a visit to the outlets in Freeport, but I go only after a breathtaking hike along the Casco shoreline at Wolf’s Neck Woods State Park next door). I’d hiked, gone for long runs, eaten local foods (hello, clam chowder!), picked up some great bargains and enjoyed my coffee outside surrounded by tall pines every morning. I guess I was ready to go home.

I’d just reached over to turn out the light when my phone buzzed with a new email. It was from a neighbor, a fellow cat lover and generous woman who’d offered me her late cat’s wicker bed after he’d died. Karen had donated to several of my TNR projects in the past and was a new mother and an animal advocate.

“There’s a beautiful gray kitty hanging out begging for food in the Tot lot. Looks really skinny. Very sad.  🙁 Super friendly.”

My heart sank. Not only was there a kitty in need–never a happy situation (though all too common)–but I was 8 hours away in another state. The Tot Lot is right down the street from my apt and here I was in beautiful Maine unable to help. I quickly emailed Karen back to say that I was out of town but would stop by the next evening after my long drive home and see if the cat was still there. In the back of my mind–or sort of near the front–I was hoping this was a friendly indoor/outdoor house cat who just happened to be super skinny and would trot on back home as soon as she/he got bored of hanging out in the cold and begging for fo—sigh. No way was this someone’s pet–unless it was someone’s pet who had been dumped outside when it’s owners decided they no longer wanted it.

I got back to Brooklyn the following day around 6pm and headed out for groceries. I threw some cat food and my Cat-In-The-Bag  “cozy comfort carrier” into my tote just in case the hungry grey kitty was still in the Tot Lot. I half-hoped the cat wouldn’t be there and half-hoped it would be, because I knew hungry cats begging for food don’t tend to have great reversals of fortune unless they run into crazy cat ladies like me. Dusk was falling as I approached the Tot Lot but it was still plenty light enough to see the little grey cat in the arms of a 9 or 10 year old child. The kids were running after each other while carrying the cat, who was too skinny and exhausted to put up a fight. That or she was extremely docile, and I was about to find out.

“OK, guys, game’s over, let’s put kitty down….” These were nice kids. They put her down immediately.

“Is that your cat?” one of them asked, a boy of about 11. The other kids watched the cat wolf down a can of food I opened for her on one of the playground benches.

“Uh….Yep. She sure is.”  I’ve learned that white lies that help save lives are completely acceptable, including ones told to children. “I’m going to bring her home right now.”

The little grey cat let me pick her up with nary a complaint. I zipped her into her Cat Bag and she nestled into me. I swear, animals know when they’re being rescued, and their whole body relaxes. It’s a sweet, beautiful feeling. A parent of one of the children commented on how friendly she was. “I took a photo of her yesterday,” he told me. “She’s been here for a few days. I’m so glad you’re taking her.”

“You guys did great,” I told the kids, employing my tried-and-tested technique of complimenting people for behavior I hope they’ll adopt. “You always want to be gentle with animals you see outside, even if they seem friendly. Best thing to do is to tell an adult you see an animal who needs help and never, ever try to pick them up because they might get scared and run away.” My enraptured little audience nodded their heads. I hoped they’d remember my advice if they ever encountered another stray animal. This little cat was super lucky she’d come across well-behaved kids who meant her no harm. Sadly that’s not always the case.

Coming up with a great name is key to finding a cat a new home. Being found in the Tot Lot made this one a lot easier–“Obviously your name is now Tater Tot” I thought as I toted Tater home. She was happy to rest in my arms, unafraid of passing dogs and the loud noises of the Brooklyn streets. Once home I transferred her to a Sherpa carrier as I got to work setting up her new digs in my home office. I don’t mix my fosters with Momo and Sweetie–Sweetie would probably be game but Momo ain’t having it, and I aim to please where my resident cats are concerned. Luckily, I can transform my home office into a “cat hotel” when the need arises.

I have 3 sizes of crates (because Crazy Cat Lady) and I set up a large one for Tater. She was so conked out that at first I put the entire carrier inside the crate so she didn’t have to move. She seemed pretty happy:

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I took her to the vet the next morning, which is one of the most important steps when rescuing a kitty off the streets. I also make a point to mention to the Vet’s office that the appointment is for a rescue cat–sometimes they are able to give discounts for rescue animals. The amazing vets at Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital in Park Slope do great work and Tater explored every inch of the examination room, finally sitting patiently on the table awaiting the doctor:

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The verdict: female, approximately 4 years old, FeLV and FIV negative, not spayed. Healthy, good teeth, great disposition. Really, really cute.

Tater would be spayed a few weeks later, once she gained some weight and got comfortable. She had to get used to loved up–I sensed that affection had not been a big part of her story. I took to spending part of each evening with her in my office, allowing her to jump all over me and learn how to fall asleep on my stomach. If this is conjuring up images of me working on my computer with a sleeping cat on my lap, let me correct you–I would lie down on the floor with my head jammed up against the door to simulate lying down on a bed, so Tater could get “sleeping with a human” practice. Also because Crazy Cat Lady.

Tater picked up her cuddling skills pretty quickly:

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When it was time to get her spayed I was a wreck–I had full confidence in her vet but any time an animal has to go under general anesthesia I am worried sick until they wake up. Tater did great–she stayed the night at the vet, who sent her home the next day with a cone of shame to prevent her form licking her stitches.

I am not a fan of the cone–not only because it breaks my heart to see an animal restrained in any way, even if for their own good–but because they are so poorly designed. I’ve seen animals wriggle out of them, stick one paw through and get stuck, bang their heads repeatedly against the door frame because they can no longer correctly judge distances and struggle to eat dinner because the damn cone gets in the way. I was determined to find a better solution. Here’s what I found:

The Bite Not collar comes in  few sizes for dogs and cats and prevents the licking and chewing that can prevent healing. Kong makes a soft collar that seems kinder to your pet than the hard plastic ones (esp for an animal that has recently had surgery and needs to rest and recover–hard to do with a hard plastic cone covering your face), and Contech makes a round inflatable collar that I chose for Tater because it allowed her the greatest  range of movement while keeping her from bothering her stitches while they healed. It also has the added bonus of functioning like a neck pillow, so Tater could get some much needed R&R:

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Of course, if you are very crafty you can learn to make your own here, or here if you are SUPER crafty.

Meanwhile I set out to find Tater her forever people. Finding a cat a home is a lot like being a salesperson—your eye is on the ultimate prize of a forever home of course, but at the same time you know you are building relationships that might result in later homes for future cats. You just never know when the right cat and right person will match up. To that end, I posted about Tater on FB, on my neighborhood blogs, on friend’s websites and on Instagram. I made sure to include the sadder aspects of Tater’s story (all true) to give her rescue extra oomph.

I find persistence, patience, and healthy doses of rational and irrational belief that “it will all work out” are crucial elements in finding a forever home for a foster cat.  Posting once won’t work—sometimes you have to post multiple times to the same list or page, spaced days apart and with small changes to the content.  Attractive prospects fall through, people change their minds and disappointments are many.  You may spend hours talking to people,  giving them advice and encouragement and expert assistance as they navigate adoption or adding a new cat to their brood,  only to find them balk at the last minute. That said,  it only takes ONE right person or family to seal the deal,  and I try to keep that in mind as I surf the waves of kitty placement.

In Tater’s case, I did have my eye on a potential adopter who I thought might be perfect. She was an avowed cat lover whose family adored their resident rescue cat. She was responsible and all her references checked out. She was willing to take the 2-4 weeks I recommended for new-cat introduction and she was friendly and kind. She also happened to be my older sister 🙂

Sarah (names have been changed to protect the privacy of….nah, just kidding) had a few reservations—the usual concerns about her resident cat’s reaction to a new little sister and disrupting her busy household (2 full-time parents, 2 children with the usual host of after-school and extra-curricular activities) while the two animals became acquainted. I assured her that my policy for all adoptions would be no different for her—I was there to hold her hand and give support, advice and information, and would easily take Tater back should she decide it wasn’t working. I offer a “no shame, no blame” policy and find it keeps the entire process on a positive and easy note.

Thus I found myself on a rainy Thursday evening borrowing a friend’s car to bring sweet Tater Tot to a new home in a new borough. I brought some of her favorite toys and beds with me because that’s how I roll—anything to make the transition easier. I also brought 2 adjustable window screens with me, size large, used to create a permeable barrier for the cats to sniff one another without full access as well as a handy way to keep a kitty from darting in or out of the door—Tater would be living in the bathroom for at least a week while acclimating to her new human and feline family & home (and vice-versa) and it was important to keep her in and her new feline bro out while my sister and her family slipped into the bathroom for frequent visits and snuggles. The screens adjust to fit inside most doors and can be covered with a sheet or towel so the cats can smell but not see each other until they are ready.

I also came armed with food, treats, toys, litter box and some used (but clean) Tater litter. Again, it sounds like a lot of work, but having familiar smells and favorite toys in an unfamiliar environment really helps reduce stress, which makes everything easier. Tater settled nicely into her new digs, and onto my nieces’ laps—the bathroom is small so cuddling happened on the edge of the tub or using the toilet as a chair. Yes, a bathroom is big enough for a cat for a few days, even a few weeks if need be. Cats in shelters often live in crates for months, so if your holding space is on the small side do not despair or freak out. It’s big enough!

I had my sister hold off on cuddling Tater for a few days, focusing her energy and love onto resident kitty instead (he’s a total Mama’s boy anyway!) Soon enough, Dapper Dan was lurking outside the bathroom door, aware that something or someone was behind it. There was meowing, a little growling, some gentle hissing….all perfectly normal. I explained to my sis that cats might have this perfectly normal and expected response to a new animal in their space. Our job as their humans is to allow them the space and time they need to learn that the newcomer is not a threat and may even be a good thing! So many times I’ve seen people throw two cats together and expect the best, then lament that “they just don’t like each other.” Introduced properly, there is no reason that a resident cat won’t accept a new cat into it’s space. Some cats will eventually cuddle together and groom each other, some will co-exist and basically ignore each other, some will play rough or play gentle, some will combine all of the above for a fully realized cat-sibling relationship. The key—and I’ll say this again and again—is giving them the time and space to figure it out., and following tested-and-true cat introduction protocol. If Momo and Sweetie could makework, any cats can!work, any cats can! IMG_2606

I’ve found that “one step forward, two steps back” is a good rule of thumb. Positive interactions are best followed by a step backwards or a break, lest the good feelings become over-stimulating (we’ve all seen what happens when cats get over-stimulated!) Sarah used some of my favorite tricks (rubbing a sock on each cats face and placing the socks by the other cats’ food bowls, doling out favorite treats on either side of the door/screen and letting them indulge next to one another while still safely separated, and playing with each cat in proximity to one another while still separated) and in about a week was ready to expose the cats to one-another’s space.

First we isolated Tater in a bedroom while Dapper had the full run of “Tater’s” bathroom. The look on his face while he explored every inch of her little den was priceless. We let him roam around to his hearts delight. We then closed the door and let Tater out into the rest of the apartment to do the same. Both cats were lively and alert and curious, no stress. They seemed to be looking for each other, actually.

When Sarah finally allowed the cats free access to one another we instructed everyone to be as relaxed as possible. They knew to expect some gentle hissing, possibly even swatting….and had a spray bottle of water (set to mist) on hand in case actual fighting ensued. Fighting can look a lot like rough play or tussling, but is generally distinguished by repeated growling, back of spine arching and tail puffing, ears flattened or tails begin swishing wildly accompanied by panting or spitting. You have to watch your cats pretty carefully as some of these things can accompany regular rough play – Sweetie’s ears always flatten when she and Momo tussle. Still, if it upsets you or seems to escalate, a quick mist of water in their direction can halt any questionable behavior. I also toss foil balls at them to “break it up” and it works every time.

Luckily, aside from some territorial swatting and gentle hissing, Dapper welcomed Tater into “his” home like a champ. What began as cool acceptance has blossomed into full-on friendship, aided and abetted by willing humans. Sweet Tater Tot went from an abandoned, starving and scared street cat eeking out a perilous existence in our local Tot Lot to adored lap cat and loving little sister to big bro Dapper Dan. Behold:

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23 Feb

How Catress does The Oscars

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Busy making more ‪#‎feral‬ shelters. This time we went with synthetic cat mats inside which do a great job of bouncing the cats’ body heat right back at them. Straw to be added at the end, then we close them up and wrap in heavy duty contractor bags.
Warmer than a Red Carpet any day.
27 Jan

How Catress Storm Preps

Yikes! The “historic blizzard”  Juno is bearing down upon us and I for one cannot get the thought of animals stuck outside out of my mind.  I can only hope that people are kind and humane enough to bring their outdoor animals indoors for the duration of the storm.

There’s an old saying I like,  something to the effect of “If you can do, you should do.”  This sentiment guides me.  Can I help them all?  No.  Can I help some of them?  Yes.

I live in a neighborhood of Victorian houses and I know many cats burrow down under the porches by the foundations. Cats also like to take refuge under the hoods of cars.  They climb up through the undercarriage of the car and seek warmth and shelter by the engine.  Unfortunately,  many people are unaware of this,  so today I posted a message on our many neighborhood listservs,  FB pages and blogs:

“Just a reminder all–if you ARE able to start your cars after the snow over the next few days please take a moment to bang on the hood first. Many stray and feral cats will be desperate for warmth and shelter during the storm and car engines provide both. Banging on the hood allows the cats a chance to exit before suffering bad burns. Thank you!”

I’ve already seen a few people sharing and re-posting, and I hope the info spreads.

I’ve been thinking about how to create an awning for my feral-shelter-town of Oreo Cats–they now have 5 shelters but with 18-24 inches of snow coming down they need some sort of covering to protect them from getting snowed in by heavy drifts. This morning I had time before my callback–yes, we have callbacks even with historic blizzards around the corner–so I visited the pile of discarded,  forgotten construction materials behind my building. The pile has been the bane of my existence for years until I realized I could re-purpose some of it to help shelter feral cats. This is the life of a Catress.

I,  uh,  “borrowed”   2 lattice-work wooden fences about 3×5 feet each and covered them both with heavy-duty contractor bags.  These I placed at an angle over the shelter-town and let them lean on the existing breeze-blocker I put up last week.  I covered these with a section of a heavy-duty canvas tarp I had lying around (don’t ask)  and covered THAT with a large section of Astro-turf floor covering.  I secured everything with some bricks and cinder-blocks and lashed the structure to the fence,  leaving a small gap of about 7×10 inches in the lower left corner for the kitties to enter and exit.

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I checked on them on my way home from my callback with a fantastic director whose commercials are dry and funny as can be.  Most of the team was stuck out of state so for once I auditioned in front of 2 people instead of 10   (truth be told they were video-conferenced in but you know what they say…out of sight, out of mind.)

The kitties were using their shelters and are clearly able to get in and out of their new structure easily.  I left them a huge container of dry food (the wet food freezes so quickly in this cold) under the awning–a self-service snack bar,  if you will. Throughout all of this work I am jumping in and out of the yard by scaling the neighbors iron fence and then climbing over the gate locked with a heavy duty chain. I still have my callback makeup on while I’m trespassing. This is the life of a Catress.

I hope they will stay warm and dry and well-fed tonight and into tomorrow.  If it’s not too bad out I will hoof it over and make sure they are not snowed in. It’s a small thing, but there are 5 Oreo cats with shelter tonight where once they had none. Hats off to all the other intrepid animal rescuers and advocates out there working to help animals weather –and survive– the storm.

20 Jan

This is the life of a Catress….

Up early today to feed all three animals–Momo, Sweetie and foster-cat Maru. Maru is getting needier–his initial exhaustion has worn off and he’s more than ready to leave the cozy confines of my office/foster-cat headquarters for spacier digs. As Maru has healed from the trauma of being stuck for a month in an abandoned bodega his personality, quirks, and kitty-preferences have really begun to shine.

The first few days of his foster-ship Maru was quiet as a mouse–just resting,  relaxing and enjoying feeling safe and loved. Now he’s a properly demanding BoyCat–as in, Maru would like to be around me at all times, and cries lustily when I leave the office, only quieting down after a few minutes. Momo and Sweetie are not quite sure what to make of it, but luckily neither seems stressed or even bothered by the loud meows occasionally emitting from my office (I,  however,  never like to hear an unhappy kitty, even when I know they are just being greedy for even MORE affection.)

Despite not being raised on a farm I follow the “animals eat first” tenet–I believe any creature dependent on me for sustenance and care should be tended to before I meet my own needs ( a quick trip to the loo and a large cup of strong coffee notwithstanding).  So three bowls of wet food of various kinds–Sweetie and Momo get either reduced-fat Natural BalanceNatural Instinct Grain Free Healthy WeightInnova Low Fat Cat Food or even Royal Canin Feline Nutrition Ultralight to add to their food and make it extra-yummy. I always add plain organic canned pumpkin which I truly believe is nature’s wonder food for cats eating a canned,  processed diet. Pumpkin is full of nutrients and has the unique and awesome ability to ease your kitty’s digestion when they are constipated (it “loosens” everything up) –and it can do the opposite as well,  firming up the whole business when their stool is too loose. You don’t need to buy the organic kind either,  as it’s certainly more expensive,  but if you have the extra cash it’s probably better for them in some small way.  I spice up all that low-calorie food with freeze dried chicken from Mouthfuls, an amazing store (and website) based in Denver. Maru and other skinny fosters get higher calorie, nutrient-rich food such as Natural Balance Limited Ingredient. It’s a pleasure to watch them gain weight and get healthier! And of course small amounts of treats–I have yet to meet a cat who isn’t crazy about Temptations Cat Treats so I toss in about 10 of those a day. This is the life of a Catress.

After I feed the brood and tend to their litter boxes ( I use World’s Best ) and give each cat a proper good morning (which involves giving Momo space to eat, playing with Sweetie for a full 5 minutes before she will even consider eating, and cuddling with Maru because he’s been alone all night) I am ready for my own breakfast ( frozen fruit smoothie) and more coffee. This morning I had a callback for a commercial shooting overseas, for which I had to speak English and Spanish (am I fluent in Spanish? Uh….sure I am!) so I had to go full court press:  natural,  fresh makeup (almost as difficult to achieve as a full face of drama),  soft wavy hair and a “casual but flattering”,  subtle but bright outfit. I do all of this in a hurry because today I have to meet my friend Wilfredo before my call-back to give him a full bag of straw for his feral shelters (I get my straw from a friend’s farm upstate but you can order some from Amazon or Feral Villa). This is the life of a Catress.

Wilfredo and I met a few years ago. He is a large, intimidating-looking man who is also just about the sweetest,  gentlest guy you’ll ever meet. I was the contact person at an amazing animal rescue,   Empty Cages Collective,  and I took a call one day from Wilfredo who was desperately trying to trap a local feral cat he had been feeding who was stuck in a construction site. I lent Wilfredo my cat trap and a friendship was born (every cat rescue advocate should have a Wilfredo in their lives–he came to my rescue a few months later when I needed to wade into a bad ‘nabe in Bushwick to rescue Pickles the cat who had been abandoned by his owner and was now cowering terrified in an apt–actually in the back of a cupboard–about to undergo demolition. I needed someone Wilfredo’s size and countenance to back me up, and together we got Pickles to safety and into a loving home).

So there I am, all made up and ready to SELL SOME PRODUCT  (but totally in a “down to earth,  natural,  un-sell-y way”–that’s commercial-speak for “don’t sound like an actress” ) lugging a contractor bag full of straw through Union Square Station.  Met up with Wilfredo, discussed how to make feral cat shelters, pounded each other on the back man-style and ran off to my callback, where I sat with many young,  beautiful,  actually-Spanish-speaking ladies who rather put me to shame. Still, I made it work. This is the life of a Catress.

Then back home to Brooklyn where I spotted my local colony of 5 Oreo-cats waiting patiently in the cold for some food. I am not their regular feeder, but I may have snuck over the chain-link fence of the yard they live in a few weeks ago (shhhhhhhhh!) to set up a small feral shelter-town for them hidden by a wooden wall I propped up through the fence.FullSizeRender(3)

 

Catress cannot walk by cats in need when I a) have $10 on me and b) am walking right by a dollar-store. I dashed into the store to buy canned food,  a plastic spoon (48 to be exact, but I’ll use them) and a few tin pie plates to put the food in,  because I don’t want to leave cans behind and anger the neighbors. Voila! Lunchtime.  Soon as I can I plan to TNR those sweet kitties and maybe even find them homes if they aren’t too feral.

When I finally arrived home I did most of the morning routine (minus the coffee) in reverse.  This is the life of a Catress.

 

13 Jan

Maru the Cat!

Maru the cat is my latest foster. He is a wanderer and a lover of laps. Maru found his way to me through a group effort–no surprise. Cat rescue is often a group affair, and I love the way helping animals makes a big city like Brooklyn feel like a small town.

Maru was trapped in a local bodega that had been shut down by the Health Department. We think he wandered in for kibble and company and was unknowingly shut inside when the workers were ordered out. Sweet Maru made himself at home but it was clear to passers-by that he was lonely and in need of rescue. While a small group of local rescuers brainstormed on how to free him in a safe and, uh, legal way a more intrepid neighbor decided to take matters into her own hands. We’ll leave out the details, but let’s just say Maru was freed and brought to a temporary fosters home and then to the vet where he checked out healthy if pretty dehydrated.

Back when Maru was still trapped behind glass in the deli (see video here) Catress signed on to foster. Everytime I see the video I am filled with gratitude that this beautiful and friendly cat is safe and sound, warm and well-fed. I mostly use my office to make jewelry and teach myself how to sew, but it can  be converted pretty easily into a pleasure den for foster cats. I use towels, old blankets and any extra fabric I can get my hands on to cover the sharp bits and create as many nooks and crannies and beds and perches as I can. So far, Maru has slept in each and every one, and even created one of his own–a giant box of Uline padded envelopes allllll the way on the top shelf. I couldn’t find him anywhere and was beginning to panic when I heard a rustling sound far above my head. I peered up only to see his little head peeking out of the giant box. Needless to say, I secured that sucker with a bungee cord so he wouldn’t end up surfing the damn thing down to the floor.

A quick and easy cozy cat bed can be made pretty easily and cheaply using a large foil baking pan (I like the oval ones) and a sweatshirt. Slide the pan into the sweatshirt and voila! Insta-cat Happiness.

Stay tuned for more updates on Maru!!

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14 Dec

Introducing a New Cat to your Resident Kitty

Hi! Congrats on trying to introduce a new cat into your home and family!

MOST IMPORTANT is PATIENCE!! It takes time. Some cats hide for the first two weeks and only come out at night to eat and use the litter box. Some cats adjust quickly, others need more time. There is no ONE RULE that always applies but if you follow the suggestions below as best you can you have a much, much better chance of success.

Generally speaking it does not work well to throw two previously unacquainted cats together and expect they will get along. Here are some tips for introducing a new cat safely and successfully:

Ok, so you will need some supplies 🙂

Go to your local hardware store (or any hardware store!) and buy the LARGE size adjustable window screen—should be about 2 feet square. You will use this after the first few days to block the kitties from each other but allow them to see each other.

Litter pan and litter for new cat (if cat has been fostered, try to get some used–but clean!–litter to make transition to a new box easier)

Food dishes

Can of plain pumpkin (kitty’s tummies can get tricky when they are stressed and a tsp or two of pumpkin in their wet food makes a huge difference– and it’s cheap)

Phase One

It’s best if you can get someone else to bring New Cat (NC) into your apt. If the foster or rescue organization cannot bring NC to you have a friend meet you outside your apt and have them bring the carrier in. If you have a spare room for him to chill in during his stay, great. If not, use your bathroom! The idea is to allow the cats to smell each other but not see or touch one another for the first week or so. For the first few days keep the door closed–I put the window screen up as well so I can enter and exit without risk of escape—if you have an animal gate or can get one (Wag.com delivers in, like, 24 hrs!) that works too! Get the tallest one you can find bc cats do jump 🙂

For the first few days spend some time w NC when you feed him. Don’t be alarmed if he hides behind the toilet or wherever, this is new to him, too. When you are not with NC lavish attention upon your kitty but basically act like nothing has changed. Don’t be alarmed if your cat hisses a little at the bathroom door or sits staring at it—he is just trying to figure out what’s what.

Take a sock and rub it on each cat’s cheek and then place your kittys sock near NC’s food dish and vice versa—they will start to associate the other cats smell with good things. Also give your kitty treats by the bathroom door (or wherever NC is) so he associates NC’s smell with treats.

Phase two

Opening the door. This phase allows the cats to see each other where before they have only smelled each other. They may hiss gently or meowl or even growl a little bit. Close the door or throw a towel over the gate to relieve their stress when this happens. Gradually increase the time they are exposed to each other. Give lots of treats to each cat and if possible FEED them in separate bowls on each side of the gate. Do this for a few days.

Phase three

Phase 3 is when they first have full access to each other. Have toys and a spray bottle (set to mist, not jet!) handy in case they are stressed out and tussling. Cats can play pretty rough—things to look out for as alarms are super puffy tails, ears back, and fur flying! But if they start to seem a little stressed a great thing to do it to start playing with a toy (I like those large crinkly foil balls–or you can make some nifty cat toys yourself and try to involve them both in the play—tossing it between them, using a ribbon between them, etc. Stay calm and allow them limited access at first, then increase.

Phase 4

Kitty and human bliss 🙂

Cats have glands in their cheeks that produce pheromones. When a cat rubs its cheek against your leg or furniture, these secretions promote comfort and well being. Pheromones are similar to a glandular pen pal. You can set up a scent exchange by brushing the cats with the same brush, trading blankets or towels, or even using synthetic pheromone Feliway® spray or plug-in products which help relieve excitably. Feliway spray and diffusers are THE BOMB. They are expensive but waaay worth it.

From Last Hope Animal Rescue:

For several days rotate rooms, giving each cat contingent a chance to inspect the lair of the other. This way the newcomer gets to explore the whole house while rubbing his facial calling card on strategic spots. Feed the cats (still separate) tasty wet food in each area. Cats are like men- the way to their heart is through their stomachs.

The process can take days to weeks depending on the cat dynamics. There will probably be some hissing and spitting. If a huge ruckus erupts, distract them; then praise them when it’s calm. Do not rush things. If a cat runs away to hide, do not force close encounters. Even if progress is made, monitor all mingling for the first few weeks. When no one is home, the new cat should stay in his “safe room”.

Your patience may well pay off. Some cats eventually become soul mates. Your cats may never be best buddies; some, like Garbo, rather be alone; others merely tolerate each other. When you think about it, there is nothing wrong with peaceful co-existence, either the feline or the human kind.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yZXnD7O04jU

http://www.catbehaviorassociates.com/how-to-introduce-a-second-cat/