October Snapshot

If you don’t follow us on Instagram or Facebook, this is a summary of our adventures in October. We didn’t know it then, but it would be the calm before the storm of November….

I didn’t travel anywhere in October, and we had no houseguests. So we settled into our routine, which involved me working longer hours during the week than the kitties would like, and then working on the sofa on the weekend when they would prefer I was out in the garden watching them run around.

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Little Lady Lulu-belle

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Lulu is one of the litter of four found by Jonna of Pawsome Cats on the side of the road, aged just one week old. When they were aged two weeks, they all came to live with me as my first bottle babies, and as fosters.

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Never having had a tortoiseshell kitty before, Lulu is a fascinating riot of colours. Mostly golden, there are also various shades of cream and brown in her fur, accentuated with black and topped off with a grey-tipped tail! As the runt of the litter, Lulu was a tiny little precious baby, the last one whose ears unfolded, and the last one whose eyes opened. And of course when they opened – both ears and eyes – they were destined to be huge! Continue reading

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Lulu Comes Home

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One day while all of us at Kitty Central were bunking at my friend’s house during our air con upgrade, the new mum of my foster kitties contacted me – let’s call her “Ray”. Lulu was sick, she had terrible diarrhoea and was leaving poop drops all over the apartment, and as Ray’s boyfriend was out of town, she didn’t have transport to get Lulu to the vet. Could I help? Could I collect her that evening and take her to the vet?

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Lulu was very thin and her tail was scrawny when she finally came home

Jonna, the lady who found the kittens and who found Ray to take them, and I realised we should have screened her much more closely than we did, and maybe done a home inspection. We were so desperate to find a home for the babies that we didn’t do our due diligence. I had also been contacted by some Instagram followers concerned about how thin the kitties were looking, like they weren’t getting enough to eat, and how grubby they looked. It was all very upsetting.

2014-12-22_1419209159The only timeslot Ray was free for me to collect Lulu was one when I was not available – I had a conference call booked that I couldn’t move. I asked Lyn if she could assist, knowing she would love to see Lulu again, and off Lyn went to collect Lulu with my driver, to take her to the vet, get some medicine and return her to her home.

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A few hours later, I received some very distressing text messages from both Lyn and my driver. Lulu was filthy, covered in poop, pus in her ears and nose, her bottom was red-raw and she was all skin-and-bones. Lyn was in tears. The vet was equally horrified – she had cared for them when they were first found roadside when they were just one week old, and she knew how much love and care I had given the babies. Lulu could not be returned home that evening, she needed urgent attention. The vet’s assessment was that Lulu had been sick and untreated for some time.

Over the next few days, I spoke to the vet frequently. Lulu was famished all the time, eating huge amounts of food regularly, but her hunger was never sated. She had been cleaned up and given antibiotics, but the diarrhoea hadn’t stopped. She couldn’t go home until it did, but I was adamant that Lulu should not return to her home at all. I had several discussions with Ray who eventually agreed to surrender her. I would care for Lulu until she was well enough to go to a new, fully vetted home. Lulu spent two weeks at the vet, and didn’t gain any weight. Her diarrhoea did not improve and the vet was at a loss as to how to treat it.

The rest of us had eventually moved back to our own apartment as my friend had returned from overseas, but the “five day” air con upgrade would not be completed for another four weeks. Despite the mess, the disruption and the tradespeople traipsing through our home, the kitties were overjoyed to see their cat-condo again, and Pip went straight to his wheel and ran and ran!

2015-07-10_1436497850About a week after we moved back, I collected Lulu. On the car ride on the way home, she kept biting my face, which I didn’t like much so I kept moving her away. Poor Lulu, it was later I read that this is a sign of affection, the little sweetheart must have been so happy to see me, and so happy to be leaving the vet where she had boarded for two weeks. Lulu remembered our apartment straight away, and Chico – her brother – warmed to her the fastest. There was a bit of hissing with the other kitties, but Lulu had a very clever technique for winning them over. She would sidle up to them and start grooming them. And sooner or later, they would groom her in return, and Lulu LOVES to be groomed. The big kitties seemed to sense that Lulu was fragile, they were gentle with her and washed her often. Meanwhile, we let her free-feed on dry biscuits and fed her wet food on demand. When she was hungry, she would find Lyn or me and cry, and we would feed 2014-10-31_1414715497her wet food. We did it whenever she wanted, which was hourly during the day and I would get up three times in the night to feed her. And we weighed her every day. Slowly, slowly, her meals got further apart, until she was having just two more meals than the big kitties, and then one day, she weighed in at the 1kg (2.2lb) mark – hoorah! But she was tiny at nearly 6 months old. Her brother Chico was nearly 3 times her size at almost 3kg (6.6lb). I was adding various supplements to her food; rice cereal, probiotics, slippery elm but nothing stopped her poop problem, which went on for several months. To this day she has occassional bouts of diarrhoea.

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Her situation was so sad, I realised I could not rehome Lulu, she had been through too much. She was back where she needed to be, in her forever home with me. It saddens me also to think how much her sister Leyte must have missed her, and vice versa.

While we were caring for Lulu, I contacted Ray again to suggest the other two kitties, or at least one of them should also be returned to me. It was clear she wasn’t in a financial or personal position to care for five cats, and reducing by just one wasn’t going to be a lot easier. Surely she loved them enough to see that they needed more care than she was able to give? But she didn’t agree. Her Instagram account was closed, her phone number was changed, and 2014-12-21_1419158495while Jonna, my driver and I went to great lengths to track her down, I ultimately had to concede that Munro and Leyte, little sweethearts that I raised by hand, are lost to me.

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Footnote: There are many, many people around the world who work with fosters kittens, disabled and senior cats in their homes and in shelters, rescues and sanctuaries. I have only fostered five kittens – Asha plus these four, and it was such a sad and difficult experience, it’s not something I will do again. I have the greatest admiration for kind and strong people who help hundreds of kitties – I don’t have the emotional fortitude that you do, and I know you have stories much more significant and tragic than mine. Thank you for all that you do.

~Michelle

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The Fosters Grow Up

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After our scare with Asha, all the kitties got extra hugs and extra treats, and the fosters got to move into the lounge room where the big kitties hung out. The introduction was slow – I had learned a lot from my experiences with the four original cats. At first they were in a playpen, which was a bit pointless because Lulu was so little she could squeeze through the bars, and Kabo – wailing the whole time – figured out how to climb up to the top and plop! drop onto the floor on the other side.

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Pip was an absolute darling – he was a doting big brother, and Lulu especially adored him, following him around, sitting close to him, with Pip chasing her around too. Maybe it’s a colour thing, because little Kabo idolised Kai, the two black cats together. Kai was a bit disturbed by the attention of this little squawking kitten. Maxi didn’t like any of them, and Asha just wanted to make sure no-one took any attention from her.

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The fosters were developing their own personalities. Munro was adventurous and independent. He occasionally stopped to have a snuggle near me, but he liked to sleep in the condo baskets or near the girls. Lulu and Leyte were almost inseparable. They snuggled together often and played together, gently. They were both quiet, placid little girls – playful when they were playful, but quiet and sweet. Leyte had developed the most amazing coat – like all the kitties, it was fine and short-haired, but it felt like silk, the softest fur I have ever felt before or since. Lulu’s weight was still worrying, she was thin and struggled to gain weight, but as she was otherwise healthy, the vet said there wasn’t too much to worry about.

Kabo was still a vocal kitten – he chatted all the time, something I enjoy in a cat, and he was also a bit of lunatic. He frequently photobombed other cats, ran around crazily and explored like a great adventurer. But one of my favourite things about Kabo was that he liked a cuddle. With eight cats, not one of them was a lap-cat. Pip, Maxi and Kai never ever had a cuddle, though Kai would sometimes snuggle next to my feet, and Maxi occasionally would sit by my hip. Asha liked to climb onto my left shoulder still, sticking her nose into my left ear and purring, and rubbing her face into my hair. None of the fosters liked a cuddle – except Kabo. He would run around the house playing, and then run to me and have a quick cuddle on my chest, purring and chatting, before hurrying on his little way again. He would do this often – it was adorable! He also had a fascinating growth phase where he turned half-grey. My instagram friend @cutecurlycat coined the term “rocking the Clooney look” which is exactly how he looked. Then, it just grew out and was black again!Xtag Kcs Fosters 1402650489

The time was coming when I would need to say goodbye to the fosters. I knew it would be difficult, but I was looking forward to spending time with the originals again. They were much loved of course, but my time had been considerably diluted with the arrival of the fosters.

The lady who was going to take all four fosters was originally going to take them to her parents property where they would become outdoor cats, with a lot of other outdoor cats. The vet and I shared a concern about their health in that environment, so I spoke to her about finding other options where they could be raised safely as indoor cats. She was able to find friends who could take them, as she already had two kittens of her own, about 5 months older than the fosters.

We were given a reprieve from the original departure date when Munro, Kabo, Lulu and Leyte were 12 weeks old as their new mum was travelling. So at about 13 weeks, we prepared for the handover. I thought about keeping some, but which? The girls were sweet, but I had never had female cats before Maxi and Asha and there was tension between them, so I was reluctant to add more females into the mix. I was completely besotted by Munro, his independent personality, his little face and his funny little tail, but I sensed there might be trouble between he and the big boys, Pip and Kai, when they got older; they were alike in personality. And I also knew that the new mum was similarly enthralled by Munro. Kabo of course was adorable – I loved his chattiness and his cuddliness, and I’ve always loved black kitties. I checked in with the new mum and asked if I could keep Kabo and she agreed.

 

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There was a looming deadline for us as well – since moving into my apartment in January, my electricity bills (always expensive in Manila) were astronomical, largely because of an ancient, inefficient air conditioning system. The landlord had agreed to upgrade the entire system, but it would be a huge mess with six tradespeople coming and going for ten days, so we needed to move out. Fortunately a good friend was travelling overseas for two weeks, and she invited me to move in to her apartment. What a friend! Allowing me to housesit with five cats! But I definitely couldn’t move there with eight cats, so the fosters had to move to their new home.

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So on a Monday night late in July, we had a farewell party for the fosters, bittersweet. And the next day I packed a bag for each of them with their favourite food, favourite toys, a blanket and treats to remind them of home and help them settle more easily, and we delivered three of the four little sweethearts into the care of their new mother, who would care for them briefly before handing them over to her friends. Munro would become Oreo, Leyte would become Velvet (for her beautiful coat), Lulu kept her name, and my crazy, silly, handsome little Kabo stayed with me as Chico.

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Shock sets in.

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My first night at home with The Fosters. It was a Sunday. I managed the first feed at around 4pm and de-pooped them okay, though it was really stressful with three babies squeaking for their food while I was feeding the first. And the whole process took an hour and a half! After the feed they went into a different nest while I cleaned up the first one, moved them back and did the clean-up, then prepped everything for the next feed, which was 7pm. This one was tricker. Little Leyte started gurgling during the feed, which I had read could happen when the formula gets into their lungs, and could be dangerous. The babies had been dumped on the street and while they seemed healthy, we had no idea what their mama’s health had been like, what they had been exposed to and how long they had been floundering on the street. Their little lives were fragile.

imageAfter the 7pm feed I put Leyte in a box with a container of boiling water nearby and covered the lot with a towel, to help her breathing. It didn’t seem very effective and I felt like I was making it up as I was going along. At 10pm I fed them again, and became very concerned about Leyte, whose every breath was just made up of crackles and gurgles. I texted my driver, who had assured me I could call if there were any problems with the babies, but I felt terrible getting him out of his home so late in the evening. He came to the rescue and we dashed to the vet at 11:30pm with the babies in a cardboard box.

 

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Leyte

At the vet, I was amazed – it was packed! Because the Philippines is the call centre for Planet Earth, it really is a 24/7 society, and shift workers need to do all the regular things at unusual hours. The vet waiting room at midnight on a Sunday was full of people with their pets (mostly dogs) for check-ups, vaccinations, image  concerns etc., and there was no priority system for a distraught foreigner with a cardboard box full of squeaky things. By 12:30am I was very tetchy – the babies were due for their next feed in 30 mins! I had yet another chat to the receptionist and finally got to see the vet, who gave all the kitties a quick check-up and put little Leyte on a nebuliser for a few minutes to clear her lungs. My home-made steam setup was okay according to the vet, so we headed back home at 1am in time for the next feed.

Arrrrggghhh!!! I couldn’t believe what I had gotten myself into! Not only was I exhausted, but it was one of the hottest months of the year and I couldn’t run the air conditioning in the guest bedroom while I was imagefeeding the kittens so I was uncomfortably hot! Now you might expect that I am accustomed to being hot, living in a tropical country, but I live a privileged life between my air conditioned home, my air conditioned car, and air conditioned malls/restaurants so this was a fresh horror. I had a temperature display in the guest room and it ranged from 32 to 36 degrees (that’s 90-97 F) and was just awful. Such a princess.

The 1am feed finished at 2:30am, then after 15 mins prepping for the next feed, I hopped in to bed only to set the alarm for 4:00am – that’s only an hour-and-a-bit for sleep! Oh no. Ohhh nooooo…..

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Lulu at dawn.

imageThe 4am and 7am feeds passed in a blur, and when I got up at 9:45 Monday for the 10am feed, Lyn had arrived and asked if she could see the babies. It was my foolish intention when I embarked on this project that I would go it alone, not bother Lyn or interfere with her work, but she asked if she could help me feed them and I said YES! Things got easier after that. The wonderful Lyn asked me to show her how to sterilise the bottles and make the formula, and after I did, she did it every week day. This meant I could sleep in between as many feeds as I needed, and the 90 minute feeding process dropped with the two of us and some extra efficiencies to 30 minutes during the daytime. The night time feeds were still mine alone, but at least I could get some rest during the day.

 

It was a nice time for Lyn and I. She had started working for me in between Asha and Kai which was a few months prior, but we hadn’t spent a lot of time just sitting and chatting. Now we sat, many times each day,  in the uncomfortably hot guest room, feeding two babies each, de-pooping them and arranging their beds. We learned together how to deal with the little mishaps along the way, and we chatted about the common touch points in our widely disparate backgrounds; our childhoods, our children, our families.

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Munro

Lyn adored Lulu, and always wanted to feed and cuddle her. Lulu was the runt of the litter – very very small with her eyes still closed until toward the end of our first week, when she was two weeks old. I was quite taken with Munro – I had never encountered a tuxie before! Munro was the biggest kitten – robust and with a confident little developing personality. Leyte was a very quiet, placid little girl. And then there was Kabo, the black kitten. Firstly, Kabo looked like ET. He had enormous eyes bulging out of his little head, and skinny little limbs, but the most notable thing about Kabo was his voice! He wailed for food! He and Munro wailed so loudly that Lyn and I would often feed them first which we realised might not be the right thing to do for Lulu and Leyte, the smallest babies, so we would try to alternate but Kabo drove us crazy with his crying.

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Kabo the little alien

I had been nervous about bathing the babies. In all my years of cat ownership, never had I bathed one. I knew it would be necessary for these little sweethearts, but I was worried about them getting a chill (even in the sauna that they lived in). We finally worked up the courage to bathe them and then continued to do so twice each week but we really didn’t do a good job of it. I look back at the photos now and the kitties were grubby all the time! We just didn’t have the confidence for a full immersion bath and the very wet sponge baths we gave them just didn’t clean them up properly. I don’t think they had a decent wash until they learned to do it themselves.

Once the babies were toddling around a little bit, they were upgraded from the box as their nest, to a crate on the floor and Lyn would spend some time each morning (while I was napping) playing with them and cuddling them. We made it through the three-hour feeding schedule then it slipped to four hours, five hours, and before I knew it, they were sleeping through the night and were upgraded from the bathroom to the guest bedroom. Oh and I finally bought a camera.

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Leyte

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Lulu

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Kabo

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Munro

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