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There is always something going on in a multi-cat household. Erm 9... cats and counting...... Plus stories from the Sheffield Cats Shelter

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Sunday at the shelter 28-07-13

If you read the blog last week you might remember I was hopeful that Nev might find his new home at the beginning of the week.

ginger cat in a basket
Sweet natured Nev

I'm pleased to tell you that he did.  He will be a lovely addition to his new family and I'll really miss my cuddles!

The good news doesn't stop there, it's been a busy weekend at the Shelter.  The main reason being an article published in one of our local newspapers 'The Star' entitled,  ‘At crisis point as cats are abandoned'. The piece echo's many of the points raised in my Shelter post from 2 weeks ago.  Whilst the article also quotes 400 on the waiting list, it is now estimated that this figure is likely to be nearer to 1000 cats and kittens.  The paper also has a lovely picture of  Cat Care Manager Kim with some of the kittens.

In total 5 adult cats including Tootsie, Ellie and Missy went to new homes yesterday.  Bella was also collected this morning after being pre-adopted on Friday.  In addition there were also 3 pre-adoptions yesterday too. Pre-adoptions are available when a cat or kitten is not yet available to go straight to a new home.  It's usually when they are waiting for their second vaccination or for some treatment to be completed.  Cats who are available can not be reserved or pre-adopted, so if you want a cat, you need to be prepared to take him or her home on the day (subject to adopters fulfilling the shelter's adoption criteria)

So what did I get up to today?  I was in Infirmary where I met some new and some old faces.

First there was Bella, who was waiting for her new family to collect her.

tabby and white cat
Bella in Room 2 last week
She didn't have to wait long and it was nice that I got to say goodbye to her.

Next we have Eddie. He's a lovely sweet nature but is showing signs of not being very happy, including not eating very well.  The Shelter staff are keeping an eye on his progress.  I stood with him for a while to try and encourage him to eat and he managed a little bit of the white fish he'd been given.

black and white cat
Eddie and his fish

His fur is in need of some TLC so I had a bit of time brushing him.  He sat for a while before he wandered off.  He'll get more from the Shelter staff later today.

black and white cat

Next we have Andy.  He had a trip to the Vets with Kim while I was cleaning.  There is an abscess under his chin and the Vet lanced it for him.

Black and white cat with a wound
Andy with his poorly!

As you can see the aftermath is not a pretty sight but it should make him more comfortable and he didn't seem to be in any discomfort.

We've met Millie before in holding.  Such a big fur ball!!  She came out for a fuss and I attempted to give her a little brush too.  She tolerated me for a few moments and then told me off!! Here's the result of her photo shoot at the Shelter (much better than my efforts!!)

Tabby and Tortie cat
Millie (photo by Sheffield Cats Shelter)

Finally to Charleston a very striking white cat with odd coloured eyes.  One blue one green/yellow.  Unfortunately, he was being camera shy!  A very sleek pure white cat, beautiful.

My featured room this week is number 5 and you might recognise the names on the board?

White board with cat details on
Room 5 occupants

It's been a few weeks since I've see these two and it was lovely to see how they have come on.  I first met them on the 7th July

Salam is looking much healthier, his coat is starting to thicken up and the colours are so beautiful.  Although still quiet, he has lost the nervousness.

Salam looks much more confident
The biggest change was in Freddie.  Last time I saw him he looked really unhappy and I couldn't even managed to clean his cage.  He lashed out at the dustpan and brush!

Tabby cat playing
Freddie playing
But look at him now! Playful, glad for company and wanting a fuss :)  It just shows you how a cat can completely change given TLC and time.  Well done to Shelter staff and the volunteers who've spent time with him too.  Here he is playing with my shoes.

Those ears are in a much better position now.

Hot off the press:- 3 kittens were adopted today :) Here's hoping that the rest of the week sees more of these lovely cats going to new homes.

If you want to support the invaluable work of the Shelter, check out the Donate & Support page to see all the different ways you can.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

A second opinion

The more I thought about it the more I wasn't happy. If there was a chance the diagnosis was wrong, that could mean Millie's eye might be saved, but not if no one paid attention and gave her a chance.

The next check up was a week later and it was to be with one of the practice partners. This would be make or break for the surgery as far as I'm concerned. But then I started to mull it over, what if waiting a week meant she could no longer be helped?

2 tortie kittens
Willow and Millie on my knee
Another vet at another practice was recommended to me. So on Friday 19th July, we went for a second opinion. The vet had done his homework. He'd had all the test results faxed over and had read the diagnosis.
He checked Millie's eye with dye and had a good look inside. He explained he was checking for any ulceration as the steroid drops we were using are good for swelling but can make an ulcer worse. He saw no ulcer, but did say there was starting to be a build up in her eye.

After further examination he concluded that, based on the evidence, he would come to the same diagnosis. Most likely FIP, but like the other vet, he could not say for absolutely certain.

I talked to him about the contradictory 'plague scenario'. He was cautious, but agreed that the information and advice I'd been given was a little extreme.  He went on to say that he would not consider euthanasia necessary as she was so well in all other respects, but there might be a point when  her eye needed removing.

The way he said it made me think euthanasia had been indicated in her records and he disagreed. Well I also disagreed in the strongest terms. If I had taken their information and accepted it, they would have advised me to put her to sleep and maybe even her sister too.
Everything we'd read was supported, if not a little cautiously, by the new vet who, unlike mine, had done some research or had existing knowledge. He mentioned the name Dr Diane Addie from Glasgow University and told me to look up her findings if I wanted to know the real deal with FIP.  It just so happened this was one of the sites of information we'd come across already.

For the first time I felt a little better. I accepted that Millie could have a killer disease, but there was a slim chance that she might not. That way there was still hope. In addition all the information we'd read about not needing to isolate meant we didn't have to keep the kittens locked away. We just needed to manage ways to reduce the risk of cross infection.  It meant that whatever time she had could be spent with us and that was a big deal.

We carried on with Millie's medication for the next few days. There used to be a hint of a pupil showing, but this was slowly starting to be obscured by the white substance creeping higher everyday like silt.

tortie kitten

By the time of our next appointment on Thursday 25th the eye was full. The senior vet told us it was puss. I discussed the incorrect information given out and he suggested this was down to the previous vet being 'over cautious'. I'm still not sure how I feel about this as being 'over cautious' could have lead to euthanasia. I set this to one side for the moment as my priority is Millie.

Through talking to him it became clear he was willing to consider other treatment. The eye, he said, was redundant and posed a risk that infection could travel down the optic nerve to her brain. 

In his words we had 'a window of opportunity' and I should think about having her eye removed. There was no need to think, I agreed. Looking at her eye I wanted it gone. It was her best chance.

tortie kitten with sore eye
Eye is full of puss
We starved her overnight and I dropped her into the surgery at 8.30am. The senior vet was performing the surgery himself and he had given me confidence in his ability.

When I collected her later that day the sight of her was a bit of a shock. She had to wear a lampshade to make sure she couldn't scratch her stitches. 

tortie kitten with eye stitched up
Millie with her stitches and 'lampshade'
I was told it was normal if blood came out of her nose and to only feed her plain food to begin with.

Today she's eaten well but other than that she's very dozy and is sleeping or snoozing a lot. 
I suppose it will give her time to heal and maybe the meds have induced it, but I always worry when they are quiet.
tortie with lampshade collar
Millie the day after her operation

There is no way of knowing if I've bought her any extra time, but I know I've done my best for her.

Pop over to the Corona Virus and FIP page if you want to know more.

Friday, 26 July 2013

The results are in...???

On Monday I called for the results. Only one part had returned and they couldn't tell me anything until everything came back.  I tried again last thing to see if anything more had come through and the answer was still no.

Tuesday lunchtime I was on the phone again.  Still nothing.  I asked if the result could be rushed through as I was so worried about all my cats.  Once more it was a no and, "they should be back in a few days".  I put the phone down with my head swirling.  I wasn't sure how, ringing for results on Monday had suddenly turned into waiting until Thursday. 

I decided the vets needed to know I wasn't happy.  Later that day I called again and explained the information I'd been given.  I said that if I'd been told they would be several days I wouldn't be quite so annoyed.  I advised that according to their practice the lives of 9 cats were riding on these results and asked if someone could just please ring the lab so I would know when they would be available.  I also mentioned the attitude of the vet.

It was then the receptionist started to apologise.  It turned out we had seen a locum and from what was said it seemed I was not the first person she had upset.  I was assured that she wouldn't be covering for them again and the receptionist agreed to call the lab and find out about the results.

tabbie cat with sore eye
Poor Millie
Later that evening another vet called me from the practice.  She explained that they were still waiting for Toxoplasmosis results but that the FIP result was the one that had been back from Monday and it was positive.  Now following all my research I know that there is actually no test for FIP, so this is a little misleading. What I was actually being told was that she was positive for coronavirus.  I will be dedicating a page to this virus and disease shortly.

I don't actually understand why no one could give me this result on the Monday, but at least I now had it.  The vet on the phone wasted no time in telling me what a bad situation this was for Millie and my other cats.  She made an appointment for me to come in the following Thursday the 18th. 

Millie continued to play and act as if nothing was wrong. I continued to research as everything I’d read didn’t seem to ring true to the information I was being given.

Thursday came.  The vet examined Millie’s eye once more. She then proceeded to tell me that I needed to make ‘decisions’ about both kittens as they would spread this disease to all my cats who would not be able to then leave the house.  She also told me that I needed to alert the Cats Shelter (I’d already spoken to them right at the start) as I had, in her words, ‘opened a can of worms for your own cats and the cat shelter’ 

I really couldn’t understand what I was hearing. This is my simplistic understanding of it:-  The coronavirus can be passed on yes, but in most cats it seems to be like us getting flu.  FIP occurs due to the body’s reaction to the virus.  From what I’ve read the FIP disease can not be passed on and will only occur in a small number of cases.  It’s actually not that common. It seems to me that it is generally young kittens or older cats who are weak or have immunity issues who become more susceptible*. Those with FIP will still be shedding the virus in their poo, so this is where the main cross contamination risk comes from.  Cats do not become immune to it either, they can continue to re-infect each other, although there are ways to reduce the risks with good litter hygiene.  In a multi cat house like mine it will be harder to eradicate.

I tried to discuss my understanding with the vet, but she insisted that FIP could be spread and that I needed to consider my options for both kittens.  In addition it's still worth pointing out that whilst FIP is possible, it is not confirmed.  When I asked if it was worth seeing an eye specialist, it was knocked back.

All the way home I cried, but by the time I got there I’d picked myself up again.  I would not be trying to ‘get rid’ of the kittens.  Even if I wanted to, who would take them?  There are hundreds of unwanted healthy cats and kittens without homes, what chance did my two have?

I moved as much furniture out of the cat room as I could and went out and bought the best high street cat tree I could find (not that impressive) and some new toys.  Do you know why?  Because I wasn't giving up on my little girls, even if they had to stay in one room, we would manage and they would be loved.

kittens playing with a cat tree
kittens playing with a cat tree

In the back of my mind I was thinking, if I think they're wrong about the advice they're giving me, how am I supposed to have faith in the diagnosis? I decided it was time for a second opinion.
*please note:- these are only my own interpretations – if you’re affected by this I’ll be posting links to the resources I used and I’d strongly suggest you read and make your own decisions – and if your pet is ill, see your vet

Room with a view

We decided it was time for the kittens to leave the small upstairs room and move into the official 'Cat Room'. It's a much bigger room with glass doors onto the outside world and a big window overlooking the garden.  Definitely a room with a view.

two tortie kittens playing in a paper bag
Millie and Willow playing in a paper bag

We still brought them into the living room too, so they could play on the cat tree.  It allowed them playtime and gave the other cats chance to familiarise under our watchful eye.

Things seemed to be going ok.  Then a few days later I went into the room and Millie had one eye partially closed. It also looked a little swollen underneath. 

tortie kitten
Millie with a sore eye

My thoughts were that maybe Willow had caught her with a claw when they were playing, I decided to monitor it for the day.  The following morning the eye was slightly more open, but you could see it looked darker than normal and just not right, so I made an appointment with the vet.

On Wednesday 10th July my Mum and Daughter took her as I had to work.  The eye was checked with the use of dye to highlight any scratches or foreign bodies.  There was nothing obvious and she came home with some cream.

I don't know if it was a natural progression of the problem or the cream, but the eye seemed to get worse and took on a very cloudy appearance.  Millie continued to eat but didn't play, she found places out of the way to curl up in.  Not a hint of spirit or the usual 'tortietude' When we returned to the Vet three days later I doubted Millie still had her vision in that eye.  As you can see from the photo below, it was also very red and sore looking around the edges.

This time I was able to take her myself, it was Friday the 12th.  The same vet examined her and decided that it could be a number of things and blood tests were needed.  She advised it could be FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus), FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus), FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) or Toxoplasmosis.  I asked about the seriousness of these and if they could affect my other cats.

The response was unexpected.  The vet was very abrupt.  In her opinion the damage would already have been done to my other cats.  Any virus would have travelled right through the household.  I was told it was likely that the kittens would need to be found new homes.

Millie went with the vet so that blood could be taken. My Daughter and I were in tears.  These little girls were part of our family.  We were asked to wait in the reception area for the in house results for FIV and FeLV.  It was an agonising wait. When I mention this to people they are appalled that we were asked to go back to reception in a clearly upset state.  I didn't consider it at the time, I love my furbabies and if that make me cry for them I don't care who sees it.

A short time later we were informed that the tests for FeLV & FIV were negative.  The final tests needed to be completed in an external lab.  I was told that the prognosis was not good, that it was pointless to split the kittens as the damage would already have been done. More worrying I was told I had put all my cats at risk. I was shocked by the blunt tone of the vet, she had no bedside manner at all.  I came out thinking all my cats could die.

I was told to call for the results of the lab tests on Monday.  We brought home steroid based eye drops and some painkillers.

Tortie kitten in a basket
Millie in the middle of a bath

That weekend was horrible.  At times I held the kittens close and sobbed.  I researched as much as I could about FIP and Toxoplasmosis. On the upside the painkillers really helped and Millie was back to her old self, playing, coming for cuddles and purring loudly.  There was even the hint of a little tortietude creeping back in. But in the back of my mind all I could think about was a killer disease wiping out my whole cat family.  The kittens were confined the their garden room, no longer able to play on the tree.  All we could do was administer medication and wait.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Sunday at the shelter 21-07-13

Despite today being pretty overcast and definitely cooler, the temperature in some of the cage rooms was still uncomfortable. As a way to try and keep Holding cooler, newspapers had been taped to the window. 

Open window with newspaper taped on

Unfortunately Shamus in particular, was very vocal, complaining to me about the loss of his view. There really is no pleasing some cats! :)  I did manage to hold him up so he could peer through the gaps though.

Holding residents are almost the same as last week.  We have Tootsie, Ellie, Grace, Shamus, Shadow and of course Crystal in the garden.  Shadow was very nervous last week and it was lovely to let her out today and be greeted with lots of leg rubs. She also let me gently lift her back into her little house, once I'd got it all clean and tidy.  There is little chance of any of these guys moving into the main cat rooms as adoptions have been thin on the ground.

Nev has made it out into Room 1.  Here he is looking a little more relaxed.  

Ginger and white cat in a basket
The gorgeous Nev
I couldn't leave today without my cuddle and just as I came out of the room there was a phone call from a potential adopter wanting to come and see him.  I really hope they fall in love with him, its not hard to do :) He is such a sweetheart, a little shy and nervous, but nothing a bit of TLC can't take care of.

I'm going to show you a room a week and today is the turn of the cats in Room 2.

White board with cat details
Details of the occupants
So first up here's Bella :)  Very affectionate and playful.

tabby and white cat
The beautiful and very loving Bella

Monty and Nelly have come into the Shelter together so it's important they go out as a pair. Lovely friendly cats who would make great pets for someone.

Sleeping gray and white cat
Monty having a snooze
black cat
Nelly liking her lips!
Mitsy and Tilly are Mother and Daughter and are looking for a home together.


Next we have Kit.  I first met her in Maternity back in March.  Her kittens are long gone and this beautiful and very friendly little girl is still looking for her forever home.  I'm really surprised she's still here.

tabby cat
 And finally we have Julie as you can see, she likes to move....

Julie, well some of her
Thank goodness the Shelter are better at taking photos!  Here's a really nice one they got of her

black and white cat
Julie striking a pose
I made a 6 second Vine video of these guys too :)

And finally I made a little video in the garden with Crystal.

Kim (Cat Care Manager) and Emma (Deputy Cat Care Manager) popped into the shelter this morning before setting off to visit another rescue centre. Yorkshire Cat Rescue, originally Haworth Animal Welfare was founded in 1992 and is situated between Keighly and Haworth. Their facilities and set up in general is very different to the Sheffield Cats Shelter.

So how did they find their visit?  Emma explained, "Our visit to the Yorkshire Cat Rescue was very interesting. It is always eye opening to see how a different rescue does things in comparison to the shelter. Our visit has been very insightful and we have learned a great deal. We hope to act on what we have gained from the experience and hope to use the knowledge to enhance the work that we do at the shelter"

She added "A big thank you to Yorkshire Cat Rescue for letting us come and visit!"

So if you're looking for a cat or you know someone who is, please share the shelters facebook page so we can try and get these beautiful cats into a home they deserve :)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Sunday at the shelter 14-7-2013

Another hot one! In the UK I find we are always taken aback a little by a heat wave, especially one that spans a couple of weekends!  We complain when we have no summer and many of us also complain when its too hot! 

Fortunately for us, and our pets, we have options to minimise any discomfort.
Its not same for the shelter though as they battle to get as much air flow into each room as possible.
One room, in the attic, becomes pretty much unusable during hot weather as it just can't be kept cool enough.

The attic, the old bathroom and the yard outside are used to give some cats a space of their own.
These are cats who, for whatever reason, can't be in one of the main communal rooms. Crystal from last weeks blog is one such cat. By day you'll find her on her own in the yard. 

Black cat
Crystal in the yard
Any other time she will need to be isolated inside the shelter. There is nothing wrong with her, she just really doesn't like other cats. To put her in a communal room would lead to upset and stress for everyone.
So if just one of these "single accommodation" area's become unavailable it causes big problems.

Maternity is a cage room, like holding and infirmary. 

Cages for nursing cats and kittens
Most of the cages can be split up in different ways to make bigger or smaller areas. Currently in maternity there are three nursing mums. The heat is not helping here either. Mum's are too hot to want to nurse their babies for very long.

Cat nursing her kittens
Nursing Mum
In the case of these little ones, who are 5 weeks old, they are nowhere near the size or weight they should be. They are being given extra formula milk to try and help build them up.

White and tabby five week old kitten
Five weeks old, but very small
Ginger and white five week old kitten
A second, underweight kitten
When you first see the cage rooms you feel a little sad, but they are there for a reason and the majority get a time out by taking turns in the main part of the room. The Shelter staff always try and spend as much time with the cats as possible too.  

As can be seen, some happily play with their toys. 

Small tabby cat plays with a ball
Tootsie plays with her ball
Tabby cat putting paws through cage bars
Tootsie trying to play with me through the bars!
Others like nev find the cage a safe place and don't always want to come out, but will, once their confidence increases. Here he is venturing a little further. I also managed a cuddle which is always nice

Ginger cat sat on steps
Nev sitting on the steps
One of the bottom sections is always without a door. This lets the more timid cats hide away while their own cage is cleaned, or as I call them, their 'houses'.

Tabby cat
Tootsie makes use of the open spare section
Holding was full despite Salam and Freddie, from last week,  now being in a small room together. Its hoped this will help Freddie to feel more settled.  He is also having to adjust his diet. At 3 years old he has never eaten cat food, being fed only on tinned tuna and pilchards. These are fine for the occasional treat, but not as a diet. The shelter team now have the long task of weaning him onto cat food.

As you've seen Tootsie is still here and so is Ellie, both very playful! 

Black and white cat with paws through cage bars
Ellie also playing through the bars :)
Once out of her house, Ellie was particularly interested in chasing my feet and grabbing my ankles!

Black and white cat looking out of a window
Ellie checking out the street scene
Here's Shamus, a very handsome young man, confident and curious.
Black and white cat
 Next we have Grace.  She's very loving and fluffy, if a little timid :)

Black cat in cage
Grace in her house
Black cat with pink rubber gloves
Grace checking out my gloves
Finally Shadow.  She is unhappy and with good reason. Her owner passed away recently. To add to her misery, when relatives cleared out the house, they left her behind. She was spotted by a neighbour crying to get into her home.
Black cat in a cage

Every time I hear these stories I hope they are isolated cases. Sadly they are not. There are so many cats and kittens in Sheffield needing re-homing.  But until cats are adopted no new ones cat come in.  

The larger rooms are generally home to 6 or 7 cats.  There are 3 large rooms and two smaller ones.  These are all currently at capacity.  In addition there are around 50 mum's and kittens out with foster carers. Plus there are approximately 400 other cats and kittens on the waiting list.  Some are strays, some are unwanted pets, others have suffered the death of their human.  Many of these would not be on the list, if more cats were neutered.  Sadly, many people just don't do this and just assume that the Cat Shelter will take the resulting kittens off their hands.

I popped in on Monday to drop off newspapers. In the ten minutes I was there the phone rang as soon as the previous call had ended. I mean seconds.

One caller was asking for 15 cats to be collected. They had 3 females and one male, none neutered. No surprises that there are now 11 kittens.

Others were ringing about cats they'd seen caring outside for kittens or just about strays in general.  In those ten minutes there were easily another 20 cats or kittens added to the waiting list.  With little movement in adoptions recently, no one is quite sure where these cats or kittens are going to go.

The Shelter do everything they can to take in and care for those who have been abandoned or never had a home in the first place, but if there is no room, there is no room.  

There is a small part of the solution that we can all help with.  We should think very carefully before taking on an animal.  They are for life and they deserve to be safe, loved and cared for. An animal is not something you should just give away when your circumstances change or you want an "upgrade".  And neuter!! I know it costs money, but it costs more in the long run when those kittens start appearing. Finally, if you're looking for an animal, go to a rescue.  There are so many lovely cats at this Shelter and no doubt others across the country.  Try and help them out if you can.

So for now I'll leave you with a picture of a Mum and her babies enjoying a little time outside their "house"

Black Cat and kittens
Mum and her kittens have some time out
If you are interested in volunteering like me, the shelter are looking for people to help out, Tuesdays and Fridays in particular. Why not call in or pick up the phone?  Contact details can be found on their web page.