Friday, May 1, 2009

A New Word For Precious Paws - Polydactyl

Kitten Season 2009 is here and I've been getting a heartbreaking record number of emails from the shelter. It's rainin g kittens!! This is the worst I've seen it and the shelter says they've had seven volunteers ask to be removed from the list. I still have six from last year and really shouldn't take more. It is so hard to see the faces in the photos. I did get one on Saturday from a lady who came to our adoption event. Now yesterday I picked up 4 week old brother and sister polydactyl kittens.

Polydactyl just means extra digits. They are also called thumb cats or Hemingway cats because Earnest Hemingway had several (cats not thumbs). A wonderful woman witnessed a terrible man throwing these two into a dumpster. The woman (who's name is Celeste and I will call her Mamma Celeste because she was their first human foster mamma) had to wait for a neighbor to get home to climb into the dumpster to get the kittens so she stayed vigil making sure nobody dumped any garbage on top of the babies.Sadly this lady is battling cancer and is on Chemothrapy ten hours a day so she couldn't care for them. So I picked them up yesterday. As you can see, the boy has an eye infection. They are on antibiotics and eye ointment and are doing well. They understand their litter box and are showing interest in solid food.

Polydactyls have an extra pad under that "thumb" and one or several digits
I wonder if polydactyls inspired the three little kittens nursery rhyme as these cats look like they have mittens.
So they are upstairs in the nursery now, toddling around like little drunkards. Already purring when held. Now think of the irony:
The wonderful woman who rescued these babies has cancer and the horrible man who dumped them is probably in good health.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Kitten Season Has Begun!

I have my first litter! I also wrote gobs of stuff and posted photos only to have the whole entry go "POOF"
VANISHED, Arrrgh! I just fed the kittens and started falling asleep with them so it's time to go to bed. I'll be up in a few hours to feed them again anyway. OK here it is in brief:

I have five kittens from three litters. Two tabbies, silver and gold who are brothers; Two torties who are sisters (one of their papers says male but my pal reminded me that Torties are like calicos, 99% female) I checked her hiney, yep she's a girl. They seem to be three weeks old. Last we have a tiny boy, he is under two weeks old. Must be the sole survivor of his litter. What happened to his Mom? What happened to any of their Moms? We'll never know these things.
I feel most comfortable with the orange tabby because he's the biggest and he laughs at all my jokes.
The tiny guy will get better looking! I'm sure of it! He will probably be a classic siamese with the long nose and slim body. He is definitely the most affectionate and that's pretty cool for being so young.
Down side: They have eye infections so they are on antibiotics and eye ointment. Also I can't get any poop out of them. I've been stimulating their anuses (Laymen stop cringing, cat people know what I'm talking about. At least I don't have to do it with my tongue like a real Mama cat!) to no avail. My friend suggested a tiny enema, using an eyedropper.... hmmm never done that before...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

I'm Bipostal

I have a twin Kitten Carpathia site on Myspace.
Since Myspace is so popular and I have a regular blog there, I've chosen to post things there as well. The two sites are not identical twins. I don't always double post. And the Myspace site is done under a different identity. I'm not so inclined to want people to know who I am there. So I am posing as my first hero: a character from a Disney movie.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I was spared. The teeny tiny babies were taken in by somebody who was likely more capable than me. I hope they fare well. WHY are two day old kittens all alone in the world in the first place? There are a million reasons most involving cruel humans.
Anyway, I found something really neat today. It's a new book that isn't out yet and it's called "Titanicat". It's by Marty Crisp who has written a lot of books for children including one about a dog on the Titanic. This one is about a cat on the Titanic and is supposed to be a true story.

I am unsure of whether this is an urban legend or true story. It is claimed to be true and I like it so I'll believe it. Here is what I've gleaned:

Anne Hales of the Irish News, in Belfast interviewed a 92 year old retired journalist named Paddy Scott, who once interviewed a man named Mulholland who claimed to have been a stoker aboard the Titanic during her trials and the run to Southampton.

The stoker's name was Jim Mulholland. The Titanic was built in a yard in Belfast
and even though the ship was new, it was estimated that over 6,000 rats roamed its decks and sub-structures. Most ships employed cats to help the problem of mice. Mulholland worked on Deck F, scouring and scrubbing the deck galley. Mulholland was also given the duty of taking care of the Titanic's kitty who was appropriately (if unimaginatively) named "Mouser". Mouser was a tabby, she was also pregnant. As her condition progressed she probably became less adept at killing her meals so Jim carefully saved scraps here and there for her while they sailed on the trial voyage from the Shipyard in Belfast to Southampton. In Southampton, this ocean liner would make her maiden voyage. Before they arrived, Mouser had four kittens.

Apon arriving in Southhampton, the ship was loaded with lobster and steak and many sumptouous foodstuffs for the passenger list included some very wealthy people. Even with this great bounty, Mouser seemed troubled and one day Mullholland sat and watched while she took each of her kittens down the gang plank one by one getting them off the ship. This fascinated Jim but also concerned him. While the rich and famous went up the gang planks to board the great vessel, Mouser went the other way with each of her children. Jim said to a reporter, "That cat knows something" and signed off the ship himself. I don't have to tell you that this ship never made it to New York.

I found a poem but no author's name:

When men go down to the sea in ships,
As they do to this very day,
They carry along a good ship's cat,
To keep the rats at bay.
One such cat at the Belfast yard,
Had kittens while on board.
The date was April 1912, anno domini, year of our lord.
Now the ship was new, and the crew was,too,
So a trial run was deemed fair.
And the scullion lad, whose name was Jim,
Wound up with the tabby's care.
In the F deck galley Jim scoured and scrubbed,
His job was to bow and bend,
But he saved the scraps from every meal
For the cat he now called a friend.
They circled the coast 'till their anchor dropped
At the port of the White Star Line,
Where the ship was loaded with lobster and steak,
And silver and crystal and wine.
The cat seemed troubled when the trials were done,
Thought she loved her life on the ship.
With kittens in tow, she disembarked,
Refusing to make this trip.
She carried her babies, one by one,
Down the gangplank to the quay,
Two thousand passengers clambered aboard,
But the cat went the other way.
Jim followed his friend and he left that ship,
About to sail the Atlantic.
He bid farewell to the maiden voyage Of RMS Titanic.
When Jim tells the tale of that wise old cat,
He gets naught but a sneer and a scoff.
Over one thousand drowned when that ship went down.
But Jim and the cat got off.
Down with the ship that fateful night,
Went fathers and sons and wives,
But the cat saved Jim by lending him,
One of her own nine lives.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I'm Ascared

Be careful what you pray for. I've been jonesing for kitten season. I saw my next door neighbor at the market tonight; my neighbor is a former veterinary assistant who is now a professional pet sitter. Am I lucky or what? She asked if I have any kittens yet. I told her "No, not yet and I just can’t wait!" My son echoed me by saying "It's been so long since we had little tiny kittens!" (It's only been since the middle of December but we are both addicted). I got home and by the time I checked email, it was evening. I had a message from Larry at the shelter. (I sometimes refer to as "my dope dealer" as kittens are my drug of choice). He has two grey and white kittens in need of fostering.
Oh boy!
They are two days old.
Oh no!!!!
Yikes! I'm all rusty, It would be ideal after this Winter break to start slowly... get my feet wet so to speak with some easy kittens. This is like jumping into icy water...
Uh oh
I'm about to attack myself with my own analogy!* Yes, icy water like what surrounded the Titanic. That's what these babies are in! They need a life boat! Come on Susan, don't be a pussy! Go get those kittens!
I called Larry, He wasn't in. Phew! I'm off the hook...
No I'm not...
I'm thinking about them.
Truly these kittens would be better off with somebody who has more experience than me. I'm still kind of new at this. I pray that the kittens are in a nice warm house tonight. But I emailed Larry letting him know that if they're still there in the morning, I will take them.
I hope they are not there. I SOOOO hope that they are in somebody's warm hands. Mostly because spending the night in the shelter will expose them to illness. The likelihood of bringing home sick kittens grows with each hour. There's not much I can do until morning. Actually, this is a bit of a wake up call. AM I prepared for little ones? Actually I'm not. I need to get some itty bitty kitty safe litter. Most people use the wheat litter (Swheat Scoop)There is also "The Worlds Best Litter" It's made of corn. Both are actually edible. This is important as the scoopable clay litters can kill a tiny kitten if they ingest even a small amount. It's also something to consider if you have a dog who likes to raid the litter box for a chewy snack now and then.

" It is actually NOT my analogy. "Kitten Carpathia" and the whole Titanic theme are just a bit of the creative madness that comes from my good friend Mike (AKA Broccoli Man). He gets the credit for the idea (but I did the artwork. All the kittens in the lifeboat are fosters of mine) Thank you Mike.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Why Foster Parent?

The key to a healthy heart is to have many things to love. OK diet and exercise help too but I'm not as good at those things. If you love baby animals, surrounding yourself with them can be like heaven on Earth. It can also be a huge burden of responsibility and the smell is not too heavenly. I started this blog to encourage people to call their local shelters and volunteer for the foster program. While I applaud anyone who becomes a foster parent, I also applaud anyone with the presence of mind to take a good look at what is involved and decide that it's not for them. You are still welcome to come here!
The way I see it is that I get to have these adorable little bundles in my home and it's just a treat. They leave before they're big enough to destroy the furniture; we get them at their cutest! We can also get them at their scariest! Be sure to let the shelter know what age you are comfortable with. I have a friend who took in a litter that was only three days old. They still had the stumps of their umbilical chords on their tummies! These teeny tiny babies don't even have their eyes open and it will be a while before they respond to "love". They are just a collection of neurons snapping and they are feeling traumatized at the loss of their mother. This is like a human baby in that they need care around the clock. You will be setting alarms so you can feed them in the night and unlike a human baby, this is a litter. You may have six mouths to feed every two hours! You will be trained by your shelter before being placed on the foster parent list. If you feel overwhelmed at the end of the training session, BE HONEST! Let them know your limitations! Some times they have litters that are completely weaned but just a bit too young and not socialized. I had a litter like that. They just needed to learn how to get along with people. These kids were even litter trained! What fun, I only had to provide kitten chow and love. Be honest with yourself and the shelter about how young you can handle and how many. I won't take more than five bottle feeders and I've been very lucky in getting litters of only three. Really, three is about all I can handle with bottle feeders. "Lap" becomes a magical word! When you can put a saucer of formula on the ground and have them feed themselves, it's time to break open a bottle of champagne (although by then you may need a good strong jug of moonshine)
The biggest pitfall is saying "good bye" and this is what has most people saying "I could never do it. I'd adopt them all." One thing that helps me is to take a spiritual approach to being able to love without owning. Something does not have to be mine for me to love it. But the biggest help is to have more than one litter so that there are still babies to come home to after you drop off a litter. During kitten season, I rarely come home from the shelter with an empty carrier. The end of kitten season is sad when you come home to an "empty nest" but mine is never empty as I have my pets. My pets who have so generously shared me now have me back to themselves and THEY are very happy. I try to focus on their happiness instead of my loss.
You are supposed to. You are teaching them how to love you, that's a two way street. It can be heart breaking. The worst is when you lose one. Don't kid yourself, it will happen. No matter how well you do things, sometimes they arrive in this world with something wrong with them that doesn't show up until they are in your arms, dying and all your love won‘t make them well. Sometimes they catch something and it may be partially your fault. Sometimes the shelter vet will tell you that a sick kitten is a lost cause and that you must euthanize this one to save the rest of the litter. The lofty dream of being able to save that one sickly little thing is the stuff that Disney movies are made of. In reality you may kill a whole household. Miracles can happen but don't subject other lives to wishful thinking.
All that being said, the joys FAR outweigh the sadness. I can only speak for my own experience but it’s one of the funnest things I’ve ever done and I’ve done a lot of fun stuff. The winter months seem extra cold without the pitter patter of tiny feet; little pads as soft as babies' lips and the chorus of purrs that engulfs me when I lay down on the floor. I am eagerly awaiting kitten season. It should be just around the corner...
Hi my name is Susan, I'm a kitten addict.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Product Review: Ssscat

I just bought Sssscat which is a spray can attached to a motion sensor. The idea is that when the cat goes near it, they get sprayed. So you put it in a place that you want to be off limits to your cats.

There are few places where I don't allow my cats but my Tabitha insists on getting herself up in a high window to sit on the sill. The problem is that in order to get to this window she has to climb the dining room drapes and not only is she clawing them up but she's bending the bracket holding the curtain rod. She has also introduced my two "kitteens" to the joys of this place and the curtains are suffering from their use as a stair case.

Tabitha, being the only female pet in the house is extra cunning and clever. While she knows I don't approve of this, when Mom's away, Tabitha will play. While she makes sure that I rarely catch her, the bent curtain rod holder gives her away. So I bought Sssscat, placed it on the window sill and crossed my fingers.
It speaks well of my cat to say that she completely "got it". OK Mom put that hissy thing up there, I guess she really doesn't want me climbing up the drapes." I also made available another window for her to gaze out of so she's fine with the new situation. As evidenced by an un bent curton brace, none of the cats have been up the drapes!
It works! It's a bit pricey, over 30 dollars for a can of air and a motion sensor. I began to think of other uses for my investment. Maybe if you put it on some bug spray and put it outside... put it on foot spray and place it near my son's shoes... Actually I think the company should consider remarketing this product for use by Parapsychologists. The unit could be efective for detecting ghosts or at least it seems that way. It's rather unnerving to have it just go off when you're all alone and nobody is near it. What triggered it?
Gram, is that you???