Mickey could well have been another sad statistic. Having lived on the streets for years as an undesexed cat he had contracted the FIV virus from fighting for breeding rights with other males.
An affectionate and super friendly boy he was left to carry on as he always had. We don't understand why and Mickey did not know any different.
By the time he came to our attention his health issues were dragging him down. Taken home by a rescuer we work with, Mickey needed two or three stages to his rehabilitation.
Desexing and vaccination, nutritious food, antibiotics for his mouth, steroids to control skin inflammation headed the list..
Next came a dental and foster care. His skin issues were still causing problems so it was back and forth to the vet for more medications. Initially he had had lice as well as fleas. Can you imagine what a difference life as an owned cat is like for him?
Mickey was microchipped and adopted in to a real home of his own. He is here to tell the tale two weeks later!
Left, Mickey when he first came in to care. and before he had his considerable makeover.
Drooling was caused by bad teeth, inflammation and infection in his mouth.
He lost large patches of fur due to skin issues caused by fleas and lice.
Mickey is all set for a peaceful life. He has his own bed, his own dish, his own pot of grass!!!
On that fateful day, Ben was dying. I like to think that those spiritual forces that surround us gathered to watch. They reviewed his life and saw the misery, the lack of love, the sadness. It was not his time so they sent a lady on an errand to the house where strays were left food and she saw him, lying there, already climbing on to that mythical Rainbow Bridge.
He struggled and scratched her but she got him in to a carrier and took him straight to the vet and sent me a text.
It was not feasible to save him I was told by the attending vet in a phone call. He was too far gone. His teeth were rotten, his mouth full of ulcers and lesions, he was FIV+ and he fought any attempt to examine him with what little strength he had left. 'How do you expect him to fight this ? she asked.
All due respect to that vet, her experience and the things she sees daily in these difficult times but we had to try.
He was put on a drip, given pain relief, medications, bloods taken.
Later that night his vitals plummeted but the spirit people standing by must have whispered in his ear, keep fighting, things will change.
And he did. By morning he was stabilising.
He spent days in hospital. All his teeth were removed, he was syringe fed by them, given pain relief, antibiotics. His was desexed and vaccinated, his ratty tangled painful fur shaved off while having surgery.
Our vet called me. She wanted him to come home because he was depressed. We had no room, nobody to foster him. We had to leave him there for a few more days until we found someone.
And then we did.
Our foster carer was also a rescuer. She worked with rescue, fostering mainly mum cats and kittens and orphan kittens for others. Ben settled in to eat high quality food. He ate and he ate to begin with, He put weight on his scrawny frame.
There developed a love affair between Ben and his carer but it was not over yet. Ben had breathing difficulties and came back to surgery for more antibiotics and observation.
He needed Entropian surgery for his eyes and came back a third time for that.
Each time it meant a long drive for our volunteer who first found him and later ourselves.
.The love strengthened, at each separation between Ben and his carer.
Until.....Ben is being adopted by his foster carer.
Enormous thanks to Bronwen Stade, Lex Lexy his carer, the staff at Farifield Road Vet Hospital and the people who donated towards his recovery. To enable us to rescue more cats like Ben please see our donation page.
Suffice it to say that some, if not several of the cats, were named after human counterparts. My best friend;s mother was called Mona. At one time when relating stories of her mother's often difficult behavior, she told me that one of the relatives described her mother as being aptly named.
Mona the cat had ample reason to complain about her lot though. Found in the shrubbery of the garden, looking emaciated and sick, I had no idea as to what I was going to do. Money was always short and getting more so in the number of cats that were turning up for food.
Feeding her seemed the only option and it soon appeared to be the solution. She would be waiting on the porch in the morning only to greet me with warning hisses. I would say 'And good morning to you too' only to receive an even louder hiss in response.
Mona was a tortoiseshell My first impression was that of a very elderly cat but as diet improved her health she dropped several years in a short span of time.
That December I had bought a cat bed, a soft fluffy cloud of cushion. On Christmas Eve I left it on the porch for her.. In the morning of Christmas Day, Mona was lying on it with an expression of unbelievable pleasure. What better kind of Christmas present could I have?
Soon though, Mona exhibited an even fuller belly. Mona was pregnant.
I reported to John that the male cats don't seem to care what the females look like. Even if they are ugly like her.
Mona was not ugly, of course. As her pregnancy wore on she blossomed but as she did I became increasingly anxious that she be caught before the kittens were born. Shortly afterwards she seemed to disappear.
Our young neighbor reported with dramatic emphasis :
'Someone is feeding Mona and I don't know who!'
It would seem that Mona had found a caring person to look after her.
After a time of absence Mona reappeared one day at feed time. She stood around watching the other cats eating. then left by the fence into next doors escape route. She came one more time, seemed satisfied about things and never came back. She was not pregnant. She was actually quite beautiful with a glossy dark tortoiseshell coat and clear lovely eyes.
Mona had moved up in the world. We never saw her again.
Unfortunately I was never able to get a photo of Mona. The two cats above were part of her family though, Charlie at back died two years ago of kidney failure and his mate Dennis (below) continued to live with us for the past four years. Sadly we said goodbye just three weeks ago.
During September and October we lost two more of our rescue cats.
Mr. Dickens had been with us since October 2017 and he died around ten pm Thursday 19/9/19. It was a terrible night because Mr. Dickens had turned a corner, was eating by himself and had put on 400 grams that week, graduating from the feeding tube to independence but in just one day he worsened and was gone. The vet visit that day revealed nothing untoward but he had earlier vomited once and was hyperventilating when we came home from the shops. We rushed him to the surgery but by that time he displayed little of what we had witnessed. 'Bring him back tomorrow if he's no better' said our vet. A few hours later I recognised the glazed eyes and the coma like unconsciousness. Mr. Dickens was dying and all we could do was make him comfortable and accept it. All night I saw his face in my dreams, the regret and sorrow we experienced was acute.
His death was not without warning. He had been a patient for weeks, at first in hospital with the usual diagnostic blood tests, fluids and syringe feeding, antibiotics, two broken teeth removed (his last). and most recently at home with us in our lounge room where he was quite happy.
This Dickensian boy was urchin enough from his life on the streets back then in 2017. The stress of fighting other cats for territory and rights, finding enough food to survive on, hiding from humans in drains and lying under cars in the dark of night had taken its toll. Mr. Dickens was scrawny, dirty and one of the unfriendliest cats we had so far known. His fear of humans was paramount.
Once caught he was taken to our vet for a blood test, desexing and vaccination. He was very malnourished, and FIV+ He could not go back there to that life so we brought him home and concentrated on building up his immune system.
A year ago he had most of his teeth out, sailed through that and was back to his usual self.
Although he accepted me brushing him with the wand we never came close to touching him until his last illness.
Mr. Dickens was admitted to hospital this time with a temperature of 33 degrees, he was cold, lethargic, dying. I did not expect him to survive that day. A drip, antibiotics, a heat pad, syringe feeding, pain relief and pre-emptive strikes to any vet nurse who thought she could make him more comfortable! until a few days later when his whole demeanour changed and our vet said Mr. Dickens is friendly now!! He stayed in hospital for nine days.
We visited him as often as possible and he listened quietly as we spoke to him. He wasn't eating much but we asked if he could come home. He settled into a crate in our lounge room where he ate voluntarily at first but soon had difficulty with a mouth infection and so we opted for a feeding tube. Back home it was one constant round of feeding until he turned the corner and began to eat on his own. We could pat him, we could nurse him, we could even bathe him.
We miss you so much Mr. Dickens.
The above photo was taken around a year after he came to us. When Sandy (below) came in late last year they shared an enclosure and became mates.
Sandy lived in the street, slept under cars, lay in the middle of the road refusing to move for traffic. He had a lot in common with Mr. Dickens. . Luckily it was a quiet street with a dead end and he had some ladies looking out for him. They gave him food which he ate once they were a safe distance away. He sired quite a few families and we wondered where he found the strength! Sandy was infested with fleas and worms, his teeth were the worst our vet had ever seen and every broken blackened remnant was removed. He was anaemic, FIV+ and in a debilitated state. So he came back to us at Catmint Cottage. Sandy is still living with us but misses Mr. Dickens.
Sandy has fattened up and his coat is thick. He has beautiful eyes and always a mucky face from putting his snout in his food. He has an enclosure of his own and an aerial tunnel that he frequents as shown above. Moves are afoot to integrate him with some of the other cats.
Dash (above) came to us almost three years ago.. He died 11th October 2019. When he came in to care he was roughly two years of age and extremely timid. He was already FIV+ and never hurt a soul yet he was the focus of some nasty people who threatened to kill him. He resided in the garden and on the porch of the lady who was looking out for him. She fed him and had him desexed and vaccinated but when she needed to move urgently Dash had nowhere to go. I had shared his plight on facebook for months in trying to help. We could not take more in, his carer begged me over and over until I relented and offered him a few months of safety until she could work something out. He was such a good and humble boy that he was never a minute's trouble.
Dash could not be touched at the time so his education started here. He was such a shy, timid gentle boy, a thinker, a companion to other quiet cats and came to seek my lap too.
During the time of looking after Mr. Dickens I became aware that Dash did not look well. One morning I watched him drinking a long draught of water. We took him to our vet that same day. I thought perhaps a urinary tract infection as he had been urinating in places I was not happy about.
His kidneys were very enlarged. He was admitted for tests and found to have a condition he was born with., Polycystic Kidney Disease. He was FIV+ which did not help his immune system and also had a heart murmer. Some treatments were recommended, Renal food, daily fluids but this was after he came home from hospital and several days on the drip.
After Mr. Dickens died I thought Dash needed some kind of intervention as his kidneys seemed badly swollen. He was not eating much, did not like me giving him sub cutaneous fluids. Our vet was shocked when she saw him and said it was a case of euthanasia. I could not accept it that day. I cried when she left the room to get something. She did some things to make him more comfortable and gave us pain relief to give him. Two days later we took him back and I held his head in my hands and told him what a good boy he had always been.
The glass may never have been full for these cats and others that we have saved but it was never half empty once they came here. I know that much.
Assistance to carry on this work is badly needed. Please donate if you can.
What does a rescue organisation do when faced with insurmountable odds? The answer is that you go at the problem from every angle you can think of. And if you can't succeed then you can definitely improve the life of that particular cat.
Queen was a senior boy of around eight years when he arrived in care with Linda. He was fortunate indeed, as was I, to have Linda join the fight with us on the rescue of the street cats.
We mainly work in the South Western suburbs of Sydney. And that is where Queen came from. Named after Freddie Mercury by Uncle, Queen had multiple problems compounding in all directions.
In Linda's own words:
Queen was considered unadoptable by most due to his list of health issues ranging from ulcerated bleeding paws (pts was originally suggested), skin cancer, asthma, stomatitis, urinary crystals, weepy eye, FIV+ and being a senior boy, but his character was so charming and cheeky.
We took on the long road to get his health issues addressed and managed, staying hopeful that one day a special family would make him a part of theirs but remained realistic that it was a big ask.
Our mantra is 'making the impossible possible'
By the time an adoption inquiry came in on Sarah and Sasha, two very shy and timid sisters rescued also from the streets, Queen and the girls had formed a close bond.
In Linda's words once more:
'Sasha and Sarah were two rescued sisters who were very timid and needed a lot of time to come out of their shell, especially with new people. They loved and snuggled with Queen all the time. Julia and Steve were originally only looking to adopt 2 but couldn't bring themselves to separate this bonded trio. They gave Sarah and especially Sasha all the time and love needed for them to feel this was home.
I am forever grateful ❤ Thank you to our supporters and sponsors who made it possible to give them, and in particular Queen the treatment and care needed. Thank you for believing in what we do .... making the 'impossible', possible.'
Please consider donating to help us continue this vital work.
On a sunlit winter's day in August 2016, we picked up a trapped cat from a feeder to drop off to our vet for her. Such a magical day that day, I remember it so well. The warmth, the sunlight, the ambience of everything but sadly for Faith she was given a death sentence.
She had been trapped at an abandoned house in Cabramatta, N.S.W and we agreed to pick her up and drop her off for desexing. After leaving the surgery a phone call from our vet asked if I had noticed her distressed breathing. An xray revealed Cancer had spread to her lungs from a mammary tumor. All I could think of was that it was too beautiful a day to die. Expecting euthanasia to be the only course of action, I was surprised to hear 'take her home for a few days of palliative care.'
And that was how Faith gained her other name...'that palliative care cat.'
At the surgery she was given an injection of steroid to stimulate her appetite but on my first visit I saw how flat she was. I wasn't sure how she would go at all.
The above photo is of her in hospital on that first night.
We took Faith home and set her up in a little wooden rabbit hutch in the lounge room. In the hutch part I made a soft warm bed for her to rest in private and in the front part put her litter tray and food.
Faith began to eat and rest alternatively. After a while she stopped sleeping in her private hutch and spent more time out in the other area watching us and the other cats.
A month later she asked to be released.
'No' I said, 'you don't understand. You are dying.'
'No' she replied 'you don't understand, I want to get out!'
So I thought about this and decided it would be nicer if she could spend some time on the verandah with the others before she died.
Faith put on weight so quickly that we feared she was pregnant. A visit to surgery negated that idea thankfully. It was observed that she looked surprisingly well.
Faith was, FIV+ and her age estimated to be ten years old. She was a very friendly cat so where had she been for so long? And how many kittens had she had in her life?
As time went on Faith seemed to improve so much that I began to doubt there was anything wrong! John was fond of repeating the quote 'rumours of my impending death are greatly exaggerated.'
With each month she gained momentum so much that she came on heat and we rushed her back in for surgery. Desexing and removal of the mammary cancer were performed and Faith sailed through it.
She had such a pretty face, was so affectionate but also revealed her 'other' side of Alpha female.
Poor timid Tinkerbell became picked on unmercifully. Screaming matches and attacks became frequent.
Finally when things became too serious we took Tink out to the new enclosure and her happiness with her new home was obvious until another prefect came along in the persona of Bryn. He ate her food just because he could, he stalked her so that she hid, a prisoner in her own quarters that we had to provide. Eventually though, after her initiation period Bryn accepted that poor girl and she was finally allowed to mingle and eat with the others.
Inside, peace reigned once more.
Last year Faith had the rest of her teeth out and chest xrays to monitor the extent of the Cancer. Apparently her lungs did not look much worse and my comment to the vet nurse that we had not expected her to live this long extracted this response:
'Neither did we when we saw the xrays of her lungs.
Last Sunday, just a few weeks shy of her third year with us, Faith, 'that palliative care cat' slipped quietly away.
During the early afternoon I went outside to sit in the sun to think. The day was warm and there was ambience and magic in the air, just the way it was that very first day that a girl called Faith crossed our path.
Your donations will allow us to help others like Faith.
Photo is of the first cats desexed and housed. Stormy is back rhs.
The sultry day moved on into evening. Darkness fell.
Another element crept in to the blackness, unnoticed. A storm had been building in the west and the first ominous rumble of thunder was sudden, loud and close.
'They have shelter.' 'they will be alright.'
Before we could respond further the storm hit with a ferocious bang.
Lightening lit up the darkness, thunder crashed and the rain came down with a roar, swept by the wind, into hammering relentless sheets of weaponry, great forces against the windows, doors and roof..
From outside squeals erupted from the kittens, high pitched screams easily heard over the sound of the lashing rain.
We tried to open the front door to get out to them but were driven back by the fury of the deluge sweeping into us, the door wrenched from our hands.
Outside the squealing continued,
Blindly facing the fury, we met it head on with our second desperate attempt, fighting all the way to get outside.
In the darkness, Socks huddled in the 'shelter'. Alone. Yoda, pure white,visible and small enough to fit through the wire was caught halfway on his way out of the enclosure. Even in those desperate moments, being pummeled with heavy rain, Socks wore what seemed to me to be an inscrutable expression of blame. 'You did this' 'Now look.'
The larger kittens were at the other end which puzzled me. They were fully exposed to the elements and looked half drowned, confused. . I pulled Yoda from the wire and then started collecting the others into a carrier. I counted only six.
I went back to Socks, opened another carrier in front of her and was amazed that she jumped in to it. Remember she was an untouchable cat.
We looked everywhere for the seventh kitten until we had to give up.
Once inside we took the kittens to the bathroom and bathed them quickly in warm water, dried them and put them in front of the heater in the carrier.
Back outside we went in a fruitless attempt to find the little grey one. We came back inside, disbelieving that we could have lost her.
I vividly recall sitting on the lounge and saying 'That poor little thing., that poor little thing.'
John stood up and said 'come on!' He grabbed the car keys and outside he turned the car headlights on to light up the driveway and encouraged we began to search once more. but there was nothing. Why did we never have a torch when we needed one? I looked into the shadows, near the enclosure, I put my hand under it somehow quelling my fear of spiders or other bitey things but could feel nothing.
I ran around the fence into next doors driveway to see if she had been washed under the fence. I came back around and noticed the solar garden light.. I pulled it out of the ground and ran up the driveway to the enclosure holding it like a giant torch and started to look around the ground when soon I noticed something moving. I saw a tiny form crawling out from underneath the pallet toward the light, soundless, silent, moving toward the light, the size of a mouse.
She's here! I found her! she's alive!!
Below, left to right, Giselle, Stormy, Felix, Janie, Yoda and Toya. in front. Stormy was adopted by an art teacher who I sadly lost contact with.
Thinking back to that time, it is easy to realize that certain decisions I made were wrong. Having the benefit of hindsight gives great clarity to the errors of what was, after all, a learning experience,
Having Socks and her now six kittens in a rabbit hutch was not kind but the best we could do. We were at work all day and when home, the older kittens were released for play. We could not release Socks, she still needed desexing and we would have had difficulty in trapping her again. Even so she did not appear greatly affected.
The catrun had at last been delivered and stood waiting for us to erect it.
In its original location this catrun was inspiring. The house was at Stanmore and there was an exit in the back of the house for the cats, who then had a walk tunnel around the corner attached to the wall, then upwards to the roof where the catnip cage was erected and overlooking the rooftops of neighbors and the trees of other backyards,
The erection of the run at our house was not that simple. Nothing seemed to fit. Every part of the extension was at odds with what we wanted it for. There was no roof on the main enclosure, therefor there was no shelter from the weather.
I managed to convince John that we should go and collect an old cupboard I had seen abandoned on the footpath at Newbridge Raod, Liverpool. I had been watching this cupboard for weeks as I walked to work from the station. So we drove to Liverpool to collect it. The day was very hot and humid. We were cranky and sweating profusely. The car was old and had no air conditioning making us weary at each problem that presented itself.
When we arrived the cupboard didn't fit in the car and a certain man got crankier. I was not going to give up. I really wanted that cupboard!! I was going to make it fit and I was going to convince John that it could. So what if I rode home in the passenger seat with two inches of space from my nose to the dashboard? it was my nose!
Worse was to come. When we arrived back home the cupboard wouldn't fit through the door of the catnip cage. Our son called in and watched the debacle not to mention the arguing! I looked at the wire roof and suggested it might be removable.
Thankfully it was, so the cupboard was lowered in via the top.
Feeling much happier, we arranged bedding, litter trays and water. Socks and her six kittens were brought out to their new spacious quarters and we felt a little smug at the progress.
The kittens were impressed, those of them who were running and jumping. Socks looked less convinced but at that stage had not realized that the shelves above her would enable her to separate herself from them.
After hours of struggling with so many complications we were fairly worn out. A Midsummer heatwave sapped our energy but we had overcome many obstacles.
Persistence was the key!! By late afternoon we were back inside and I stood in the now spacious lounge room where I proceeded to tempt fate and said those awful words. With a wave of my arm, like an actor in a Shakespearean play I said out loud....
"I don't care what happens now, I am just so pleased to have them out of the lounge room at last."
Fate cupped her ear to listen more closely.
What could I have been thinking?
Within hours they were back in there.
(to be continued)
Below, we later had another cat enclosure built (left) and used the extensions as a bridge across.
I first heard about Stormy and Yoda not long after things had settled down with Socks and her four kittens. Earlier that day I had been vacuuming the lounge room when I saw our eleven year old neighbour hovering over the cage with Socks and the kittens out in the garden.
Admittedly I was out of patience with everything and yelled for her to leave them alone. Later that day, still in some kind of black mood, I was checking the kittens with Socks when I heard the voice at the fence.
'Excuse me, excuse me.....we've found some more kittens...'
A kind of helpful sing song happy voice to impart such important news.
I was overwhelmed. Not with joy either.
The kittens on inspeciton, were not even a week old. Their eyes were just beginning to open. One was white and one blue/grey tabby.
'Put them back for the mother!'
'No, she doesn't want them' 'My neighbor found them outside the laundry. He nearly trod on them.'
' Then put them inside again.'
'No, we did and she put them back out! she doesn't want them.'
'Well, let your neighbor look after them then, why do I have to do it all!!!'
'He said he can't take them. He doesn't want them either.'
Sunday afternoon and a second challenge. Their mother did not want them. The neighbor did not want them. I did not want them. I also knew that a mother cat will put kittens out of the 'nest' when they were going to die.
I took them and showed them to Socks. She hissed at them. I rang a local vet to ask for help. I was advised to bathe them to remove the other mother's smell.
Muttering dire threats to all and sundry (not least the neigbors) I set about bathing them, dried them, represented them to Socks.
Although not too happy she did allow them to suckle but afterwards tossed them aside and indicated the end of her responsibility by scraping imaginary soil over them. They squealed a bit so I removed them.
I sat and thought.
Recalling that a mother cat will accept another's kitten if you could somehow get her urine on it I began rolling the kittens in the used litter (without solids ) and rubbed some on them. Socks did some serious forensic sniffing before accepting them.
Her own kittens were around the four and a half week mark at this stage and pretty much getting to be rough little critters. They took the new fellows on by half strangling them to get them to play and all we heard were squeals of protest.
They had them in headlocks, scaring the daylights out of us and making us wonder what on earth we could expect when we got home from work next day. Dead kittens?
We were amazed to find them alive!
They could not go on for much longer living in such small quarters.
I had been ringing everywhere to beg for help but could not find any.
We made a trip to a Sydney shelter to present our problem. No they could not help. Would not? It seemed to me that we received little interest in our situation.
Exiting the shop we saw an ad for a catrun in the window.
I rang the number expecting it to be gone. The description of it and the price they had paid caused me to lose all hope. It was 'big' and had cost over $3,000 to set up. We had very little money to spare.
'We have no cats here now. It was my first partner who had the cats and she left it here. Basically, all I want is for someone to take it away and give it a good home. I only want a couple of hundred for it' said the owner.
ON our way to view it our car broke down. Waiting in the heat for some time before assistance arrived, I began to wonder why everything was so hard for us.
We sent my brother on ahead who gave him our money and sealed the deal.
The catrun eventually became ours but first we had to hire a man to dismantle it and deliver on his truck. It would take some time to configure the bits and pieces but we were so excited to have something at last.
.On that first night of moving in, Stormy, previously an anonymous extra kitten would have a new name after she became lost in a massive storm in the black night.
Below are photos of Stormy and Yoda.
to be continued...