Build it and they will Climb

Some lucky cats in Pittsburgh are about to get the ultimate cat fort. The Epic Cat Fort which is planned to be completed in March this year, and housed in the formerly abandoned St. Clements Church and school in Tarentum, will be over “40 feet by 80 feet” and consist of connecting catwalks. The fort is only a temporary exhibit, but for a short time it will be every cats dream and serve the purpose of showcasing adoptable cats from Animal Friends, a local animal rescue league.

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Build it and they will climb – Image: Phillip Rhodes

Cat lover and creator, Phillip Rhodes, is looking for help from volunteers, artists and sponsors to help complete the project which is set to be unveiled on March 10. If you lack the technical skills don’t worry you can always sign up for litter box patrol!

The Epic Cat Fort is also an event for the community, but people are asked to leave their cats at home. For more details on the event and how you can get involved be sure to check out their site here.

Saying Goodbye – A Tribute To Spinner

I read the following quote last year and for some reason it sat in the back of my mind. “The trouble is – you think you have time.” It’s a little cliché, but profoundly simple in its meaning and would become more so as the events of the past few months unfolded. I consider myself to be proactive, but like everyone I will put off things thinking I have time to do it later. Time to finish a project, time to make a decision, time to pursue a dream or time to spend with those who are important in our lives – human or animal.

In September the time I thought I had with my cat Spinner would be suddenly cut short bringing everything in my life to a halt, and literally breaking my heart in the process.

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Spinner 2006 – He knew how to work a good photo

I adopted Spinner in 2005 from Toronto Animal Services where he had come in as a ‘stray’ (for his back story check out my guest blog post about Spinner on Katzenworld). He was a very special and unique cat – physically he was a handsome stunner with the personality to match. He fit into our already two cat household and became good friends and adopted brother to our beautiful and gentle house-panther Simon.

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Spinner and Simon enjoying the cat bed and the sun

In 2009, our tabby Cleo passed away and in 2010 Simon, both had lived to 18 years old. Simon’s passing was really difficult but Spinner was there to help me through it. When you lose a pet you realize how precious your time is with them so Spinner now the OC (only cat) was spoiled. Spinner was a special cat in many ways, beautiful on the outside with a funny, sassy, smart, talkative, loving personality that won hearts and had me wrapped around his little paws.

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Sleeping in his favorite chair

Spinner was the cat that was always there, literally. He ran to the door when I got home, looked for me when I wasn’t there and slept by my side every night. If I was on my laptop he would settle in between the laptop and me resting his chin on my arm. If I was on the couch he was there and if I moved he followed. He loved to be held, would wrap his arms around you in a hug and enjoyed jumping on your back when you bent over. He loved belly rubs and purred all the time – he sounded like a tiny motor boat. He was a super relaxed cat and enjoyed the attention from people around him. Whenever someone new met him they couldn’t help but fall in love.

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All tucked in for bed – the cold months were made for cuddling

No matter what kind of day you had Spinner made it better and when things weren’t going well, they were made better by being around him. Spinner was my best friend and knowing he was home made coming home better. There was no reason to think that his time would be cut short as his recent senior wellness check at the vet this spring showed all was in excellent order, for a 13 year young cat he was doing great. Then, just after the September long weekend – he stopped eating and I booked an appointment for the vet the next day.

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The first vet diagnosed him with pancreatitis but a trip the Vet Emergency and X-ray the next day revealed that he had a large mass in his chest cavity. The vet said it was likely cancer and due to the location no traditional means of treatment would help. They also had no way to know for sure how bad it was without a biopsy which they were reluctant to do because of the location. Immediately the option was to provide palliative care – which meant fluids, vitamins, sub-q and an appetite stimulant to get him eating and to keep him comfortable. At that point I don’t think the diagnosis fully sank in but I will say Spinner was handling things better than me.

Driving home that night from the vet it started to process and I began to research other options and booked an appointment to see a holistic vet for the following week. In the meantime Spinner perked up the next day and started to eat so I promised him we would try to do everything to help him as long as he wanted – that if we could cure him we were going to do it, he was going to be the ‘miracle’ story you read about. That afternoon emotionally and physically exhausted we had a nap, Spinner squeezed in between me and a pillow and purred – it would be a special memory that I will always hold in my heart.

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Enjoying a spot of sun

Spinner did well for a week but then he stopped eating again. I had tried everything to get him to eat on his own but as a temporary measure the syringe feedings would help him get by as his system started to settle. As long as he was drinking, going to the bathroom normally and maintaining healthy weight the vet said that we could keep him comfortable and in the meantime a trip to the oncologist was recommended for the final opinion on the mass.

Spinner was trying, I could tell and I knew he was trying for me. He had become a different cat in a very short time, he stopped playing and took to sleeping under the bed or on top of it he began spending less and less time with me. He showed little interest in anything except sleeping and taking his food, drinking or using his litter box. There were however many good moments where I was hopeful the support was working to build his immune system and he would have the miraculous cure that I was hoping for. Whatever he wanted or showed interest in he would get – cat grass and spider plant to munch on, his favorite treat of peanut butter and trips outside for fresh air. During this time I was a mess and when I did cry it was a wail – a sound of deep despair, it was the sound that I can only describe as coming from my soul. It was hard to keep it together but I was able to function normally by focusing on caring for him. When I broke down Spinner would often come out from under the bed lay down on the floor, look at me and start to purr – we had many cuddle sessions like this which would last for a short time before he would go back under the bed again.

The trip to the oncologist sadly, did not go as I’d hoped, in fact it was worse than I or the regular vet had thought – Spinner had multiple tumors in his liver, pancreas as well as the one in his chest cavity. The oncologist also found a lump on his shoulder bone which she suspects is where the cancer started. It was a rare and very aggressive cancer and there was no treatment, no cure, keeping him comfortable until he said it was time was the only option and that it would likely be a few weeks. The official word that there would be no cure, no remission was devastating, he was only 13.

In under five weeks Spinner had declined but he didn’t start to deteriorate quickly until late September early October. A week before I made the call to a vet to discuss at home euthanasia he did two things that he hadn’t done in over a month – he went to the window to look outside and he sat on my lap, stared into my eyes then jumped off. I realized that all this time he was preparing me for life without him, even though he slept by my head every night he was sending me a message and the signs were clear. I was worried that I wouldn’t know, but there was one clear sign that would help me make the decision that all pet owners dread and even fear.

He was such a gentle, patient cat and was unbelievable through everything and I never wanted to let him go, however I couldn’t watch him get worse I had to let him go. Six years ago I had to make that choice for Simon and the memory of that experience brought back all the emotions, but I don’t know if that was a good thing. I knew what was coming, the pain, sadness, emptiness… the only difference was I had already started grieving for Spinner before he was gone and it had been happening for weeks.

I made the call to the vet to look at booking an appointment and even though I knew it was the right and compassionate choice it did not make it any easier. During my initial call I didn’t commit to a day or time instead I took a day to decide and had a conversation with Spinner. I told him that I loved him and that it was OK for him to go home, that he would see Simon, maybe Cleo to and any of his friends he knew before he came into my life. I was sorry I couldn’t help him and I would miss him more than I could ever say – we should have had many more years together.

I stayed home on Spinners last day, which was beautiful and sunny. He had one last meal in the morning and I told him that he would no longer have to endure syringe feedings. We had a nice visit outside in the sun where he walked around the garden sniffed the flowers, plants and fresh air. When he was ready he walked back inside to rest. Some of my friends who had known Spinner came by for a visit and to say goodbye and of course Spinner being a social cat made sure to come out and greet them all.

The vet arrived at the scheduled time and as we prepared and went over how everything was going to transpire, Spinner calmly lay on the same pillow where he had slept every night for the past month surrounded by his friends and with me by his side. Surprisingly I had stopped crying earlier in the day and this strange calmness came over me. As I spoke to Spinner and gave him tons of kisses he purred. He purred right up until the sedative took effect and his eyes closed. On October 13 at approximately 8:30 pm he took his last breath and his heart slowed to a stop.

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Our final moments together – Spinner was beautiful and peaceful

Before we wrapped Spinner up in a towel with his favorite toy mouse and placed him in a fleece blanket lined basket that the vet provided I noticed something. His eyes had shut completely and there was a single tear in the corner of one of his eyes. I wiped it away and we gently wrapped him up placing him in the basket. A part of me knows he did not want to leave and I like to think that the single tear was his way of saying goodbye, that he was just as sad at having to leave me as I was having to let him go.

The next days following were hard, very hard and the reality of his loss hit me. His absence was at times unbearable and knowing he wouldn’t be there when I came home was really difficult. It has been up and down since, some days it is fine and other times it hits me, but I guess that is all part of the grieving process. While it does get better there are some losses you never really get over, they stay with you, take a part of you and even change you, I know this was one.

Spinner will be gone a month next week and before now I hadn’t been able to write about him or determine how to pay tribute to a very special cat whom I adored beyond words. I am lucky to have tons of photos and video of him, so I put together this video to showcase his beautiful personality and moments throughout his life with me.

Spinner I hope you are watching and with me still, thank you for being part of my life.

Special thanks to Dr. Banks of Midtown Mobile Veterinary Services for taking the time to talk to me about at home euthanasia and providing the information that I needed to make a very difficult decision and to Dr. Ellis for her professionalism, kindness and compassion with Spinner on his last night.

Senior Cat Sunday

There have been many changes taking place at the Toronto Animal Services South location where I volunteer, I will be writing about this in a separate future post, cat adoptions have been on the increase and intake has been on the decrease. During the last few years this has also meant there have been less cats to socialize as the turn around time for adoptions has become much quicker.

While the younger cats, especially kittens, go faster older cats tend to still be overlooked which means in many cases they wait little longer to find homes. Cats have generally been considered to be a senior between 7 and 10 years but recently the different life stages have been revised, so a true senior cat can defined as being between the ages 11 to 14 years (geriatric is 15 plus). With the right care and attention which includes annual vet check ups, proper nutrition and exercise, they can live long active lives making them wonderful companions – and the best thing is you know exactly what your cats personality is like from the start!

If you follow me on Instagram I often post available cats for adoption from the shelter, but I felt a few of the older cats who have been there for a while deserve some extra focus. If you live in Toronto, or know people who do and are looking for a wonderful older cat, please share this with them.

Meet Baby Face a 7-year-old cat that really earns his name, he came in as an owner surrender and is very shy at first but, as soon as he gets to know you he is extremely sweet. He loves to stand on his hind legs and give you head butts or role over for a tummy rub. A very eager to love and be loved cat, Baby Face has been in the shelter since April 6, 2016.

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ID# 737950 – Baby Face is a gentle boy who is also good with other cats

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Mia is a part of the big and beautiful cat club, she is long-haired black cat that will need some help ensuring she stays focused on her diet and weight management. She came in as an owner surrender and is 8 years old. Her long hair will also need to be groomed on a regular basis to ensure she does not get mats, while she is tolerant of other cats she may be prefer to be your one and only. Mia has been at the shelter since April 16, 2016.

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ID # 489892 – Mia loves a cozy cat bed and to be the focus on your attention

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Finally Pumpkin, who is the oldest of the bunch at 11 years old is a lovely black and white cat. She is a quiet girl who loves to settle in a cozy space or a cat tower where she can hide out. This affectionate girl will bring a calm to your household and, while she can be tolerant of other cats, Pumpkin would prefer to have you all to yourself. Pumpkin has been at the shelter since April 22, 2016.

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ID # 740964 – Pumpkin’s very distinct markings add to her charm

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Generally cats from about 7 years and up will have a harder time finding homes, it is good to remember that just because they are labeled as ‘senior’ or ‘older’ it doesn’t mean they cannot live a long, healthy and active life. For some great tips on how to care for an older cat and help them get the best out of life, check out this great post by International Cat Care.

All cats listed above are available at Toronto Animal Services South Shelter, adoption is open to the public 7 days a week between 12-3pm.

New Ride

Cassidy the two-legged miracle cat has come a long way since being rescued last year by TinyKittens, a non-profit rescue located in Fort Langley, BC. He continues to get around in his custom-built wheelchair while receiving daily physical therapy in hopes that it will help make him a candidate for prosthetic legs one day. Recently Cassidy has changed it up by  enjoying a new ride, one that has become a favorite with internet cats and viewers.

Most kittens aren’t as lucky as Cassidy, which is why it is so important to help your friends, neighbors and co-workers understand how important it is to spay and neuter. Only 1 in 12 kittens born ever finds a home, and only 25% of kittens born to unowned cats will survive longer than 6 months. The rest will die from starvation, disease, predators or cruelty. Here’s more about our work with feral cats, and some of the shocking things we’re learning.” – TinyKittens.com/ferals

TinyKittens is doing amazing work to help cats including fostering, education, TNR, research, and Feral Cat Mapping. They are always looking for volunteers, foster parents or donations to help them continue to help cats like Cassidy. If you aren’t in a position to volunteer or donate you can be a voice for cats everywhere by simply sharing his story.

Tiny Wheels

Cassidy the kitten had a very rough start. Born to a feral mom, he spent his first weeks fighting for his life and by the time he was found he was starving to death and missing his back legs.

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Cassidy – All Images Tiny Kittens on Facebook

TinyKittens, a volunteer-run non-profit society working to improve the lives of cats and kittens in need in Fort Langley, British Columbia rescued Cassidy after he was spotted on a rural property. By the time he was rescued he had already lived 9 weeks with his injuries.

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Shelly Roche of Tiny Kittens, who trapped Cassidy, tells the Langley Advance that she “could feel all his little bones” and that he had survived not being able to walk on his back legs likely from birth. His mother could have accidentally bit off his feet, if they were tangled in the umbilical cord. Besides his injures he was also suffering for an a septic E. coli infection and the first vet who examined him wasn’t sure if he would survive.

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Cassidy the Miracle Kitten

Cassidy however had a very strong will to live and after he was brought to Mountain View Veterinary Hospital where his wounded legs were cleaned up, Tiny Kittens put him on their live internet feed. They wanted to give Cassidy the best chance possible to have a good quality of life and leveraged their large online following asking for help with obtaining a pet prosthetic.

Lucky for Cassidy the good folks at Handicapped Pets Canada approached Tiny Kittens and offered to provide a custom-built tiny wheelchair to allow him to run around using his front legs.

Tiny kitten calls for tiny wheels

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Roche  says that they are “even looking into implanted prosthetic feet” like the ones Oscar the bionic cat got when he lost his front legs in a combine harvester and became the first feline recipient of special prosthetic implants. Two students have also stepped up and suggested using their school’s 3D printer to make progressively larger wheelchairs as Cassidy grows.

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Cassidy recovering after his neuter surgery.

In the meantime they are ensuring Cassidy is happy and on the road to living a full life. He is off his pain medication and is being a typical kitten playing with his brother Topper and other cats. Roche says he is at about “40 percent” when it comes to using an accessible litter box made for him.

Once Cassidy is ready, he will need a forever home where someone is willing to provide him with lots of love and care.

You can watch Cassidy live on the TinyKittens web cam here and follow him on Facebook for updates and more videos.

Let’s Talk About Your Cat!

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Let’s Talk About Your Cat is back and features two ‘little Lions’ from Toronto. Thanks to Kay for sharing her story and beautiful photos!

Q What are your cats/names/age/color/breed

K The last name of the boys is ‘Singh’ which is derived from the Sanskrit for “Lion”. It’s widely used in various parts of India and for my particular family ancestry it’s the last name given to males in the Sikh religion.

Sahib-Puppy Singh, or Sahib, is a 6-year-old domestic short hair. He is all black with some white spots and green eyes.

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Sahib-Puppy Singh means ‘Sir Puppy Lion’

Niku-Monster Singh, or Niku is a 4-year-old domestic short hair. He is also black with some white spots and yellow eyes.

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Niku-Monster Singh means ‘Little Monster Lion’

They are “Two Singhs from Toronto” aka Two Lions from Toronto!

Q Describe your cats personalities

K Sahib is my big boy, a conversationalist, a hide-n-seek player who likes to tell me how his day is going and what he wants and when he wants it. For example when its time for me to open the door and let him roam the building corridor and visit the neighbor or, when he would like dinner to be served. He also has a cuddle schedule whereby around 7:30pm each night he walks out of the bedroom and announces his arrival into the living room and proceeds to sit on my lap positioning himself such that his head is tucked into the crook of my left arm. During daylight savings it takes a few week to adjust his schedule to the new 7:30pm but it does happen. Sahib prefers to eat spider plants over cat grass and patiently waits for me to bring home each new spider plant for my coffee table or shelf decoration and then he requests it for his dietary enjoyment instead of my aesthetic needs.

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Sahib requests about 15 mins of a neck massage while he drools onto my arm. If I stop short of the 15 minutes he lifts his head up and lets me know we aren’t done with a short chirp.

K Niku is a funny little guy with a funny way of doing just about everything. He opens the door of the bedroom closet and hides when someone buzzes my apartment, he bathes his face and front paws in the water dish, he sleeps under blankets and in boxes, he stands up on his hind legs for tricks and treats, he chases reflections of light up and down walls and will go from restful nap to 60 mph in 2 seconds for the right bright light reflection.  Niku must sit inside every gym bag, suitcase, laundry basket, tote bag that enters and leaves my home. Although Niku prefers to not be lifted off the ground or picked up in general, he does like to always be near me and frequently sits next to me and extends one leg so his paw is lightly resting on my leg or shoulder or foot.  When its time for Niku-Monster’s cuddles it’s a fun performance, he comes over to me and puts his face into mine and I scratch his chin and cheeks and around his ears, then he stumbles away from me and goes to his big brother Sahib and gets some brotherly face grooming for a minute or two. Then he staggers back to me for more scratches around his neck and then back to his brother again for more. This goes on for a few minutes until eventually he topples over into a drunken stupor of purring and mouth breathing cuteness.

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Niku the vampire kitty his top canines stick out just a tiny bit and can be seen over his bottom lip when his mouth is fully closed.

Q How did your cats come into your life?

K Sahib was a feral cat from a rescue agency and Niku is from my next door neighbor. I did an enormous about of research before I adopted Sahib to ensure my lifestyle was suitable for a pet and also so I knew how to be prepared.  Everyone around me knew I was researching.  At my office my coworkers and bosses acknowledged my cat adoption alongside other employee family child births and child adoptions which was really fun and nice.

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Cat research!

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Sahib on adoption day

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First day meeting Niku

Q What is your first memory or experience with cats?

K I grew up on a farm and had a few cats as pets. Because it was farm life I wasn’t able to form much of a bond with them and was always afraid of getting scratched as a child.  Then in primary school I had friends with cats but unfortunately learned only negative superstitious ramblings about black cats. As an adult I learned from a Temple Grandin book that black cats actually tend to have the mildest and friendliest of temperaments among the domestic cat breeds. I cannot remember the exact details except there was some evolutionary theory behind it supported by black cat population patterns and domesticity research.

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Niku left, Sahib Right

Q Anything else people should know? 

K I held a birthday party for my cats one year which turned into the best indulgence for a cat owner. It was heaven for me, I designed all the games, and I used prizes and treats for the humans to keep them interested!

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Birthday celebrations an afternoon of cat talk, cat trivia and a cat slide show.

K Adopting cats and living with animals increased my already sensitive nature to a new level. I had to use more intuition and grow a sense of ‘felt knowing’ with my two cats to understand their needs and requests. I learned, adjusted and became even more aware of non verbal temperament and tonality not only in them, but also in the others around me. It’s hard to explain, some will understand this and others might laugh at it, but this is what happened and as a result I think much more deeply about the effects of my actions and behaviors because I’ve seen how little it takes to impact others in my environment.

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Sahib Top, Niku Bottom

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Sahib left, Niku right

Sahib the conversationalist, has a short discussion with mom 

If you would like to have your cat featured on Let’s Talk About Your Cat, contact me at purrandroar(at)gmail(dot)com

Truck Stop Cat

This wonderful rescue story demonstrates that acts of kindness can come from anyone, anywhere.

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Meet Party Cat rescued by biker and sheetmetal worker Pat Doody. All images via Boredpanda

Pat Doody rescued the kitten, who he named Party Cat, while riding cross-country from Nevada to New Jersey. Doody said he spotted the kitten, who appeared badly burned, at a truck stop while getting gas.

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Doody with Party Cat

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Once Party Cat got on a regular feeding schedule he improved and his burns healed up. The kitten then lived on the road with Doody until they got home.

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Party Cat enjoyed hanging out inside Doody’s vest when they were traveling on the road.

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Doody tells Boredpanda that he has never met such a calm cat.

This lucky orange tabby has since seen a vet, is doing well and now lives permanently with Doody.