Thursday, 25 February 2010


"Ian, the cat's losing fur."
"Lilian, this is normal. Cats shed fur."
I go up with a cat brush and give the cat a going over and emphasise again that cats shed fur.
"Ian, when are you coming up next?"
Oh oh, warning sign. Lilian is a clinger. This is confirmed by the next door neighbour I meet outside.
"Ian, the cat's crying."
"Lilian, it probably wants to be out. Keep it in for at least another two weeks."
"Ian, how much food should I give the cat?"
I've told her this before. "Lilian, three sachets a day, half in the morning, half at tea time. Always have dried food and fresh water down."
"Ian, the cat's not eating the food, it's just licking the gravy."
"Lilian, this is normal. Cats often do this. Leave the food down and if it hasn't eaten it by bedtime give it fresh in the morning. Make sure the dried food is there."
"Ian when are you coming up next?"
"Lilian, I'm very busy. I'll try and check the cat out at the weekend." Which I will as I'm going to do this once a week anyway.
It's still Thursday but I'm sure she'll ring.

JEFF VALDEZ: "Cats are smarter than dogs. You can't get eight cats to pull a sled through snow."

I've run out of titles so I'm copying cat quotes from the Internet. I've no idea who Jeff Valdez is.
This is Penny. Earlier this week I got a call from a lady about a relative who had just died and had a cat which needed rehoming and the house had to be cleared by the end of the week. Carol was okay to take it so I said I'd get back to them. Tuesday morning I took two of Carol's cats to Roker Park Vets as their fur was matted beyong Carol's ability to control. We left them there for me to pick up later.

(Sidebar: Carol also brought along a kitten supposedly about 8 weeks old which was in a poor condition, suffering from diarrhea and an eye infection -her eyes being caked in green mucus. The night before, a neighbour of Carol's had bought her from a breeder just to save her life. The conditions were pretty poor and Carol has since reported the person to the RSPCA. Twenty-four hours later and the kitten is considerably improved.)

Being inherently lazy and never one to do two separate jobs when I can  combine them into one, I arranged to pick up Penny that afternoon and then collect the two cats from the vets on the same trip. The lady donated a large amount of food but also had a pile of other stuff to give us. Ian F had the van so I called him and he collected some including a large cat play centre. Off I went to Roker Park vets where I chatted to the receptionists and mentioned the cat in the car. On the way out with the two cats, I popped my head round the door to say goodbye and one of them, Sue, asked to see the cat as she might know someone who would like it. She duly did this and phoned the person. Within 24 hours this lovely little cat is now happily rehomed with another elderly lady. Let's just hope this one outlives her.

Yesterday I took M (see earlier post) and Charlie the one-eyed cat back to the PDSA to check that his other eye was healing properly. A couple of days earlier, Susan and Andrea had confronted M about the filthy conditions his flat was in and some of our helpers in the shop were willing to come and clean it up. Needless to say, this pissed him off considerably. It was his home, he could do what he liked. Susan agreed but what she and Andrea were concerned about was the health of Charlie and Tess his dog. Charlie had got the infection because of the conditions he was living in. M had a face like thunder. Susan told me that she would come along and try to get the vet to say that it would best if the cat was moved to cleaner conditions whereupon I would take him to Carol's just up the road.

Unsurprisingly this was not something I was looking forward to as M can be very volatile. Thankfully, M turned up the next day to apologise and accept the offer of help. All went well and Charlie's stitches were removed.

This photo has nothing to do with anything current. These three are always cuddled up together on top of a cage in Carol's shed and just love looking at them. We want them rehomed together. Call them Milly, Molly, and Mandy. Just don't ask me which is which.

On the way back from the PDSA, I rang Susan to ask her something. She told me that the lady cleaning out Penny's house had expected me back today to collect more stuff. News to me but it turned out to be a misunderstanding. After dropping M off, I called in at the shop and rang the woman and, following the conversation, I got back in the van and went round, picking up a vanful of bedding for Carol.

While sorting it at the shop someone rang asking for me specifically. Turned out to be a lady from Seaham (see earlier posts) a couple of miles down the road and I'd helped her out two years ago with some ferals which she fed. This time she'd noticed a long haired black and white cat which wasn't feral but was in a pretty dilapidated state and it had been coming round for a few weeks. She'd tried another local animal rescue but didn't seem to be getting very far with them. I rang Carol who'd take it, called the woman back and said I'd come round tonight. Finger crossed the cat would also appear. It did and was easily bundled into a cat carrier.

At the moment I have no idea about its condition, though I should shortly after Carol checks it out, and then I'll take it to the vets for a thorough examination. It almost certainly has fleas and worms. It could also be pregnant as a feral tom had been allowing it to share his food.

And this is Gobbolino the Witch's Cat, adorable when she wants to be, which is most of the time, but hell on wheels when she doesn't. I love her.

Saturday, 20 February 2010




Last weekend we were contacted by a couple from Hull who needed someone to look after, and probably re-home, the husband's mother's cat as she'd been in hospital (in Sunderland, in case you were thinking we'd extended the base of our operations) and was likely to end up not being able to return home. Needless to say we were willing to help. They came up the following day and brought the cat -Lester- to our house. He's 15 and friendly and very loud when ignored or locked in a cat carrier. They were a nice genuine couple and it was a pleasure to meet them. By a strange coincidence, one of my retired friends from work (whom I meet for coffee once a week with another ex-colleague) was old friend of the elderly lady's daughter who lives in the States.

Anyway, I took Lester to Carol's and began to think that he might be suitable for Lilian, the special needs person we tried with a different cat (see recent posts). I arranged for Lester to have a health check on Friday morning at Vets4Pets and pretty much talked Susan into letting Lilian have Lester. He was an old house cat who just wanted food, litter tray, sleep and lots of affection and until we actually got to the vets I was still thinking that.

Problem turns out to be that he might have either kidney or thyroid problems. He was obviously a big cat who had lost a lot of weight. Now while this might have been due to erratic feeding by a neighbour, some kind of illness seems more likely. It wouldn't be fair to Lilian to give her a sick cat and she wouldn't be capable of medicating him.

Carol, however, knew some one who would take him and had experience with cats in general and also cats with thyroid problems. This was Rachel who lives at South Shields and already has five rescued adult cats. I took him there this morning and it's looking very good. Lester was unphased about being somewhere new and started casing the joint immediately. Here's a photo of him with Rachel.
Meanwhile the blood test proved negative for kidney problems so samples have been sent away for thyroid tests. If he needs medication we can pay for that but we don't want to put an elderly cat through an expensive operation. Hopefully we won't have to make that choice.

Now, as for Baby, she is a friendly 8 year old who has been with Carol a few weeks. She's a nice adaptable cat and Carol and I agreed that I'd take her to Lilian instead of Lester. Unluckily she didn't have the best start.

I'd barely set off in the van before I smelled something poo-ey. Yes, she'd had an accident. Then she had another one as the carrier rolled over and she got smeared in the stuff. When I got her out of the box I had to take her to the abathroom to clean her up which was neither easy nor pleasant for me, involved some bloodletting (mine, not hers) and a little traumatising for Baby. She calmed down though and when I left she was sitting on the couch being stroked by Lilian.

A few hours later Lilian rang to say the cat was missing. How long for? I asked. Ten minutes, she replied. Showing great restraint, I did not slam the phone down but quietly said that the cat was just exploring. When I rang back ninety minutes later all was well. I'll call in tomorrow to see for myself, but I'm hopeful.

Here are pictures of some more cats wanting homes.
These two are in the same small shed together. The top cat (actually underneath the bottom cat, if you see what I mean) is friendly but nervous. The long haired tortoiseshell is a lovely friendly 6-year old. I picked him up and he started rubbing his face against my cheek and purring loudly. He has a nervous brother who is out of sight and hiding on a shelf underneath the top cat and they have to be rehomed together (but not with the top cat).

Saturday, 13 February 2010


This morning I borrowed the van and loaded all the donated cat food we had and then went off to  Asda to buy some more. After that, I set off for Sulgrave in Washington to pick up a cat. I'd been there before a few months ago on a similar mission and ended up going in circles. This time I knew where I was going. It was a nice little black cat, nearly 4 years old, neutered and chipped, and very re-homable. Cat loaded, it was off to Carol's to drop it all off.

She had a couple of new ones which I wanted photographs of. This met with varying success as I'm a rotten photographer and cats don't seem to like staying still. So, from the top-

Two semi-ferals who've been there a while and need a home together.
Hiding at the back is Molly, the subject of the previous fraught post.
Slightly blurred is Kitty who recently had her stitches out following the removal of a goitre.
The black and white one who won't look at the camera is a recent arrival, a friendly mature cat who is used to being outside and is a candidate for trying with Lilian. To be discussed with Susan.
Lastly, a nice tabby who is one of two cats who may be rehomed today. The other is Kiki the one I brought from Washington.

After that it was off to the North Hylton trading estate not far from Carol's to pick up a large bag of wood chip cat litter at Pets At Home and a pile of cheap cat food sachets from Aldi, all for my cats. Also got some flowers for Susan from Aldi -it's Valentine's Day tomorrow and also her birthday.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


Charlie is a cat and M is either his owner or fosterer, I'm not sure which. Charlie's not a young cat and M took him on a few years ago. Last year Charlie developed an infection in his left eye and had to have it removed. Cats are adaptable and he's fine with it. Today, however, I had to take him and M to the PDSA first thing this morning as Charlie had to have an operation on his right eye which involved cutting and stitching his eyelid. If he goes blind we'll have to have him put to sleep -he's old and not that adaptable.

M is a bit of a sad case and you're about to understand why I'm just using an initial. He's in his 40's and has a long history of substance and alcohol abuse. It's left him mentally impaired and he mumbles and stutters when he speaks, his thought processes only vaguely coherent. But he's beaten the drugs and the booze and even gave up smoking over a year ago so all credit to him. A pity he didn't do it sooner as he's now waiting for a date for a triple bypass heart operation at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle. A much less serious heart op knocked my buddy Barry for six (see earlier posts) so lord knows what effect it will have on M. He certainly won't be able to look after Charlie and his dog Tess, a small yappy friendly mongrel, for quite a while. I shudder to think what state his flat -already pretty grungy- will get into. It's so bad that Susan and Andrea were thinking of taking Charlie off him until his eye healed properly in case it got infected.

In the afternoon I got a call from a young woman who, as a result of a series of operations, is physically unable to look after her cat so I'm going to pick it up on Saturday and take it to Carol's. Sounds quite rehomeable apart from one thing -it chews electric wires.

Charlie was the last animal to be operated on despite the fact that he was third signed in this morning so it was nearly six o'clock when we finally left the surgery. I had to put the surgical collar on when we got him home as M's co-ordination or lack of it makes even a fumblefingers like me look like I have the dexterity of skilled surgeon. I told M to leave it on until Monday then take it off and if he needs it, I'll come back and put it on again. Back to the PDSA next Wednesday for a checkup. Hopefully all will be well.

Count your blessings, folks, count your blessings.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


So I took the trap up to Lilian's and set it. I had my doubts as to whether it would work or not because just breathing on it would trigger the mechanism. I was also concerned about the cat because it hadn't eaten anything in nearly 24 hours and I had visions of it lying dead under the kitchen unit.

Next morning I rang Lillian. No sign of the cat. I arrived there half an hour later in the van with Ian F and some tools. Ian unscrewed the bottom of the unit and declared that there not only was no cat there, it would have been impossible for the cat to get inside it in the first place. 

Next step, check the living room which meant pulling out the heavy wooden tv unit and every other piece of furniture in the room. No Molly.

That only left the bedroom. I looked under the chest of drawers and I looked under the cupboard and so did Ian F. No Molly. At this point I was wondering if Molly had gotten out and that Lillian had been telling us porkies about having seen her and had deliberately put down food so we wouldn't twig. Whatever. I pulled out a dressing table unit and looked along the skirting board which stuck out from the wall by a couple of inches. There, at the far end, her back against the wall, was Molly. I pulled more furniture out, got hold of her by the scruff of the neck and got her out. When I held her in my arms she didn't struggle. To say I felt like a nightmare was over would almost be an understatement. 

We took her to Carol's where she went into a cage, immediately scuttling to the back as far away from us as possible. Now she's there she'll have a chance to calm down and Carol should be able to bring her out of her shell. One thing I do know, she won't be rehomed until we're sure she's ready and the new home will be carefully checked. I let this cat down once, I won't do it again.

As for Lilian, poor soul, she did nothing wrong and we will get her another cat but it will be the right cat for her and we will, of course, keep a careful eye on them.

Sunday, 7 February 2010


This isn't an easy piece to write, partly because this particular story isn't finished yet, and partly because I think we may have made a big mistake.

Several weeks ago a lady called Lilian got in touch with Animal Krackers about taking on a cat. She sounded a little bit odd so Andrea and Susan did some digging to find out more about her. It turns out she's a special needs case. In less politically correct times she would have been called slow. She lives in a flat in Silksworth, a decent enough if somewhat deprived area of Sunderland, supported by a carer who visits regularly and attends a day care centre at Fulwell (a posh part of Sunderland). I've no idea how old she is -she could be around 60 or much younger (mid-40's). Andrea and Susan talked to people involved in her case and concluded that she wouldn't be able to look after a cat.

If that was the end of the story then I wouldn't be writing this. Lilian wouldn't take no for an answer and regularly phoned the shop about having a cat. Eventually, Susan began to reconsider, though Andrea remained opposed, and this is where my involvement started. I hadn't met the woman and had no opinion either way. As Susan and I have spent our working lives helping people so, as I thought about it, I tended to go along with the idea on a trial basis. Get her a mature calm friendly adaptable cat (bit like our laid-back Ted) and see how it goes.

Then, mid-way through last week, I was told about a couple who wanted their cat rehomed because it had caused their daughter to have eczema and their baby had started coughing. For the last six weeks they'd been keeping the cat outside. I spoke to them on the phone and they described it as very affectionate, seven years old, female and neutered. Sounded pretty good. Susan agreed. Now as I was taking one of Carol's cats to the vets to have its stitches out, I thought I'd get this new cat microchipped at the same time with Animal Krackers as the owner just in case it got out and got lost.

I went and picked it up, literally. Molly was a small mostly black cat who purred and didn't struggle as I held her. she was fine at the vets too, apart from being very reluctant to come out of the cat carrier and hindsight tells me this latter was very significant. Anyway, I had a pile of stuff -food (dried, tinned, sachets), cat litter, and litter box. I'd also written a very basic guide to caring for a cat (see Appendix), though, now, I'm not even sure if Lilian can read. Time to take Molly to her new home.

It wasn't as bad as I'd expected. The front door was at the side of the house and you had to open a high gate to get through; there was a field at the back. Molly herself looked a bit like a sack with human features -yes, I know I'm being uncharitable. Her manner was in keeping with her appearance, calm to the point of docility, quiet, monosyllabic. I talked about what she should do, emphasising that when she left the house, the cat must always be shut in a room before she opened the front door. I put down food, water and cat litter and then I got Molly out of her carrier.

While I held her she was fine and Lilian hestitantly stroked her saying how lovely she was. Then I put Molly down and she shot behind the settee. I got her and showed her the food and litter in the kitchen. Now in the kitchen Lilian had a washing machine that was too big for the slot so it was pulled out. Molly immediately disappeared behind it. I shrugged and told Lilian that she'd come out in a little while and left them to it.

As I arrived home about an hour later, after a detour to do some shopping at Asda, the phone was ringing. Lilian and the cat still hadn't come out. I told her to be patient and give it time. Half an hour later she rang again. And again and again and again. And when she wasn't ringing me she was ringing the shop.

By teatime the cat still hadn't emerged so Susan and I went up to look for it. We checked everywhere, under everything, inside everything, behind everything, on top of everything. No Molly. Susan asked Lilian if she'd gone out at all that afternoon and left an inside door open. She had.

That was it. The cat had got out. Full of self-recrimination and with the car full of the cat stuff I'd brought the day before, we left. I was furious with Lilian and sickened with myself. That couple (a lovely couple as it turned out) had put their trust in me to find their much-loved cat a good home and it had got lost within hours. Susan was mad at herself for relenting in the first place. We can't be social workers and animal rescuers, we told each other. The animals must come first and we ever have doubts about  the suitability of a person to adopt an animal then we shouldn't let it go.

I rang Carol who said she'd ring round to see if she could get a cat trap. She reckoned that if it had got out -she was far from sure that was the case- then it would go to ground somewhere near. A little later, Phil rang me about the van and I told him the story. He had a trap, came and picked me up and we went to Lilian's where he set it up just outside her front door.

Hell of a day.

Around eight next morning Phil rang again to say that he was at Lilian's where he'd gone to check the trap and saw the cat sitting on the windowsill inside the flat, though it disappeared as he approached. I got there an hour later with all the cat stuff I'd removed yesterday and Phil showed me where the cat had been hiding. One place I'd never have guessed. In the space behind the washing machine was a small hole that was just big enough for Molly to get through and hole up underneath the kitchen units -almost impossible to see and impossible to get at. The other place was under a tv unit, a heavy large wooden thing with only a small gap at the front. And yesterday, both Susan I had assumed it was like that at the back. I looked and there was Molly. Yes, I did feel like an idiot.  Poor Lilian had done nothing wrong.

Off home we went and it wasn't long before Lilian was on the phone telling me Molly had disappeared behind the washer again. And we got these phone calls all day. Susan and I decided that the cat was obviously too timid and nervous and would be better off in a cage at Carol's while we got Lilian an older calmer cat. I had two in mind but when I rang Carol this morning was awaiting collection and the other, which had just had an operation needed careful watching. Susan and I went up this teatime but Molly was firmly ensconced under the kitchen units so I decided to borrow Phil's trap and take it up tomorrow evening.

That's the story so far. Expect at least one update.


Food, drink, cat litter.
Half of one large tin twice a day. Or 2 or 3 packets.
A dish of dried food and change it every day.
Always have a bowl of fresh water down and change it at least once a day.  DON’T give her milk.
Change the cat litter every time it’s been used.
Wash all cat dishes every day.
Any problems at all, phone Ian on (number deleted)