Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Kitten season is winding down but we do still have some stragglers in the shelter. On Monday, I picked up another litter of 3 short-haired kittens to foster: two girls, Marion (tortie) and Pickford (brown tabby) and one slightly larger boy, Chaplin (brown tabby with white belly and paws). These guys are older (and bigger) than any of the others we've fostered, probably about 4-5 months old. While they were waiting for spay and neuter surgery, they broke with upper respiratory infections. They are residing in our bathroom (which is the warmest room in the house and the easiest to clean and disinfect.) Although they aren't really more ill than any of the other URI kittens we've fostered, they seem more miserable. Their larger body weights will help as we work through the too stuffy and miserable to eat stage. We've stocked up with stinky fish canned cat food, generic pedialyte, their prescribed doxycycline, syringes and lysine. I've had to force-feed all three of them since their food has been untouched since they got here. They are drinking a bit on their own but one was showing signs of dehydration so I've been forcing pedialyte with a syringe, too. They are so messy (drooling, coughing and sneezing) that I'm keeping a set of clothes in the bathroom just for working with them. I've also had to wash my face and rinse my hair a couple times. I'm suspecting that Corey, who recommended I take them, knew they were a pain to medicate and was happy to have them out of the shelter for a while. All three are big sweeties and climb into my lap whenever I sit down to work with one of them. The tortie will climb up my leg and back to get to my shoulder when I'm standing if I let her. I had no idea a kitten that size could perch so gracefully. With my legs spread out in front of me and one kitten part way up my chest, we have enough room for everyone on my lap. They lay there snuggled, gurgling and comfortable. The fact that they want to sit on my lap reassures me that I'm not just "that lady who shoves stuff down our throats" to the kittens.

The sneezing is decreasing which means they can rest better, so I'm hoping we're in the middle of the worst of it. We'll tuck them in and then head to my uncle's house for Christmas Eve. Tomorrow morning I'm helping clean cages at the shelter starting at 8 a.m. and then we're headed to my parent's house for Christmas. We'll have to squeeze some feedings in for the kittens, too.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Children's Defense Fund just released its annual report the State of America's Children 2008.

From their website:

CDF's State of America's Children 2008 report, a compilation of the most recent and reliable national and state-by-state data on poverty, health, child welfare, youth at risk, early childhood development, education, nutrition and housing. The report provides a a statistical compendium of key child data showing epidemic numbers of children at risk: the number of poor children has increased nearly 500,000 to 13.3 million, with 5.8 million of them living in extreme poverty, and nearly 9 million children lack health coverage―with both numbers likely to increase during the recession. The number of children and teens killed by firearms also increased after years of decline.

According to the CDF report, children in America lag behind almost all industrialized nations on key child indicators. The United States has the unwanted distinction of being the worst among industrialized nations in relative child poverty, in the gap between rich and poor, in teen birth rates, and in child gun violence, and first in the number of incarcerated persons.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ah, these kittens are going to tbe the death of me. You might not want to read the third paragraph, if sad kitten stories will ruin your day.

Sidney, our last foster, was adopted on Friday within five minutes of her making it to the adoption floor. She had surgery on Thursday and we didn't have space on the floor for her. I had just cleaned a recently vacanted cage and was carrying her out to the floor, when a couple who was leaving saw her and asked if she was available. Poof--she was gone to a new home. That was the good news.

Bad news was that little Britches who was sitting in the back at the shelter the past few days waiting for surgery had gotten sick. She wasn't doing great, so I decided to foster her. (Poor Alan. I keep getting him into these situations.) This time I was more prepared. We gave her fluids before bringing her home. In addition to her doxycycline, I had Karo syrup and experience with forcefeeding. When I got her home, she was already so weak, she could only walk a few inch before having to lay down. I fed her watered down food with an eye dropper--she was able to swallow just fine--and put her down in her cosy bed with her shelter bedding, a towel underneath for extra padding and the stuffed teddy that had been with her all week. She kept creeping out and I'd find her on the linoleum against the cold tub throughout the evening. She continued to deteriorate, so I brought out the Karo syrup to rub a little on her gums. Low blood sugar can kill kittens quickly and the syrup sometimes brings them back. A near death kitten can be up and playing shortly after Karo syrup and time with a heating pad. She perked up a little bit but there wasn't anything more I could do for her but let her rest. She didn't make it through the night.

I'm including another happy ending to balance the last story out. I got a couple calls from a family that had adopted a kitten from us who was lethargic and sick with diarrhea. Their vet was concerned about FIP, which is certainly a scary thing to face since it's fatal, although it is rare. FIP can hit cats at any point in their lives but often appears in kittens. It comes from being exposed to a mutated form of a common feline Corona virus. Only a small percentage of cats exposed to the mutated form develop FIP. The most common symptom which is used to diagnose the FIP is a fluid filled stomach and often the diagnoses isn't confirmed until after the cat dies. (A full stomch in kittens usually means worms or another parasite, so you shouldn't ever panic about FIP until it's checked out by a vet.) Adults can carry the virus and never develop FIP and it can also be brought on in later life by stress. The very hard part of FIP is that there really isn't a definitive test for it and the vaccination for it is still relatively untested. The family made the tough decision to return the kitten to us and we immediately put her in an isolated cage until one of our vets could examine her. At this point, she has regained her energy and playfulness and doesn't appear to have FIP after all. If she'd had Feline Distemper, the other very scary kitten disease, she wouldn't be getting better and would be dead already. I'm hoping she'll okayed to go back to the adoption floor this week and maybe go back to her original adopters.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Some of you may have heard about George who found his way home 13 years after disappearing when someone traced his microchip. (Everyone who has a dog, cat, rabbit or ferret should have them microchipped even if they are house only pets. I can't tell you how happy we are at the shelter when we have a stray come in who is microchipped. You need to keep the contact information updated, too--many are dead ends.) He wasn't home for long before he was diagnosed with cancer but his last days were with his original family and very happy.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Happy Tail

Large, strong breed dogs like pits, labs and hounds sometimes get "happy tail" while staying at the shelter. They wag their tails so hard against the walls of the kennel, the tips develop sores which can quickly develop into larger problems. In the past when adoption rates were slow, "happy tail" could lead to amputation but with our higher adoption rates, we haven't had to do that in a long time. The hardest part of treating happy tail is keeping the bandage on so we often use e-collars.

Earlier this fall, we had our first live dog birth since I've been working at the shelter--a really big litter--and we are remembering how much more work a litter of pups can be than kittens. They've been in two different foster homes but had to come back because the last family couldn't keep the mom in the pen with the pups. There's about a week left until they can be separated--they're eating on their own but not completely weaned. This last little bit of time is important to their socialization than their health. She is really sore and deserves a little time to herself. Yesterday, I took our momma dog out for a walk to give her a break from the puppies and it wasn't until it was too late that I realized she had happy tail. I will have a set of scrubs at work from now on to give me an option for changing clothes. The vet was worried about her and her pups pulling the bandage off and I was worried that a regular e-collar would be hard on the puppies. Gambit left my legs bruised and sore when he had his stint with an e-collar. After we got it bandaged, we were able to use a cervical collar that had come on another happy tail dog from one of our other shelters. It wrapped around her neck like a neck brace with straps that wrapped around her body and front legs. So, part of the problem was taken care of and now we'll have to see if the pups leave it alone.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Oh, the Mall of America... What more can I say?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Both Noni and Lodi were adopted within a few days of going to the adoption floor. I was there for Lodi's adoption and it was nice to tell her adoptive mom everything that she had been through. We have little black Sidney still and she has a ways to go. She climbed onto the bed to visit me for the first time today which was a very big step. If we caught her on the bed, sometimes she'd stay and sometimes she wouldn't. Most of the night she stays in a corner of the closet. We're hoping she'll move to the bed soon. She has a tendency to slip away and hide whenever she's given access to the rest of the house and, because the door to the basement was accidentally opened, she is now hiding somewhere down there. Food always brings her back, though!

Working in an animal shelter there's always a small risk that I'll bring something home on my clothes or shoes from work that will spread to the pets. I've come home covered in poop, blood, and vomit. I've been accidentally exposed to scabies while bathing puppies (which made me itchy--at least in my mind--the risk to me was pretty small) and a few other parasites. I try really hard to change right away when I get home and minimuze exposure. Saturday might have been the worst so far. I was sneezed, drooled and coughed on by at least eight different dogs with a very liquid form of kennel cough. It was in my hair, on my jeans, and all over my arms and body. I went through six different lab coats that day trying to stay ahead of the germs. When I got home, I had Alan meet me at the door with a robe and scrambled down to the laundry to de-germ while he held the dog back. After a long, hot shower, I felt much less like a walking commercial for Musinex and could actually greet the dog. A good glass of draft cider and good company makes even the respiratory infection gremlins disappear.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The blog lately has been mostly about kittens and this post is not going to stop the trend. (Things are pretty good right now; we've been working on the house and through episodes of The Wire on Netflix, I've been working on a story revision, and we have new gutters to go with the new roof, just in time for snow. On a sad/happy note, we are not going to be at Wiscon next year because Alan's sister is getting married that weekend in California.)

Foster Kitten Update: Lodi and Noni went back to the shelter on Monday for an exam before surgery, then came home again for one last night because we were out of space in the kitten room. Both had surgery on Tuesday and spent the rest of the day curled up together in the litterbox in their cage. The next day, Noni was back to her old self and Lodi was still a little scared. Noni was adopted that day by someone who had lost a cat recently that looked exactly like her. We see adoptions like that quite frequently and also people are looking for an animal just like their old pet personality-wise. While I've loved all my past pets, most of mine have come to me through serendipitous accidents, so, the idea of trying to find one just like an old one is a little foreign to me. Obviously, replacing a pet with a duplicate is not going to happen (at least until cloning is more common) since everyone is going to be a little different, but it's nice to see people so attached they want to try. Anyway, Lodi was still at the shelter this afternoon when I left but was doing much better and soliciting attention, so I'm hoping she'll be adopted tonight or tomorrow. I found out that she has the same talent I'd noticed before in Noni--they can both stand on their hind legs for quite a long time with any other support. Noni always did it in front of the TV stand where she studied her reflection, thinking it was another cat. They are both such beautiful cats and have totally won me over to the idea of long-haired kitties.

I brought Sidney home because her littermate was handlable right away and had already been adopted. Sidney came around in time for an exam but completely freaked out when they tried to take her to surgery, so I brought her home for some socialization. She's black and little and round both in her face and body. She hisses everytime you pick her up but then settles in to purr and snuggle. I was hoping to work with her just a week or so before bringing her back for surgeyr but that will depend on how quickly I can catch her in the basement. We still have about 1/4 of the basement filled with my grandma's stuff, so there are plenty of places to hide.