Last Days

By: Gwen

The morning of Wednesday, August 16th, was very exciting. It was the day I brought Samantha home from St Francis Veterinary Specialist. I was so happy to see her and I would like to think she was equally happy to see me.

Before riding off into the sunset with Samantha I had to go through a lot of discharge notes with Dr. Barbur. First off, there was Samantha’s feeding. She still wasn’t eating on her own so I got a crash course in tube feeding (make a soupy mix, put it in the giant syringe and squeeze in the tube…very slowly). I’ve administered injections and subcutaneous fluids; I felt confident I could tackle this task. Secondly, she had a laundry list of medications: pain killer, antibiotic, anti-nausea, and appetite stimulant. Fortunately, they were to be given at the same time every 12 hours.

As soon as she arrived at my house, she seemed relieved. She stumbled around as she purred. Every time she was near me she would bump my hand to be petted. For the time being all was well in the world for me and her.

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Yes, despite the look on her face, she is happy to be out of the hospital.

I fed Samantha every 5-6 hours. The vet suggested I give her 40 mL of the soupy mix every feeding, but she would only take 10 mL – 15 mL before becoming nauseous. She wasn’t a fan of the feeding tube. She begrudgingly tolerated it, though.

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Getting fed through the tube.

Thursday rolled around. Samantha was still bright and alert. And still not a fan of her feedings. She was my companion keeping me company on the couch as I worked. Her purrs providing a comforting hum for me and perhaps herself.

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It’s not a pretty sight, but she was so comfortable.

As the day progressed I noticed she was slowly losing the spunk she had the day before and early in the morning. I chalked it up to her being a cat and having the midday lazies. There was point, though, when she walked to the middle of the room and let out a sigh that, in a way, signaled she was knew her time on earth was coming to an end and she was ready to go.

Late Thursday night after her feeding, when the house was quiet, she and I sat on the couch together. She wasn’t bumping my hand with her head. She wasn’t purring. She climbed into her bed –  the black, round one with brightly colored dragonflies and flowers – and faced the back of the couch.

My gut told me something was wrong. I wanted to be optimistic, but Samantha’s situation was one worst case scenario after another. I told myself that I would take it one day at a time with her. I would not jump to conclusions without first knowing the results of the biopsy.

The next day I took Samantha back to St Francis for her post-op follow-up. The vet tech took Samantha to the back area where she received an ultrasound and had her vitals checked.

Soon after Dr. Barbur came in to tell me that the ultrasound showed no signs of a leak (yay!). Then she followed up with the biopsy results. Samantha had adenoquamous carcinoma, a cancer so rare that this was only Dr. Barbur’s second case. (Try googling it; it is so rare that the only thing that comes up is a case study on a cat in Japan). Not only is it rare, but Samantha’s was aggressive.

Worst case scenario.

At this point I sobbed. Not only was I going to lose her, but I questioned all the choices I had made in the past week. Dr. Barbur was reassuring and she made me feel less guilty. I knew I had to make that decision that every pet parent dreads. I had to let her go and end her suffering.

I took Samantha back home with me for the afternoon so I could make arrangements with Myra and Jayne. We planned to meet up at St Francis at 7:00 that evening.

Saying Goodbye

As Myra, Jayne and I waited in the exam room with Samantha we talked about how awful she was when she first arrived at camp. She was mean and hateful! We never imagined she would turn into the lovable cat that we grew to adore. She became Camp Kitty’s greeter. She always welcomed a friendly pet. As we waited, St Francis staff members popped in to tell us that they were smitten by Samantha during the short time she was there and that we were doing the right thing. She exhibited such strength and grace the past week so it was only fair to let her go with dignity.

At around 7:15 pm Samantha left us and crossed over the Rainbow Bridge where maybe she’ll be greeted by her sister, Cuddles. She was surrounded by her humans and love. There were many tears and our hearts ached as she drifted off.

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Soon after her sigh – the moment she let me know she was ready to go.

 

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Worst Case Scenarios

By: Gwen

It all started out pretty routine. Ten days ago Samantha had stopped eating and wasn’t her normal self. She sounded stuffy so we took her to North Dekalb Veterinary Clinic where she was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, given a Convenia shot and prescribed an antihistamine. Ta-da! Within 48 hours she was eating and walking around. She was jumping on our laps and greeting customers.

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Samantha in less stressful days. Photo credit: Michelle Li

But that behavior was short lived. Soon she stopped eating again and had even gone into hiding. Then, she started throwing up. Back to the vet we went.

Thursday, August 10th, started off great. I had the pleasure of delivering foster cat Tigger to his new foster home (like, an actual house!). I didn’t have any big plans for the rest of the day. Just regular work stuff like emails and phone calls.

I received a text from Camp Kitty informing me that Samantha had again thrown up.

I took her to the vet’s office where Dr. Bell took some x-rays of her stomach. What she saw was an obstruction in her stomach possibly a foreign object or a massive hairball. I was leaning toward the latter since Samantha doesn’t have a history of eating random things. Dr Bell, too, thought it could be a giant hairball. Worst case scenario it could be related to abdominal cancer. I’m not a radiologist, but, yeah, what I saw looked like thick, swirly cotton candy so I was going with the mega hairball.

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What we thought had to be removed.

I was urged to take Samantha to St Francis Veterinary Specialists for further evaluation and surgery. By this time it was 1 o’clock. The goal was to get her in as soon as possible, make a little incision on her belly, pull out the obstruction/hairball, and call it a day. It didn’t go anything like that.

Samantha and I were brought into the room with Dr. Rehman where she went over the simple plan of getting this obstruction out. She suggested that she do an ultrasound first to see what they’re dealing with before diving in. Worst case scenario is that a mass is found. I said “good-bye” to Samantha and planned on seeing her in 48 hours or even less.

By 5 o’clock I received a call from Dr Rehman. I thought she was going to tell me they were prepping Samantha for surgery. Nope. She called to tell me that the radiologist looked over Samantha’s x-rays and spotted a mass in her intestine. The ultrasound confirmed it. Worst case scenario. At this point decisions were made, plans were laid out. Words like “lymphoma” and “chemo” were tossed around. My head was swirling. I thought to myself: “This morning I took her to the vet for vomiting and now I find out she has cancer!”

Do we go forward with surgery or do we just get a biopsy? If we do a biopsy then it would take nearly a week for results. During that waiting period would Samantha wither away and starve to death?

The big decision was to go ahead with surgery, scheduled for Friday morning, to remove the mass. Get that out of the way so she can start eating again. Seems simple, right? Just cut out the mass and sew her intestines back together. Woah! Slow down there, optimism!

Oh, one more thing: there’s a 10% – 15% chance her intestines might leak at the suture sight post-surgery and toxins will flow into her body. Once she goes septic there really isn’t anything that can be done.

Dr. Barbur performed Samantha’s surgery. Afterward, she called to let me know that surgery was successful. And, she informed me that the mass was located in an area where it was connected to both the intestines and pancreas. So, 20% of Samantha’s pancreas was removed along with 2-3 cm of her intestines. There was actually some good news in this, the mass was all there was. Here internal organs were not peppered with tumors. All things considered she was doing great.

On Saturday, Jayne and I visited Samantha for an hour. We snuggled her while she purred. She was bright and alert. I think she was happy to see her humans.

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Snuggles with Jayne

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The feeding tube.

Samantha remained at St Francis for a few more days. She wasn’t eating (and still isn’t). A feeding tube was sutured onto the side of her neck so high protein, high calorie, watered-down canned food could be administered and delivered directly to her stomach. Another issue was nausea. She would get nauseous during feedings. This alarmed Dr Barbur. The lack of appetite, nausea, and lethargy are all signs of leakage. Vomiting is too, but Samantha was keeping everything down. An ultrasound was done and there wasn’t any obvious sign of leakage. That doesn’t necessarily mean she’s not leaking. She could be leaking into a small pocket, creating an abscess. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be contained; abscesses always burst. That’s the worst case scenario.

The symptoms she was exhibiting could be signs of one of the following: 1) Leaking at the suture sight. 2) Pancreatitis due to surgery. 3) Lymphoma that has spread microscopically.

By Tuesday, Samantha was a little better, but certainly wasn’t worse. She got the green light to come home. I was told that if she has pancreatitis her appetite will return in probably a week and she’ll get better. If she has sepsis then her lack of appetite would continue and her current condition would worsen. Crossing my fingers that there will be no more worst case scenarios.

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Resting at home. She’s a lot happier than she appears.

The next five days will be very critical and there will be a lot soul searching.

 

 

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Eye of the Nip

Post by: Gwen

For the past three years Nip has had some brown splotches appear in his right eye. When he was taken to the vet in 2016 for his annual exam we forgot to ask the vet about it. She didn’t comment on it so we figured it was okay.

A year later, particularly in the past three months, the discoloration was spreading. So much so that it was nearly impossible to see Nip’s pupil.

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When Nip went in for his annual exam in 2017 we asked our favorite cat vet, Dr Lloyd at North Dekalb Veterinary Clinic, about it. He whipped out the flashlight and shined it into Nip’s eye. He was looking to see if the discolored area was raised. If it was then it was a sign of melanoma. His trusty flashlight couldn’t provide the answers needed so we were referred to a certified veterinary ophthalmologist at Blue Pearl (formerly known as Georgia Veterinary Specialists).

The Day of the Appointment

Nip is very difficult to get into a carrier. He runs, jumps, hisses, sometimes draws blood and always expresses his anal glands. Getting him into a carrier takes strategy and even planning 24 hours ahead of time. It’s best to have him contained in a small space so he’s easier to catch.

The day before his appointment Myra was able to trap him in the Kitty Camper (a 5’x5′ cage) in our lobby when he casually walked in. We thought that was so easy.  That was until Myra returned from the back boarding area to see Nip standing outside of the enclosure. He managed to pull the door open and get out! Myra’s main objective for the rest of the day was to get Nip back into the Kitty Camper.

An hour before closing Myra was able to lure Nip back into the enclosure and lock it and tie the door so it would be impossible to pry open.

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The next day I arrived to collect Nip. I even brought a change of clothes in case his anal glands expressed on me (it’s happened before!). Getting him into the carrier was still a bit of a struggle, but overall pretty easy compared to past experiences. And no anal glands were expressed!

When we arrived at Blue Pearl the waiting room was bustling with lots of dogs. Nip was quiet and surprisingly calm.

A nice vet tech named Jason escorted us back to the exam room. He looked Nip over, put some numbing drops in his eyes and then poked them with a pupil gauge. Nip didn’t complain or struggle to get away. Who was this cat?

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While alone waiting for Dr. Stacy Andrew to come Nip explored the exam room. He was curious not scared. Eventually he found a nice comfortable spot to lay down.

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His rest didn’t last long. Dr. Andrew entered and it was time for an in depth exam. He was pulled from the cool floor onto the exam table. Vet tech Jason held him as the vet used a fancy, intricate flashlight to look into Nip’s eye. He was still the whole time and purring! He was being uncharacteristically cooperative. A few minutes and a few photos later the exam was done.

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Nip was a rock star!

The exam found that Nip has a condition called iris melanosis, a benign condition where the pigment producing cells in the iris go a little bit crazy and make extra pigment. Sometimes this condition will continue until the iris is completely darkened. There is a slight chance it could turn into melanoma, but that is very rare.

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Typical Nip judging vet tech Jason as he summarized our visit.

He will have to be monitored for the rest of his life, though. Annual or biennial visits to the ophthalmologist are in his future.

Dr Stacy Andrew and vet tech Jason were absolutely wonderful. They were both thorough and friendly. And obviously Nip loved them!

By the time we got back to Camp Kitty Nip was back to normal. He hissed at me before I left.

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Nip’s Crunchy Dilemma

All of our foster boys have gone to the vet this month for their annual check-ups and shots. This year, sadly, Nip got some bad news. Nip had been doing some inappropriate urination which we had originally attributed to behavior issues (a certain orange boy here at camp tends to pick on poor Nip). However, we had recently seen a significant increase in the bathroom issues. His new vet, Dr. Lloyd at North Dekalb Veterinary Clinic (who we love!!), did a urinalysis. There were no signs of a bladder infection, but Dr. Lloyd indicated that he has struvite crystals. These are build-ups of magnesium, ammonia, and/or phosphates that can eventually cause bladder stones which can cause life-threatening urinary blockages. They are often due to things like poor diet, inflammation, low water intake, and high pH. Because of the potential dangers or these developing into stones, when a cat (or dog) is diagnosed, it is crucial to do everything to get them under control. Fortunately, as long as there is no blockage, a change in diet is often all that is needed to reverse the condition.

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Nip arriving at the vet.

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The tuxedo twins waiting for the urinalysis results.

While there are specialized prescription foods that address the pH cause, often just switching from a dry kibble to a wet food is sufficient to control struvite crystals. Dr. Lloyd’s recommendation for us here at camp was to try wet food only (with some added water) before we resort to prescription dry food. This sounds easy enough, right?

Here is the issue. Nip is a crunchy junkie. He doesn’t really care what kind of food it is, as long as it is a crunchy kibble. He does not really care for canned food and is very particular about which ones he will eat. And even with those, two of three bites is enough for him before he moves back to his crunchies. Honestly, Nip is one of the only reasons we even still have dry food for the fosters here at camp. We had to switch Schroeder to wet food only last year when he was diagnosed with struvite cystals.

For three weeks Nip has had only wet food. It isn’t going well. We’re getting lots of begging and big, giant, cute-eyed stares. And then we get the glaring. And judgment. Trust us, Nip is a pro at judging.

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Nip’s Diary. Day 1, breakfast: Boy, the two-legged is really off her game today. She forgot to give me my crunchies. I’ll head bump her to remind her.

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Nip’s Diary. Day 1, Lunch: Still no crunchies. Maybe they’re out. That must be it. I’ll just sit on top of this cat tree and stare at her. I’m sure that will do the trick.

 

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Nip’s Diary. Day 2, Breakfast: The mean two-legged says there are no crunchies. But I followed her around the building for an hour this morning and saw her give out crunchies to 20-something cats. Even my mini-me got crunchies. I’m calling my lawyer.

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Nip and his mini-me, Max (“I got crunchies!”)

We have resorted to bringing in a variety of canned foods with different proteins (including kangaroo) and formulas. Since Nip refuses to make this easy on us we’ve started our own diary: Does Nip Like It?

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We have some winners and some huge losers.

Given the fact that our foster boys are quite skilled at breaking into the boarders’ food bins, we here at camp can tell that this is going to be a long, painful transition. Wish us luck!

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Hmph!

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Max and the Bilateral FHO

Max finally had his bilateral femoral head ostectomy (FHO).

For a month leading up to Max’s surgery we discussed with Dr Lloyd at North Dekalb Veterinary Clinic if surgery during Max’s kittenhood would be the right thing to do. Max wasn’t showing any signs of pain (he’s also a cat and they tend to hide their pain very well). Should we wait until he starts limping? We also had to factor in the adoption aspect. Do we tell his adopter that in the next two years he’s going to need major hip surgery  that will cost approximately $3,000.00?

We decided that we at least needed a consultation with a veterinary orthopedic surgeon.

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Just taking a break from running.

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On his perch.

In the meantime, Max was running around, climbing cat trees, scaling cages and getting pounced on by Schroeder. He seemed fine, which still had us debating whether or not surgery in the next month was premature or even necessary?

On March 1st Max went in for a consultation with Dr. Corse at Northlake Veterinary Surgery. Max charmed the vet with his immense cuteness and his irresistible personality. He sat like a mermaid, climbed on chairs and stared at the birds out the window. Dr. Corse reviewed his x-rays and examined him by pulling his legs to see where the pain started. Afterward, he stated that surgery was the best route to take.

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Waiting patiently for the vet.

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What’s out there?

He said that Max would have a bilateral Femoral Head Ostectomy, which means the ball at the top of the femur, which fits nicely into the hip socket, would be removed. Does that mean Max would have a free-floating femur? Yes and no. The femur won’t be attached to anything, but it will be secured in place by muscle and tendons. The other great thing about the procedure is that Max will never have arthritis in his hips.

What about recovery? If surgery is performed on both hips at the same time will Max be able to walk? The beauty of the surgery is that walking and jumping are all the physical therapy that’s needed to aid in recovery. The first 24 hours post-surgery are the worst. Also, the current pain caused by bone rubbing on bone would be gone. Walking, running, jumping and general cat activities won’t hurt anymore. Working to Max’s advantage is that fact that he is small.

So surgery it is!

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Crossing our paws for no more mermaid sitting at meal time.

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Checking out the waiting room before surgery (or trying to escape).

Max had his FHO on Tuesday, March 14th. Much to Dr. Corse’s surprise Max not only had broken femurs his tibias had healed on their own after being broken once upon a time. We were told that bone fragments were pulled out of his legs. The vet suspects that when Max was a very young kitten he was probably dropped, which explains the symmetrical injuries.

The first 24 hours were tough. When Max was dropped off for surgery we were told that we could possibly pick him up was early as Wednesday if he was feeling fine. But, he wasn’t. The vet tech explained that he exhibited pain while shifting his weight. And he showed zero interest  in eating. They recommended he stay another 24-48 hours in order for them to manage pain.

Thursday morning we were informed that Max was feeling great! He was eating and moving without any problems or signs of discomfort. They were confident that the little man was ready to go home!

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“I hope no one paid for this bad grooming job.”

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The goal for the next two weeks is to keep him moving. Walking and small jumps will help him heal faster. Unfortunately for him, no climbing and no wrestling. To add insult to injury Max will have to wear an Elizabethan collar (commonly referred to as the Cone of Shame) when not being supervised. His stitches must stay clean and dry.

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While we were occupied with other cats Max decided to scale this 5′ tall cage to get to his favorite spot.

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Happy to be home and stealing Nip’s sleeping spot.

We’re looking forward to Max making a full recovery. He has never been a rambunctious kitty, which made us wonder if his physical condition contributed to that. Please send Max some positive kitty vibes. Though, we believe the worst is behind him.

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We think it’s all chillin’ from here Max!

We are still accepting donations even though the surgery is complete (we still have to pay that credit card bill!). If you would like to donate please check out Max’s Go Fund Me page. Thank you to everyone who has already donated. And a huge thank you to Atlanta Animal Rescue Friends for accepting Max into their program.

Camp Kitty is also holding a fundraiser for Max. We’re raffling off a Happy Camper Kit. It includes a $75 Camp Kitty gift card, a fleece mat, Tiki Cat variety pack, Orijen treats, From the Field catnip toy and a stylish tote. It’s valued at $125. Raffle tickets are only $5 or 3 for $12. C’mon down and enter! Drawing takes place April 15th.

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$5 could get you a whole bunch of fun stuff!

If you have donated money and entered the raffle because you love Max so much, but feel you need more Max in your life then apply to adopt him!

 

 

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Sassy Samantha

Have you ever thought things were a bit boring 
around your house? Would you feel better having 
someone greet you every morning? Do you want a 
friend who isn't boring and knows how to show 
some sass? Samantha is your girl! 
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Samantha has been living with us since early July 
2016.  It hasn't been very easy for her, but she has 
been a true warrior through such a tough time. She 
started out as a boarder and has become one of our 
adoptable fosters.  Due to difficult circumstances 
Samantha and her sister, Cuddles, could not be 
reunited with their human. In turn, they were both 
signed over to Camp Kitty towards the end of August. 
Only a week or two after they were signed over Cuddles 
started exhibiting some unusual symptoms coupled with 
vomiting. We hurried her to the vet only to discover 
she had a large sarcoma in her chest that pressed into 
her airway. After consulting with the vet at St 
Francis we realized there wasn't anything we could do 
except make her comfortable. Cuddles stayed with us 
for about another week or so, and at that time we had 
to make a difficult decision. Her quality of life was 
diminishing and things were getting difficult for her. 
The choice was made and two of us were there to see 
Cuddles off as she crossed the Rainbow Bridge. This 
was a hard time for everyone, but Samantha remained 
resilient. 
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Since then she has been living at Camp Kitty and 
wondering if she will ever find a buddy who really 
gets her like Cuddles did. She is a complex lady who 
loves people, but so far hasn't found a cat buddy here 
who is up to her standards. This has resulted in her 
living up front and becoming a bit of an unofficial 
greeter to all our customers. She seems to love being 
up front at our new location because she lived in the 
back and did not get all the customer attention at the 
old location. Speaking of the big move, Samantha was 
easily one of the most relaxed cats! While our move 
was only about half a mile it really threw the rest of 
the fosters for a loop--not Samantha. She didn't fuss 
when we put her in the carrier, then the car, and then 
put her in a bustling new building with people coming 
in and out all day. Samantha was cool as a cucumber 
and ready to nap and relax in her new cabin. 
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It has been mostly smooth sailing since we moved, but 
there were a few days that we were concerned about 
Samantha. She is a very good eater and it is unusual 
for her to leave much food in the bowl, but for a bit 
there her bowl stayed full. We were worried about her 
lack of eating and occasional vomiting so she made a 
visit to the vet. There didn't seem to be anything 
technically wrong with Samantha and it was determined 
that anxiety was the cause of this bout. We can't say 
that we blame her, this happened just after the 
holidays when we had been so busy and she got moved
around a bit. She is back to her normal self now and 
is happily eating crunchies again!
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She will chirp greetings to you if you walk near her 
cabin and at that point it is nearly impossible to not 
stop for a love fest. Samantha will stretch out of her 
bed to greet you and accept as much love as you are 
willing to give. She loves to be pet, will tolerate 
being held briefly, and will occasionally sit in your 
lap for a short period as well. She will happily run 
across the room if you toss a treat or a toy for her. 
Samantha is also a great sampler of wet food, but she 
never eats the whole can. To be fair she seems to have 
trimmed down a little bit since her arrival and 
probably wants to keep up her good progress. 
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As you can see Samantha is a remarkable lady! At 
approximately nine years old her life got turned around 
and she didn't let it get her down one bit. She is 
nothing like people would imagine a "senior" cat to be 
and she really deserves to spend her years with someone 
who loves her unconditionally. Until then, she will be 
at Camp Kitty lapping up all the love she can.
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We’re back(fur real)!

 

	
	Don't call it a comeback...wait, that's exactly
what this is. We are back to the blog! Forgive us for the 
long absence, but since our last update we have kept 
ourselves pretty busy. We have packed up and moved 
locations, found furever homes for Vegas, Gizmo, and 
Toffee, scooped a LOT of poop, and have gotten two new 
fosters! Today we would like to tell you about our newest 
and littlest foster.

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	Our sweet new foster was brought to us out of the 
blue by someone who didn't know what to do with the tiny 
kitten. While we don't normally take cats off the street, 
we knew that this kitten would have a better future if we 
did. We took her in and named her Cindy Lou since we were 
nearing Christmas. Cindy Lou started out as a hissy and 
shy kitten who was not happy about much, except food. 
Eventually she started to come around and really turned a 
corner when she stayed with Myra over Christmas. Not long 
after Christmas it was time to get Cindy Lou's shots, and 
we received quite the shock about our little Cindy Lou. 
Cindy Lou is more of a Max than a Cindy Lou. Our little 
lady turned out to be a little fella! 

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	One day Myra pointed out that Max sits in quite an 
unusual position. He throws his legs to the side almost 
like a miniature fluffy mermaid. He has proved his running, 
jumping, and climbing skills, but we could not help but 
notice that this wasn't a cute one off. He always sat this 
way! When he went to be neutered he also got an x-ray to 
check it out. As it turns out his femurs aren't connected 
to his hips! One seems to be healing fairly well on its own, 
but the other will require a surgery a little later on. 
This did not put a damper on Max's mood and he would be 
happy to let you know that he feels great!

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	Over the past few weeks he has really started 
coming into his own! He loves toys, wet food, and even 
some of the other cats! He has chosen quite the role 
model for himself: our very own Schroeder. He obviously 
looks up to him, which means we are in TROUBLE. Can you 
imagine two Schroeders? We certainly can't. We love that 
Schroeder has dropped the Alpha act around Max and taken 
him under his wing. It has definitely made Max a less shy 
kitten.

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	We think Max is well on his way to becoming 
someone's perfect forever friend. He will soon be up for 
adoption through AARf, and we just know there is the right 
person out there to love him. 

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        Do you think it might be you?

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