Tuesday, 21 December 2010


For some reason we seem to have a load of kittens to re-home at the moment. Just this morning, before I left to take a load of cat food to Carol, a kitten was handed over to me. She's about 10 weeks old, very friendly and the spit of our Little Bob. When I did get to Carol's we realised the poor things was infested with ear mites and I took it to the vets straight away. Here she is.
Then there was the pregnant female, wavy black and chocolate brown fur, who gave birth to four kittens the night she arrived -2 coloured like her and two creamy grey.
And here are the rest.
The above ginger, tabby, and black and white are all from the same litter.

And lastly, Little Bob and Ted in our back garden.

Thursday, 16 December 2010


Just received a call from Nicola the senior nurse who runs the programme to say that my results had arrived.

They are clear. The polyps, which it was useful to have removed, were not of the type to develop into cancerous growths.  I will be sent the faecal test kit in another two years (just because it's clear this time...) but apart from that I'm discharged. She did tell me to keep an eye on my bowels (a little difficult but I know what she means) and either call the department or mention it to my GP if I have any concerns.

I can now breathe a sigh of relief.


I told Nicola that Susan and I worked directly with the public all our lives and she and her team displayed a very high standard of customer care and we both appreciated it.

So that's over. Normal service will now be resumed.

Expect a post about kittens very shortly. I'm picking up a 14-week old one this evening and hope to see the 1-week old kittens (four of them not three as mentioned previously) and their mother when I drop it off.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


A slightly shorter version, written yesterday and with fewer cat references, appeared in my Freethinking blog.
NB, this post contains references to various bodily fluids. 

I haven't posted anything in 11 days because I haven't been doing anything. I came down with an absolutely stinking cold which went onto my chest making me spend some time honking up- well, you can imagine. The last time I saw Carol was last Wednesday when I took her a pile of cat food. Thankfully it's been fairly quiet on the cat-needs-to-go-to-the-vets and the can-you-take-my-cat fronts. Carol did have to take one old boy  to the vets. She'd recently received him and he'd been on the streets for a while. Sadly he was in very bad shape and had to be put to sleep. She also took in a cat who promptly had 3 kittens which I haven't seen yet. Expect photos in due course. 

However, more importantly, something came up which could have (and still may) completely affect my cat rescuing (and everything else I do).

So, two posts and 10/11 days ago I found out that my faecal smear test had come back as Abnormal. I should explain that these tests are sent out free to all UK citizens between 60-70 to test for bowel cancer in order to catch it early, courtesy of that bane of mad Americans to wit socialised medicine or, as it's known in the UK, the National Health Service. (Just to knock American stupidity for a moment: a few years ago some researchers asked a number of Americans what they thought of a few certain selected statements. More than a few responses were of the left/commie crap variety. The statements were taken from their own Constitution which they supposedly revere above everything except God and Jeezus).

In the letter informing me of the result was also the date of a consultation with a screening practitioner. How long did I have to wait before this happened? Um, four whole days. I went with Susan, was seen on time, and had everything explained very clearly to me by the young lady who also checked my relevant medical history equally thoroughly before giving me a choice of appointments at 3 different hospitals. I picked the first one at Sunderland Royal, my local, which took place today, a whole week later.

I'd like to say that I've been phlegmatic about the whole thing and I certainly attempted to put that kind of air but truthfully it was more show than substance. There was a very real chance -10%- that I had bowel cancer which if not caught early enough could kill me in a few short years. I had, given family history, been assuming I had at least another 18 active years ahead of me. Now I had to confront the possibility that it could be considerably less and I didn't like it. 

It's certainly made me reconsider the way I go about certain things. On a trivial level, I have over 30 books I haven't read that I want to read but haven't because I keep buying more. That is going to stop right now. Today I began a biography of Howlin' Wolf which I'd picked as part of my leaving present from work over two years ago. There's music I haven't listened to because I keep buying more. And there's more personal stuff I'm keeping to myself.

Monday, yesterday, and my last meal before the colonoscopy was at noon. I had cheese on toast with Marmite followed by a cake. Two hours later I swallowed 6 sennacot tablets with water. At 5.00pm I made up the first sachet of laxative by filling a litre jug and mixing it all in. It took me just over an hour to drink it all. Twenty minutes before the next jug full at 7.00pm I had to dash to the toilet. Repeat until I went to bed at 11.00pm.

Then hurridly get up ten minutes later.

As I was due to start on the third sachet at seven the next morning, I got up early to feed Emmy the stray cat who's been living in a cage in my garage for nearly three weeks and change her cat litter. Emmy is a lovely friendly cat, happy to be picked up and would shove her head under my chin. At lunchtime she was taken away to StrayAid where she'll stand a better chance of being re-homed as well as having much more space to move around in.

I didn't bother getting dressed as I couldn't really go more than a few feet from the toilet and even then had a couple of minor mishaps. I thought occasionally about eating food and drinking red wine. A compulsive reader, while sitting on the throne and starting the previous evening I read bits of an illustrated history of slasher movies. When the time came to go to the hospital I'd pretty much read most of it.

The laxative did its job and my gut was well and truly flushed out and what I was passing looked like clear yellow urine. Surprisingly I didn't really feel hungry despite all I'd had in over 24 hours was the laxative and a few mugs of black coffee.

We got there early and managed to get a parking space after only five minutes. After signing in I pulled out a book to read -it being 15 minutes before my appointment and I was expecting to go in late- when my name was called. The registration process followed, then I was taken to a bed with a locker next to it, the curtains were drawn and I was told to strip, put my clothes in the locker and put on the hospital gown. That done I was handed over to the colonoscopy team.

I opted for a sedative, primarily because it would help relax my bowels as well as me, which went in my arm. I was told it would probably leave me with gaps in my memory of the procedure and the post-op chat with the nurse practitioner. And it must have done because, while the colonoscopy itself took over twenty minutes and I was watching it on the screen, my memory says it only feels like five. I didn't find it particularly uncomfortable either.

Once done, I was wheeled back to the cubicle to rest for half an hour and  basically told to fart as much as I could to get rid of the air which had been pumped into my colon to inflate it. I  did my best before I fell asleep, no doubt  an effect of the sedative. After that, got dressed, had a cup of coffee (terrible) and a cheese sandwich (not much better), by which time I was feeling fine and went for the post-op interview with Susan, who had been waiting patiently for nearly two hours, in attendance.

Three polyps had been found and removed for biopsies. The doctor who performed the procedure believed them to be harmless and that I should be fine but that won't be confirmed until the biopsy results are in on Friday. I feel quite reassured but the jury's verdict isn't in yet.

On the way home I decided I had a mad hunger for fish and chips so we duly stopped off so I could get some. Back home, after feeding myself and the cats, I lay down on the bed and flaked out for two hours. The sedative won't be flushed out of my system until tomorrow so I've got to take care, not drive, and avoid alcohol for another night as it reacts badly with it. Bugger.

As for that vile monstrosity of socialised medicine, all I can say is that I was treated like an intelligent individual, shown courtesy and consideration, given meticulous and prompt treatment, and it didn't cost me a penny. Shame about the lousy coffee but every complaint should be so ludicrously trivial. 

Thank you NHS.
And now back to the cat rescuing.

Saturday, 4 December 2010


This post also appears in my Freethinking blog.

I don't generally get involved in dog rescue but an extra hand was needed as the rescue involved picking up, walking, and transporting four dogs. Phil was driving, Andrea would be in the back with the dogs, and I'd help with them outside of the van.

Basically the dogs were very neglected and one of the two owners was threatened with the loss of his job because he smelled. When we arrived at the house, the reason he smelled wasn't because of the dogs though, admittedly, if you don't clean up dog shit inside a house it might be a contributing factor. Basically the house was filthy and squalid and on a par with the worst I've ever seen. It was just disgusting. Three of the dogs had hair loss on their backs, probably due to a flea allergy. But the fourth, the oldest and mother of the others and had been used for breeding, had a mass of pustles covering half its back. Yet the dogs were friendly and mother the sweetest of the them all.

We took them for a walk in the snow prior to getting them in the van so they could empty themselves.
As I said, they were friendly, they also barked a lot and in the confines of a small van that was a lot of loud barking. Anyway, down the A19, right onto the A690, turn left onto the A1M, take the first exit and turn right or this in this case left for a case of 6 and one 3, and here we are at Stray Aid rescue deep in the frozen Durham countryside.

Stray Aid, which primarily does dogs plus a few cats, are a well-resourced organisation run by a vet and her partner. Phil was arguing to place the case with the RSPCA which Stray Aid were supporting. But that meant heading back up the A1M to take the dogs to the RSPCA place at Felledge near Chester le Street. Personally I felt they should be left with Stray Aid. But no, up the A1M we went. But first a little gambol in the deep snow.
The sheep were already there. We haven't started rescuing them.
Although Stray Aid is only 50 yards from the A1M, it's two miles to drive to the nearest slip road.

Before we set out I did suggest phoning the RSPCA but was told that they never makes decisions over the phone. So off we went up to the Chester le Street turnoff. Just as well it wasn't further as the dual carriageway there was reduced to a single lane. We doubled back heading south again along an urban dual carriageway and saw the traffic on the other side of the road stuck in a tailback at least two miles long.

So we got to Felledge and Phil went inside and learned that not only did they not have anyone on the premises to make a decision, they couldn't contact anyone to make a decision.

So: back to Stray Aid or take the dogs back toe their owners. I suggested it would be highly unlikely that they'd take them back and a phone call proved this to be the case. They may have poor standards of hygiene but they weren't completely stupid. I wasn't convinced there was any point in prosecuting them as the dogs had been neglected rather the object of deliberate cruelty. So: back to Stray Aid via Durham and the A1M turnoff we'd last gone down two hours earlier. Here's Felledge.

Our van.
And the dogs were left at Stray Aid. They felt sure that two were easily re-homeable after some flea treatment, a third would need some behavioural work, the mother would be put to sleep to end her suffering.

Despite all the pretty pictures I've taken it was a long and dispiriting five hours

Monday, 29 November 2010


A shorter, less cat-oriented version appears in my Freethinking blog.

The weather has been absolutely horrendous since last Thursday as wave after wave of snow has fallen across the area to pile up enough to make life here distinctly difficult and it's getting worse. I couldn't guess how much snow has fallen since it started but there's at least 6 inches on top of my flat garage roof and this is snow which, part from the top layers, is compressed with at least an inch or two of ice on the bottom.

Today has been the worst so far. This morning I decided to go swimming as common sense had overruled me on Friday. I couldn't take the van as the driver side windscreen wiper was currently lying useless across the dashboard, so I took Susan's car. Now the street is a narrow cul-de-sac and we live halfway up. None of this would have made any difference if the car had been pointed downwards but I had to drive to the top and do a three point turn to get it pointing the right way.

It should have been easy. Instead I got stuck. I tried shoving thick paper under a rear wheel to get extra traction. Didn't work. Probably because the car has front wheel drive, unlike the van which doesn't. Thankfully a couple of neighbours came out and gave me advice and a push. Driving to the Raich Carter Leisure Centre was slow so when I came out, rather than go back the way I came, I headed into town so I knew I'd been driving along passable roads. I had been intending to go to Sainsbury's to pick up donated food and to the post office to post a couple of parcels -one book and a DVD box set I'd sold on Amazon Marketplace. I didn't bother.

When I got back I grovelled to Susan and declared us snowbound. Actually I did walk to the post office later but there's no way I was going to do any driving. On the way there I met Phil, one of our charity's dog rescuers, who'd taken the van believing it might be better in the snow than his car. He'd got stuck and needed a push. No, it wasn't any better than the car.

Some of the cats have been themselves though. Little Bob the black kitten would probably stay out nearly all day if I let him.

At Leechmere trading estate about half a mile away is a chicken processing plant and a stray cat has claimed the place as his territory. One of the workers there got in touch with me a month or so ago as he was worried what might happen to the cat when the weather got bad. I did go round, got within nose-sniffing distance of the cat before it ran off, tried another time with even less success and kept meaning to get round to it again after that. He rang me again last Thursday just before the snow started and this time I got my finger out and rang Jean whom I knew had a cat trap. She was happy to go to the plant straight away so I arranged to meet here there. By the time I arrived the snow was falling thick and fast and it was really horrendous. I waited in the security hut for Jean who turned up ten minutes later with the cat in the trap. Apparently it had just walked straight up to her so that she could pick it up and slip it inside the trap.

The cat has now been in my garage since then. There's no heating but it does have a kind of thick little tent to curl up inside. She's quite friendly and pretty (see below) but her bowels are very loose. Andrea  dropped off some wormer for me (well the cat really) and flea killer. 

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


This is an addendum -which I almost called The Smell Of Death-  to the previous post.

When I called in at Animal Krackers shop to tell Susan and Andrea about what happened to the cat at Vet's Now (the PDSA's emergency vet service at Heworth), they had the little jack russell I'd picked up last week. As is my wont on seeing a dog, I bent to pet it and it backed away. It kept on doing this every time I approached it. I didn't terrify the dog; it showed no aggression towards me, it just didn't want anything to do with me.

Susan said, "It smells death on you."

I dismissed this immediately. Death doesn't have a smell and animals have no sense of their own mortality. Death is not something positive that exists in its own right, rather it's an absence. Of course the dog couldn't smell death on me, it was just a daft dog.

Then, yesterday morning while swimming, I began to wonder. Dogs do have an acute sense of smell and what it certainly, well probably, could smell were tiny flecks of the cat's blood on my hands, the remains of the smell of the sick cat's breath on them, a few molecules of various chemicals that would be in the surgery air, possibly even the those of the liquid which stilled the cat's heart. It could smell odours on me that were clearly, to the dog, wrong and that would be enough to make it wary of me.

I still don't think Susan was right, but she wasn't wrong either.

Sunday, 21 November 2010


Yesterday was supposed to mark the beginning of 5 days away from cat rescuing and anything else Animal Krackers-related. It's been a long and busy week on topof other busy weeks and I'm stressed and just emotionally and physically washed out by it all which seems to be taking up more and more of my time and I need a break to recharge my batteries. Saturday turned out to be anything but and I'll get back to that shortly.

My memory is playing up as usual so I can't remember what I did at the beginning of the week, probably the usual stuff. Thursday morning, however, I went off to Asda at 7.30 to pick up some cat food for my own 8 cats, then back home to move Samson from the cage in the garage to a cat carrier. (Samson has been a right pain to feed and he's hardly eaten anything since he was neutered on Tuesday. Wednesday night I gave him half a tin of Feline Fayre tuna and he wolfed it down and, before I went to Asda, happily tucked into the rest of the tin.) I then filled a couple of boxes with donated cat food and put them in the van as well.

8.40 and I was waiting outside Sandra's house (a nurse who fosters cats) for her to come out with two cats she'd been looking after. I didn't wait long and then I was off to Tracy's rescue at Burnhope as she was taking in the three of them and the food was for her. Here are some photos of the cats at Burnhope along with some kittens she has available for re-homing. Here's Samson in my garage and then at Tracy's with his two new friends.

The following massive monster is one of Tracy's own pets.
I had to take a different route home via Chester-le-Street instead of the usual Durham as I had to go to Bournmoor just outside the boundary of Sunderland. This involved a lot country driving and was a very nice run. However, when I got to Bournmoor and eventually found the house there was no-one there because I'd got me details wrong and I had to go back that afternoon.

Which I did and picked up the cat and took it Carole's. While at Carole's she got a phone call from a guy who'd rescued a cat from some teenage morons whom he found kicking it in Roker Park where he was walking his dog. Carol got the impression that this had just happened and I was duly sent over to pick up the cat. As it turned out, the guy who Asian and a real animal lover (he also kept doves, had a dog which looked like a Staffie with long legs and a soft nature, another cat, child and partner) had actually rescued it a week ago and would have kept it but his other cat hated it.

Friday. My usual early morning swim followed by a trip to Asda to buy cat food for Carol and empty the donated food bin. I think I did other stuff but I can't remember. when I took the food to Carol she did tell me that a cat I'd brought in for re-homing never even left the cat carrier before someone came and took it. Nice one. Wish that happened all the time. A little later Deb who'd fostered a lovely cat a couple of weeks ago (see previous post) had to bring it back as her daughter... well, that's personal, suffice to say she couldn't keep him. So back he went in the cage that Samson had luckily vacated the day before. And it looks like I have a home for him tomorrow.

Late Friday afternoon and I popped over to Ryhope to pick up a cat. 

Now I just want to interrupt the flow of cats for a grumble about Durham County Council. Ryhope used to be part of the county but came under Sunderland in 1973 (or 4?), whatever. Durham has a habit of doing odd things with regards to building council estates and naming street. On Wednesday morning I set off for Murton at 7.30 to pick up a cat and, while I'd found the street on Google maps and printed out a copy, I still had to ask someone exactly where the street was. Turned out I'd driven past the house because each side of the street had a different name and I'd only noticed the wrong one. The council also seems to delight in creating estates which are mazes so you have to go left, follow the bend to the right, turn right then left, go round the oval, and park up your own backside because No.29 is next door to 47. The addresses in Bournmoor and Ryhope were both like that.

They'd got the cat from us eight months ago and it hadn't settled, I'd been told, fighting with their existing cat, urinating all over the place, being temperamental and frightening visiting children (and I'm not making that up). So I collected it and took it to Carole's. While she was doing something else, I opened the carrier door and stroked the cat which seemed quite friendly. The people who'd had her also had two dogs and I suspect the poor thing was stressed and probably would be a nice pet in quieter surroundings. After a quick check, Carole then told me to take it back over the river to Sandra's as she was going to foster it and calm it down. (Ian grits teeth at what he sees as an unneccessary trip as he could have dropped it there in the first place and saved the journey over to Ryhope.)

And then it was Saturday, the start of my five day break from all things Animal Krackers.

Like very rude word it was. (Note: unlike my other blog, Freethinking, I'm trying to keep this as a PG -parental guidance- rated blog, i.e. some mild swearing but otherwise suitable for younger readers or those of a sensitive nature.)

It was raining hard and Susan told me to go to the shop and load up the van with unsold stuff to donate to Barnardo's in town. I also had to drop some cat litter off at Silksworth with Lilian who took in a cat from us and she can't carry anything too heavy. An hour later, I got home all wet and irritated, had a coffee and watched something I'd copied from tv before having a lie down. The phone woke me from a doze at one point but I ignored it. Shortly after that Susan arrived and told me that carole had an emergency with a cat and, as all the vets were close, I had to take it to the PSDA emergency vet service at Heworth.

I went over and Carole was quite worked up, saying she'd never seen anything like it and got me to touch the side of the cat's head.

"It's an abscess," I said, a burst and very large abscess. Carole said the cat was only two years old and had been told that by it's former owner. 

Half an hour later and I was with the vet and it was apparent that there was more wrong with it than just the abscess. The abscess itself was enormous and hadn't just appeared overnight. The vet said it was also affecting its inner ear. The ears themselves were speckled dark black. The long haired ginger cat's coat was heavily matted, a sign of stress, and the cat itself was very thin. And, far from being two years old, the vet told me it was a geriatric cat in which case the weight loss was a sure sign of a cat on the way out.

"Am I being horrible if I ask you to put him to sleep?" I asked the vet.

She said, "No, I think it's the best thing."

He didn't react at all when part of his leg was shaved or when the needle was inserted and his breathing stopped before even the last drop had been injected into him.

I called in at the shop on the way back to tell Susan and Andrea what had happened and then went home thinking that was that for the day. Sadly, not. Teatime and Susan had gone to visit her mother in the home when Little Bob started crying. I thought it was just him psyching himself up to do a poo but the crying went on. I picked him up and saw that his right eye had swollen up and his lower inner eyelid had also swollen and covered his eyeball. Little Bob was distressed and in pain. I rang Susan and told her to come home as we needed to take him to the emergency vets. 

In the end, Susan was too stressed so I just took Little Bob on my own. Just as well as there were a number of idiotic drivers driving far too fast in the dark on wet dual carriageways which meant trying to change lanes was a nightmare. Poor Little Bob was screaming his head off the whole time, though he calmed down once we got there. The same receptionist was on duty and we had a bit of a problem because they couldn't find Animal Krackers account, head office was closed, and her boss was off . This had happened earlier as well but this time they needed a deposit from me to cover both sessions -luckily I had my wallet with me as I had to pay £110.00 on my Visa card. The cost of the poor ginger cat alone was over £200.00.

The vet was reassuring when she checked the kitten over. It was probably caused by a cat scratch on the eye and the swelling can go down quite quickly. Unless it was an abscess behind the eye in which case the eye itself would have to be removed. Given the way Little Bob and Daisy play fight then a scratch is definitely the most likely. I hope. The vet gave him an antibiotic injection and an anti-inflammatory to reduce the pain and swelling. Then back down wet dual carriageways with lunatics driving far too fast and home.

Twenty-four hours later and Bob isn't complaining, though his eye is still swollen and tomorrow I'll get him to our vets.

Here's another couple of recent cat photos.

Friday, 12 November 2010



First, 7.40am, swimming -24 lengths in 42 minutes which is a good one for me as I'm happy with 20 in 40. Second, Asda -to buy the week's cat food, pick up odd bits for the house, and check the recently reinstated pet food donation bin which turns out to contain a fair amount of catfood. After a half hour break during which I read The Times and fortify myself with pate on two toasted crumpets and I'm off to Carol's with the cat food.

I picked up the first cat there, Shaft, an old and rather ill male, for what was to be his third trip to vets this week. On Monday's visit, where I gave him his name by simply picking a pronounceable one from the diagram of a feline skeleton on the surgery wall, he was given a couple of injections to try and boost his metabolism. He'd been drooling ropes of saliva, his eyes and nose had mucus around them, and he was barely eating. On Wednesday morning they kept him in for the day and put him on a drip. Today, the vet suggested that there was nothing really they could do, a conclusion I'd come to myself when I picked him up but was glad when he tried to lead me in that direction. 

I stayed with Shaft and took a few photographs of him while the vet went to get the drugs. When I showed the photos to Carol and told her I was going to put one on my blog she was completely aghast. But this is what happens. Sometimes cats, particularly elderly cats, in our care fall ill and there's nothing we can do except not let them suffer. It's not down to something we haven't done; old cats get ill and that's it. And this what we -what I- have to do. I make the decision to put the cat to sleep and there's not once, no matter how obvious it is that it is the right thing to do, that I don't agonise over it and wonder if it was the right thing. Here's the photograph. I'm sorry it's not a nice one, if it upsets you, but imagine how I felt being there. I stayed with the cat, stroking him, as he went to sleep for the last time.

But I took another one back to Carol's, a 13 week old notionally feral kitten. I say notionally because it had been handled often by people feeding it and the others of its family so it accepted being stroked and picked up. Carol popped it into a cage and left it. A couple of minutes later it had squeezed through the bars, jumped down from the table and sauntered into her living room.

From Carol's I went to pick up a 9 month old unneutered male called Samson which its owner, who'd inherited it from someone else, couldn't keep because her jack russell was prone to go for it. I took it home and popped him into a cage in my garage where he'll stay for a few days. I booked him in to be neutered on Tuesday and after that I'm hoping he'll go to be fostered with the cat who vacated the cage yesterday.

And that's the three-cat morning. However, backtracking, on Sunday I took in a friendly cat which had been found at Hendon and put him in the cage. Next morning I put a poster in Animal Krackers shop window asking its owner to get in touch. Nothing so far. Yesterday morning, while driving home one of the shop's staff who taken poorly, Andrea, who had come with me, mention a new volunteer fosterer. The cat was in its new temporary home within an hour and I couldn't be happier as it loves people and took to the mother and daughter immediately. Here he is.
Then there was the jack russell I transported in the van and I will never drive alone with an unsecured dog ever again.

A few cats have been rehomed this week including the almost tame feral from the disused Hendon factory and one which I'd taken to Roker Park vets to have some matted fur shaved off and where one of the receptionists fell in love with her. The lady's husband wasn't too keen but who cares, he'll come round.

Lastly, here's a photo of Little Bob and Big Ted.

Friday, 5 November 2010


It's sometimes chastening to remember that less than four hundred yards from my house there are people living in deprivation -financial, emotional, cultural deprivation.

Wednesday teatime and I got a call from Carol who looks after the cats for our rescue charity Animal Krackers. She wanted me to collect a cat from a woman who was going to a woman's refuge and her partner had threatened to kill the cat after she'd gone. I went, but not before first telling Carol that if there was any chance of violence directed at me then I'd be off like a shot. Hell, I'm five foot five and 62 years old. What would you do? I help animals, I'm not a hero.

The woman lived in a street that bordered a railway line -one side houses, the other side a high brick wall hiding a steep embankment. Some of the houses are divided into flats owned by landlords who are only a little above slum landlords and the woman lived in one such. To my relief I saw a police car parked outside and was ushered into the flat by a young (and, it must be said, attractive) policewoman. The cat owner's violent husband had been told by the police to stay away for at least an hour while the policewoman and her male counterpart sorted things out. The couple were known to the police, particularly the husband, and it seemed that this was the culmination of long periods of abuse.

The woman herself was small, thin, straggly haired, and with a wrinkled face. She might not have been much more than forty though she looked nearly twenty years older. Clearly agitated, her voice was quiet but her words stumbling and repetitive. I reassured her that the cat would be well looked after and I'd done this many times (not under these particular circumstances perhaps). Once she had got herself sorted in a new life, the cat would be returned to her.

The cat was somewhere in a small cluttered bedroom consisting of two single beds, a rickety thin-panelled wardrobe which looked as if it might fall over at any time, a well worn leather armchair, an inflatable and inflated armchair, and a floor littered with a variety of items including cassettes and an ash tray overflowing with the tab ends of dozens of rollups. Now all I had to do was find the cat and get it into the cat carrier.

First off, I closed the door to the hall and the double glass-panelled doors to the living room. Then I got on my knees and looked under the twin beds which had a 6 inch gap between frame and floor. I saw the black and white cat but when I tried to touch it it moved quickly and disappeared. Unless you've actually had a cat, you'd be surprised how easily they can hide themselves in the smallest of spaces, places you would think it impossible for them to fit. It took me ten minutes before I finally trapped it in a corner, moving the leather armchair agains the wall so that the cat couldn't go anywhere except towards me.

He was fat and healthy and, once I had hold of him and was stroking him, relatively amenable. With only a little effort, I managed to get him in the cat carrier. And that's when things got awkward.

The woman -I can't remember her name, let's call her Mary- Mary said abruptly, "I'm not leaving him. I love him, he's my best friend, I love him."

The policewoman said, "Mary, we've been through all this. You can't take him into the refuge and you can't stay here."

"I don't care. I'm not leaving him and if you take him I'll kill myself."

I said, "It's only for a little while. You'll get him back when you've got you life in order. He'll be fine with us."

She got more agitated. "It doesn't matter, you're not taking him. I know what you're saying but you're not taking him. You're a lovely man and I know you'll do what you say but you're not having him."

"Look, if you stay here with the cat, you're putting yourself and the cat at risk and you said he hit him."

"Just the once. He gets under the bed clothes when I'm in bed and cuddles up to me every night. I love him."

Variations of this conversation went on between Mary -who had become almost completely irrational, aware that her actions were self-defeating but, focussing solely on the cat to the exclusion of everything else, refused to change her mind-   myself and the two officers for about twenty minutes before the policewoman pretty much gave up. She asked if I'd hang around in the van a few minutes longer while they made a last attempt to salvage the situation. Mary gave me a hug before I left and thanked me profusely and I let the cat out of the carrier. I talked briefly to the policewoman at the door, giving her my phone number and address if they needed me back later.

(I want to state very clearly, that the two officers behaved with compassion and patience throughout and they impressed me a lot.)

I wish I could say that they did get in touch but they didn't. I'm assuming that Mary and the cat stayed in the flat and waited for the return of her abusive husband. What happened then, I don't know. We (that is me, Susan, and Andrea) know a lady three doors down whom we've helped with a dog she rescued and Andrea will contact her to see if she knows of any developments.

As I said, the couple are known to the police, particularly the husband who gets violent when he gets drunk, which is often. How genuine the risk to the cat is I don't know but I suspect the risk to her is far greater and my disappointment at the end result is not about failing to save the cat but failing to save Mary.

(This is also being published in my Freethinking blog.)

Saturday, 30 October 2010


Another week gone with cats rescued and some cats rehomed, and even more taken the the vets for neutering and other stuff.

The latest rescued is this 7 month old boy who was reluctantly given up because his owner's young son has asthma caused by cat fur. Her older daughter, however, has stopped speaking to her. Don't blame the kid either because the cat is lovely and friendly. He's currently in our garage because Carole has no room but thinks she might have a home for him after the weekend.
Monday night we were called out to a small abandoned factory at Hendon where Jean Frost, an independent cat rescuer who works with local organisations like ourselves, was trapping feral cats which live there. This colony had been there for a while and only a few months ago we caught two kittens which were tamed and rehomed. The cats are used to people and another night Jean met a married couple who regularly fed them. On Monday, however, there were a lot of people around, particularly kids, and I think Jean needed a little moral support. She'd trapped three and wanted one which she felt might be tamable taken to Carole's, which I duly did. Within a couple of days the cat, while still nervous, could be stroked. Yesterday I took it and two kittens (see below) for neutering. Jean has now neutered all but one of the colony. First is the feral.
I've taken a lovely friendly young black cat to Roker Park Vets because it appears to be losing weight and is certainly thin for its age. Both the vet and Carole think it should improve with a loving home. (Sorry, no photo.) Also no photo of a cat I've been trying to catch which has been hanging round a chicken processing factory on a trading estate nearby for over six weeks now. One of the workers there rang me because he's worried about it surviving hte cold weather and says it is friendly. I've seen it once but couldn't get near so I'll have to borrow a trap. However, I'll to get rid the cat at the top of this post first as I don't have the room.

On the home front, Daisy but particularly Little Bob continue to be delightful. Daisy doesn't like being picked up but does like climbing on top of me while I'm in bed and purring loudly as I stroke her. Little Bob loves being picked up and petted and either curling up next to me on the settee or sleeping in my lap. He's also lively and into everything. He and Daisy remain best friends, chasing and jumping on each other, indulging in mutual grooming, and often sleeping next to each other. Domesticated things you make my heart sing.

Saturday, 23 October 2010


Another installment of what appears now to be a weekly cat rescuing blog. There's no curse, I've just been watching a few horror movies and I like alliteration.

Thursday afternoon I called in a Roker Park Vets to pick up a cat which had to have the fur from halfway down its back to the base of the tail shorn. The cat lives almost entirely on a crossbar above the gate into the open area where the rescued cats live because she hates/ is terrified of other cats. She eats up there, pees and shits from up there, and can't turn round properly to groom herself. The nurse told me she was absolutely adorable. At Carol's I picked up a sweet-faced young female tabby which I took home to stay overnight in the garage prior to dropping her off for neutering the next morning.

Afternoon and I dropped the cat and a shedload of cat food off at Carol's and picked up a dozen bags of soiled cat bedding to take to the tip on the way home. Back home, I'd literally got through the door when the phone rang. 

Can you take two ten week old kittens. Ring Carol. Go for the kittens. Nice lady and she was having the mother neutered the same day. Kittens, all back, well socialised, cute. Take them to Carol's.

A relatively quiet week on the whole and I managed to go swimming for five mornings in a row. Amigo, the cat with the torn ligaments, had to go back to have his stitches out. For the first half he was okay, the next two he growled, the next one his teeth went into my hand and his claws into my arm after that. So he's going back next week to have the rest out under sedation. Bad cat!

Today Andrea had her much loved dog Milly put to sleep. She was old and had cancer and was suffering. It's the hardest and kindest thing any pet owner can do.

Saturday, 16 October 2010


Of course last Caturday didn't stay quiet.

In the evening I was just about to tuck into a Chinese takeaway, indeed I'd eaten about a quarter of it, when the phone rang. Big Ian from the shop needed to go to the emergency vets because his dog had had some kind of a fit. Lady is an oldish collie type with a docile and amenable character and Ian is very protective of her. So, off in the van through to the PDSA emergency vet service (which charges a hundred quid fee if you aren't on benefit) a Heworth, Gateshead. The vet was a very nice woman of Irish extraction who was very thorough and explained that it probably wasn't a fit but rather a form of diziness brought about by fluid being dislodged in the inner ear, It probably wouldn't happen again but if it did then Lady would need further treatment. All in all, a relief really.

The rest of the following week was relatively normal. Several early morning trips to Williams & Cummings with cats for neutering, a couple of trips to Roker Park vets for checkups on cats. At one point it looked as if I might be picking up a couple of ferals for neutering but that's currently on hold.

Friday morning, after a swim and dropping off a cat for neutering, I went to pick up Steven a youngish guy and his cat to take them to the PDSA. I wouldn't say he was special needs exactly but I would call him vulnerable. Late twenties, maybe, he lives in a one-room flat with his cat which he took in a couple of years ago and he's on Benefit. He'd contacted Susan whom he knew as he was concerned about the cat who'd been bitten on the leg a few weeks ago and his behaviour had changed in that it didn't stay out for long like he'd used to do. My first impression was that the cat, a plump tabby/white thing, seemed in good condition. I asked him what he called the cat and got the answer: "Fatty"!

Anyway, off to the PDSA for a half hour wait, surrounded by a variety of dogs, most of them staffies, and a variety of people like the big tatooed muscle man clutching a shih-tsu, the small woman with a massive dobermann which threatened to drag her around the waiting room,a plump woman with three white mice, an elderly man with his elderly dog both hobbling ungainly along as either might collapse at any time.

Finally we went in and I held the cat by her front shoulders as the vet, who remembered me from other times when I'd brought people here, checked it out. The result was that there was nothing wrong with the cat as the vet patiently explained. Steven, who had never had a cat before, was just being overcautious and concerned about the change in the cat's behaviour. I didn't mind as Steven felt reassured and he knows he has some external support with regards to the cat.

Here are a couple of photos of our two kittens: the recently neutered Daisy and Little Bob, best friends.
The picture quality isn't so good on this second one because the camera focussed on the quilt in the foreground. I'll have to watch this in future.

Friday teatime and I had to rush round in the van to the local B&Q hardware store. I parked in what I didn't realise wasn't a proper bay and on the way out scraped against the adjacent car. Being a noble and honest person I went back into the store to confess my sins. The young guy who owned the car was very good about it and seemed to appreciate my owning up. 

I just haven't told Susan about this yet. You won't, will you?

Saturday, 9 October 2010


Which is ironic because, other than filling in a few neutering vouchers (the last we have from Cats Protection) for two people who got some kittens from us, I should have nothing to do on the Animal Krackers front. So here's a cat update.

Clara, the cat whose kittens all died within four days and needed an emergency hysterectomy, has been discovered to have an enlarged heart with a rate varying from rapid to almost dead stop. She's quite young, less than five probably, but won't have a long lifespan. Rachel, who takes our elderly cats as the ones she's adopted come to the end of their lives, has taken Clara so she'll be properly looked after for however long she has.

On Wednesday Carol took in a young male which had been living in a childrens' home but wasn't wanted. Carol thought it had a damaged leg and we left it overnight at Roker Park Vets for it to be x-rayed and then treated the following morning. Turns out its cruciate ligament had been damaged, among other tissue damage, as if it's leg had been trapped and the cat had tried desperately to pull away. I suspect if we hadn't taken the cat when we did, the rest of the cat's life would be short and painful. The vet, Mr Murphy, repaired the damage at a cost of £260.00 to the charity

When we first arrived to get the cat, Amigo, checked out, I chatted to a very nice lady who'd brought her elderly dog for treatment. She suddenly asked if she could give us a donation and handed me a £20.00 note which I immediately passed over to Carol. First time that's happened in a vets; usually we just get good wishes.

Yesterday morning I was back at Williams & Cummings within half an hour after dropping off a cat to be neutered for our Little Bob to be checked. He seems to have stopped vomiting but his faeces are still liquid. Victor (Molina, we're on first name terms these days) the vet said his temperature was normal and there were no blockages so he gave me a couple of extra things to try. I also discovered that Little Bob will eat a particular kind of sachet called Feline Fayre (there are three varieties) which boasts '60% real fish' and LB ate a whole sachet of it this morning which is a relief as he can't live on fresh fish and chicken for the rest of his life. Well, he could quite easily but it is also easier and less messy to open a sachet than fanny about cooking for him.

So far next week I have: 3 cats to book in for neutering; on Monday take Frankenstein's Cat and another one back for checkups; Wednesday take Amigo back to be checked. Plus the usual expected food runs, tip runs, pickups and dropoffs. Sound relatively quiet? Yes, but it won't stay that way.

It never does.

Thursday, 7 October 2010


This poor nervous soul was dumped on us by his owners. He's about ten months old and I had him neutered at the beginning of the week. He's currently being fostered with Lynn.
Meg, aka Psycho Cat, had terribly matted fur on her rear end and seemed to have no inclination to groom herself. She was shorn under anaesthetic last week and this is the result.
A recently arrived six week old kitten has been found a home with the neighbour of a veterinary nurse.
Some of Carol's cats.
This is the 21 year old cat referred to in the previous post and this is what she looks like now the open wound/cancerous lump on her back has been removed. From now on I will remember her as Frankenstein's Cat.
More of Carol's cats including FC.

And these should be self-explanatory.
 I brought this one home tonight to be neutered tomorrow.
Here is Big Ted and Little Bob on the window of my study. Ted can sometimes be a bit thuggish with the older cats but he's been astonishly patient with Daisy and Bob.