Saturday, August 02, 2008

Why the US healthcare system is ridiculous

Andrew got bitten by one of the feral kittens a few weeks ago, and the little shit managed to bite through one of Andrew's fingernails (amongst other puncture wounds in his hands).

Cat bites are notoriously dangerous because of the way the tooth is shaped - they are like needles injecting bacteria under the skin, and it heals over fast, which causes an infection, and before you know it you have blood poisoning.

I was worried that we wouldn't be able to clean out the puncture in his fingernail properly, so tried to book into the doctor to get onto a course of antibiotics. They couldn't squeeze us in, so we tried going to "Urgent Care", and they were closing, so told us just to go up to the ER.

If we had have got into the doctor it would have cost $10. We just got the hospital bill, and we are responsible for $415 of the total of $4000 or so. We spent maybe 10 minutes in there, and got a prescription for antibiotics and some antiseptic put on the puncture wounds. How the hell can that cost over $4000????? And how can they charge us $415 just for that??

We paid about $1200 for my open heart surgery - apparently a prescription and antibiotics is worth 1/3 of open heart surgery, ICU and a 5 day hospital stay...

If anyone wants to contribute to the Andrew and Sarah kitten fund - feel free to!

Friday, August 01, 2008

The foster kittens!

First the Google litter:

Sergey, the little guy who loves to cuddle now

Francoise, the shyest of the bunch

Larry, the most sociable of the litter from the beginning - adopted and doing great in his new home

Marissa, the sweetest, also adopted, and has melted the hearts of her new owners, and working on winning over their other cat

And the Gilroy litter:

Boots, who went home with her brother Bond (below) last night - a sweet, playful pair

James Bond, adopted with his sister as above - a VERY affectionate kitty!

Velvet, just a little thing (actually weighed 2 ounces less than Sergey who is 4 weeks younger than her!), but is super active and incredibly athletic

Adonis (now called Freddie), a long lean boy, who is loving being the only cat in his new home and getting all the attention

Blaze - long and lean like his brother, sweet, and a bit of a rascal - loves to chew toes :-)

Daisy - pure love! Loves to cuddle with her siblings, and loves getting attention from her people as well.

That's the mob!

Kitten fostering and socialising

I just realised it's been a while since I last posted, and it's probably due to the recent outbreak of kittens in our house!

It all started on July 2nd when I went out to Google to trap a mother cat and her 5 kittens that staff had seen running around. I trapped the mother and one of the kittens (using 2 humane cat traps that I have), and the next morning trapped the last 4 kittens.

Trapping the last kittens was a challenge. They'd all been living in a generator, so we ended up having to get keys to open the generator, and literally grabbing the kittens and yanking them out. Finding them in the generator was hard, grabbing them was pretty easy. I just grabbed them by the scruff of the neck as they ran for cover, and put them in a cage.

That same day I was due to go down to Gilroy and pick up a litter of kittens that needed help. Their owner was on a disability pension and living in a trailer park, and was given a cat that was unspayed, and got a little too friendly with her male cat who was unneutered. A litter of kittens ensued, and while she gave them lots of love, she didn't have the space for them (she has another cat, so 3 adult cats, and 6 kittens in a much smaller space than us!) could not afford the proper nutrition for them, or to get them spayed/neutered and rehomed and didn't want to take them to a shelter where they may get euthanised.

I had separate crates for the different litters in my spare room, but things were crazy. The Gilroy litter were about 11 weeks old, and had bad diarrhea (most probably diet related) so were super skinny, but were very sweet. The Google litter were about 7 weeks old and what I would consider semi-feral. They were hissing and spitting at me, and the mother would hiss at me, but she'd let me put my hands in the cage to change their food/water/litter without being at all aggressive - even if it meant putting my hand almost right under her nose. So I think she knew people were ok, and meant her survival, but we weren't to be completely trusted.

We were away that weekend because it was July 4, and I couldn't get the mother to be spayed until the Wednesday after, so for the first week I really had no contact with the kittens - just looking after their care, and getting them used to my voice and presence.

The 6 older kittens I got a friend to take care of for me - it was too many kittens in the house!

Meanwhile, the Google mother cat was spayed, and I had planned to keep her a few days to let her recover, then release her where I found her. Once she was at the vet for her surgery, I let the kittens out for the first time to let them start playing.

One was pretty brave, 2 were curious, and 2 were very shy. Only the brave ones came out, so getting them back in the cage was fine - it was their safe house.

The next day I tried again, only this time I could not get 2 of the kittens back in. It was very stressful for everyone involved! There was one kitten who each time we tried to socialise them would flip out - hiss, spit, strike at us, and get incredibly mad. The others were scared, but nowhere near as aggressive. To make it worse, she would run to the other kittens and then do this big act at me, which was freaking the other kittens out. The mere sight of me was enough to set her off.

I decided she really needed to be released with her mother - she would require more resources than I had (time, space, patience...), and she was scaring the other kittens and making them more wary which wasn't helping them.

So I got her spayed the next day, gave her time to recover, then released her and her mum together back to the generator where I first trapped them. The people at Google were going to keep providing them with food and water, so at least they were dry and safe, and had been fixed and vaccinated, so are hopefully a little more healthy, and can't reproduce.

Meanwhile, the Gilroy litter still had very bad diarrhea - it was pretty much pure liquid, and they weren't putting on much weight. Off to the vet I trotted with 2 of the kittens, and some stool samples. They tested negative for kitty diseases and negative for worms, but did have ear mites, but the vet could find nothing else wrong. We walked away with a large bill, medication that would hopefully help the diarrhea, and ear drops for the ear mites. Their foster mum, Scottie, did an amazing job keeping their litter boxes clean (not an easy task!), giving medicine, applying ear drops and giving them lots of love. She also started putting mashed pumpkin in their tinned food - pumpkin is supposed to help make their stools more solid. That seemed to help, and they generally have good poop now :-)

Back with the Google kittens, the more shy ones started coming out and playing more almost as soon as the cranky kitten had been released. We were no longer crating them any more, so they had the whole room to play in which they were loving.

Generally to socialise them, we did these things:

1) Using interactive toys to play with them so they associated us with fun
2) Patting them and sitting close after they eat their tinned food, as well as giving them Gerber baby food off our fingers in the early staged (kitties LOVE that)
3) Taking them individually into the bathroom for some lap time - it was easier if they were separated from their siblings
4) I took the "easy does it" approach, whereas Andrew took the "tough love" approach. So I would pretty much let them be during the day - play with them, feed them and sit nearby watching them. So they got used to having me there, and got comfortable playing, eating and using the litter tray with me right there. I would let them approach me, then try to pat them. Andrew would pull them out from their hiding places, or scruff them when they were near by, and hold them, and get them used to be handled. He got the most purrs out of them initially as he was handling them more. I think it was good to have both us doing different things - they were comfortable going about their business with me around, and they got the handling they needed from Andrew.
5) I played podcasts from my laptop in their room to get used to the sound of human voices

It was amazing watching the progress of these kittens. They were so scared and untrusting when we first got them. Then the brave kitten learned early on that being patted was good, and became very outgoing and affectionate. Then another stopped hissing when we went to pat her, and started putting her head up to be patted. Then the one who loved to play but hated being touched started letting us pat him - now we can pick him up with no problems (I still have scars from the first couple f times I tried picking him up), and he headbutts his sister out of the way if I pat her and not him. He also snuggles up under my chin if I'm lying on my belly so he can get in close, and rub against my face. He's made the most improvement. The last kitten is still very shy, but is more confident than she used to be, and purrs as soon as she thinks you're going to pat her!

We started finding homes for all the kittens, and an email to Google found us a fair bit of interest. The first appointments for their spay and neuter appointments (as well as vaccinations, microchipping, and another round of ear care/treatment for the kittens with ear mites) came around, and we did 3 kittens from the Gilroy litter, and 2 from the Google litter (the 2 Google ones had homes, so they went in the first round). The next night, one of the Gilroy kittens, and 2 Google kittens went to their new homes. Another couple also decided on 2 kittens from the Gilroy litter, but as the girl hadn't been spayed, they had to wait another week for after her appointment.

By this stage (a week ago now), I had all kittens back at our house. The Gilroy kittens are in the spare room, and the Google kittens play in our bedroom during the day, and go into the bathroom at night. The 2 Gilroy kittens went to their new home last night, so right now we are left with 3 Gilroy kittens (someone is interested in taking 2 of them, and coming to see them tonight), and 2 Google kittens.

Our kitties are curious, and handle it all very well. Stumpy has met them all and hisses if they try to play with her, but generally just wants to eat their food, and check them out. Lily met one of the kittens from the Google litter yesterday - she's always trying to get in to see the kittens, so I let them meet - they sniffed each other for a good couple of second, then Lily let out a HUGE hiss, and headed for the hills! These are the same kittens she's been watching and playing with from under the door for the last month... :-) Smudge is scared of them, she stays away from their room, and occasionally shoves her nose under the door of their room, and gets very upset if they try to wap her nose in return! So she stays downstairs, and just comes to our bedroom at night after all the kittens are in bed and settled down.

So it has all been very busy - caring for those kittens as well as socialising them, and giving our own cats attention has taken up a lot of time. It's been expensive too, but I'm charging enough for the adoption fees to pretty much cover all of my costs, so that's ok.

It has been incredibly rewarding though. The Gilroy kittens are in MUCH better health now, the Google kittens have socialised really well and have turned into wonderfully sweet kittens, they are all putting on weight nicely, they are going to excellent homes, and we have stopped 12 cats from having more babies. There's on average 5 kittens per litter, so that's about 60 less kittens that have gone into the world from just one more generation, assuming only one litter per cat! It makes all the hard work worth it.