The Cat House Spring Fling

Every May the prudent gather at Berkshire Hathaway’s Shareholders Meeting to hear Warren Buffet speak the truth, fashionable degenerates descend on Churchill Downs to chase ponies and mint juleps and crazy cat people find their way to The Cat House On The Spring Fling open house. In my prior life, I might have spent last Saturday rapt before the Oracle of Omaha and my current job suggests I should’ve known the Derby favorite (I didn’t), but we needed help with a furry favorite showing signs of FIP and guidance on two paraplegic kittens so I made the 45-minute run south to the largest cat sanctuary on the planet.
The Cat House Spring Fling open house is a raucous bazaar of cat lovers, vendors and other rescue folk networking, selling cat products and raising money for the sanctuary to continue its mission. You can buy everything from faux whiskers to cat-shaped wine holders to catnip hemp oil, and the fervor with which the crazy cat ladies check their raffle tickets and the spite with which they toss the stinkers make Derby ticketholders look like cheap poseurs. While never a life goal, we seem to be held in high regard by crazy cat ladies, but CHOTK founder Lynea Lattanzio commands the demographic with an iron paw. Hell, if she’d called for a shovel and quick lime at 3 AM, her faithful would respond without so much as a raised whisker. Who are they to question how the High Priestess of Cats works her garden and when?
In any event, I dropped off our FIP suspect with a concerned tech—“Yup, FIP…”—connected with a druid with a reputation for working with paraplegics and visited KF alumnae at the FIP and FELV areas. Now covered with cat hair, I was at one with the others browsing the vendor stalls, and after commiserating with the 60+ year-old DJ sucked into the maelstrom–“David Bowie…Cat People…trust me…”, I corralled the Cat House brass for a photo op before heading home. If you haven’t been to the Cat House on the Kings, put it on your To Do list for 2024. You’re not finding a “My cats and I are talking sh&t about you” hat at PetSmart.
But enough of that. You’re here for drama and giggles, and the week offered plenty of both. Highlights…
Our as yet unnamed abused cat survived physical horrors only to suffer indignity of my camera and keyboard is alert, but we’re still concerned about the function of his digestive system. Earlier today, he flashed the business ends of his canines when we inspected his hips—“Well, he’s got feeling!”—and has been undergoing treatment for constipation (more indignity!) and low body temps. He’s got issues, but we’re thinking positive thoughts but managing expectations and you should too.
Last weekend, a finder notified us of a friendly stray on her doorstep with gruesome chest wounds but otherwise nonchalant. Thinking car/dog trauma, we walked Garth in first thing Monday and were told that based on the alignment of the injuries to the front leg and the chest, it looked like he had been shot. Wait, what? Necrosis had set in and after flushing maggots and other filth from his chest, the vets sent me a photo that confirmed Garth is tougher than we are. After a week of daily flushing, Garth’s flesh turned from pallid to pink, and the vets felt confident enough to close his wounds, and he purrs because all humans don’t suck.
Thursday we took a call from a desperate woman concerned about a feral that gave birth to a litter on the roof of her apartment complex, and the little ones had been crying in the rain all night. After prying the location from her (missed our snarky poll?) and confirming that the complex management would allow us roof access, co-conspirator Joey Phipps and I strapped an extension ladder in the truck and drove over to the complex. Onsite we realized that the extension ladder was overkill—the roof was easily accessible from the 2nd floor balcony to anyone with a step ladder and initiative—but scrambled up with what we had and began the search and rescue.
Within moments, Joey found four soggy and hypothermic newborns (three alive) under an AC unit; upon sight of us, Mom bailed from the roof to the balcony and scampered off. We always recommend keeping the kittens with Mom—it’s their best chance for survival—but these were frigid and fading with no safe haven on the flooded rooftop so we hustled them back to the facility for triage. After checking the other HVAC units for stragglers, I asked the finder to help us trap the mom—“Maybe her third or fourth litter…”—and she assured us she would. Not exactly.
After we left with the little ones and referred TNR superstar Brandi Can to trap the mom, the finder was “really busy” and offered lame excuses why she couldn’t find the time and ambition it would take to open a single serving bag of Doritos to look out the window and monitor a trap. It was sickening but common response given the resources offered to solve gross neglect on her doorstep and cause for us to remind ourselves that it's not the cats’ fault the human comes up short on decency.
Back at Kirkland, Natalie Schafer prepped the incubator for the little ones and I woke Mama Su with the wonderful news that I had taken in dirty, crashing, orphaned bottle babies. “Really? First thing in the morning? No room!” but once she saw the grungy little ones, chased Joey and me from the laundry room and set to work. After a night in the incubator, the littles ones took to a surrogate, and although we lost one last night, we have our fingers crossed for the two survivors.
On Friday, one of our fosters connected for a cat Dexter with a string dangling from his butt. While the extra tail proved entertaining for her other fosters, we walked Dexter into the vet for a closer look. Determining Dexter was otherwise healthy, the vet knocked him out and discovered embroidery thread tangled around the back of his tongue. She clipped it, trimmed the thread from the butt and told the finder to monitor his litter box for two feet of thread working through his system. The foster texted last night at 1:26 AM…”Pooped and passed some string…” and later described in detail how she’d deconstructed his poop for the thread, providing comedy and contrast to the finder referenced above.
We’ve seen, treated and fixed a bunch of scuffed up tomcats—kitten season is hard work for everyone, even furry lotharios. We saw Conrad, a kindly FIV+ tabby whose finder bailed after treatment, Milo, an older long-haired Siamese with an ear abscess, Thom, superficial lacerations around his noggin who the finder reports, “Looks great now!” and Harrison, a colony cat with an abscess, repaired but re-opened and back at the vet in this morning for rework.
Of course, we have dozens of litters, other singles, lifers and special projects in various stages of treatment—including two kittens whose legs were tangled in utero and need therapy to walk. Louie continues to provide “OMG…Have you seen Louie!” texts, three lifers took a stand for bedspace vs FIV+ Dean, and the groomer salvaged Jackpot’s homebrew haircut with rework and a dapper necktie.
Finally, we spent the first part of Saturday night recovering $2,500 of electronics and other gear that had been pilfered from a guest’s truck from a parking lot at work. Based on Apple tag data, we tracked the items to a house frequented by squatters and a homeless encampment between the nearby aqueduct and freeway. After showing a tweaker on a BMX an incriminating photo of her campmate, she agreed that collecting and returning the items was preferable to having law enforcement toss the camp. At the bar last night, our guest was still spinning that we recovered his gear intact while wearing a pink Cat House of the Kings 30-year anniversary t-shirt and a KF jacket covered in cat hair, but we told him to enjoy his reposado and pay it forward. Pro tip: no one likes to move, even tweakers.
ABC, bottle babies, Garth, Dexter, Thom, Harrison, Louie, Dean with Gigi, Fluff, Mr. Han and Jackpot.
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