8 Lives: Sheffield 8 Cat Rescue | A small rescue for cats in Sheffield 8
We are a new and very small rescue, set up with the aim of helping cats in need in the Sheffield 8 post code. “8 Lives” reflects both the post code and the sad reality that cats and kittens who come to us have invariably lost at least one of their 9 lives by the time they get to us.
Over the years we’ve had a few little rescue families where mum is all black and all her kittens are also all black.
I have to say, black kittens are just THE cutest little teddy bears ever. However it is a real challenge to know one from t’other. I remember an adopter spending ages choosing one of Coco’s kittens, only to not be able to pick him out from the crowd later. Oddly enough, Wilma’s kits, despite being ‘identical’ were quickly easily distinguishable by their behaviour and expressions on their faces
Now we have Hecate and her 4 kits:
Hecate & kits
You can probably see some of the problem right from the start. Hard to even know which blob of black is mum’s paw and which is a kitten’s head. It doesn’t necessarily get any easier as they get bigger either.
I’ve talked before on the blog about the curious difference it makes not knowing the gender of your kittens, despite all efforts to not be sexist. A lot of it for me is about being able to name them. Whilst its true that there are non gender specific names available … it’s our rescue tradition to name kittens starting the the initial letter of mum’s name. That narrows the choices a little.
The problem is compounded if you can’t distinguish one kit from the next. It’s not simply that we don’t know the gender of “little X” … we can’t even pick out which is “little X” in the crowd. On a simple practical level of care this is tricky …. who is weaned? who is confident? who can use the litter tray?
There’s another level though where is feels hard to bond with a generic interchangeable black kitten … and that seems to impact on the kittens being able to relate to people.
It might sound a bit trivial …. but names and naming ceremonies are important for humans across time and cultures. It’s part of identity and being known, and mostly we transfer this onto our loved other species. I think of various temporary carers of animals who try to avoid giving a name to them for fear of attachment. Conversely, I think of our determination to give our cats a name, because “they can’t die with no name”. We hastily named Henderson whilst stuck in traffic by the old Henderson’s factory, on a desperate dash from picking him up to taking him to his first vet appointment.
He may have just been A N Other dumped cat at the point we picked him up … but by the time he arrived at our vet 30 minutes later he was a purrson with a name and his life mattered.
But anyway … I digress. We have four jet black kittens and a black mummy. Mum isn’t feral but she’s understandably wary. As far as we can tell this is her third litter of kittens and she’s had them all outdoors. The older litters haven’t survived because of the environment they were born in. She’s had a rough deal from humans and has clearly spoken to her kits about this. They are following mum in their wariness. It’s been hard to gauge whether there is one or two kits who are particularly anxious and others more confident, or whether they’re all ok sometimes and not others. Useless trying to sex them if you’re just randomly picking up one and then another, as you don’t know which is which five minutes later. And so impossible to name them and know them as individuals.
It’s been quite a dilemma. I don’t like collars generally, and I particularly don’t like them on kittens, and even more so not on tiny kittens. I’ve heard too many horror stories. However, we’ve bought a selection of “whelp collars” and anxiously put them on a couple of days ago.
The kittens are now Green, Pink, Purple & Yellow. Despite anxious checking of tightness of collars each day (not too tight as they grow, not so loose as to get paws stuck through them or get caught on anything) the difference is incredible. They’ll shortly get their H names to match mummy Hecate.
It’s only fair to acknowledge that this is our perspective on the situation. Hecate is no doubt completely aware of who is who and has her own names for and thoughts about her kittens.
It’s pretty apparent from info that we don’t want to share publicly that Oreo was dumped. An older cat thrown away simply because he’s old. Thankfully he’s settling happily in foster care with Aunty Jenny. I messaged her a couple of days ago to check how he was doing and she replied that he’s getting his feet firmly on the table. Aware of her previous fostering failure I asked: “Um … do you mean getting his feet under the table?” But no, he’s on the table cheerfully pinching chicken off Uncle Rog’s plate.
He’s clearly having a happy time and enjoying winding his humans round his little fluffy paws. They think he’s learned to tap their arms when he wants something. I suspect he knows that he’s taught them to do exactly what he wants as soon as he touches them. He’s currently purring his way into their hearts by helping make book covers … which will shortly be for sale through 8 Lives. Here he is with the first one.
Our other thrown away elderly cat, Henderson, is proving invaluable in helping with the kittens. He’s been in permanent foster here for the last 18 months. He’s not been without his challenges with health and behaviour, but he’s a lovely grandad to kittens. Little Mathilde and Mollie are lucky to have paired up in rescue and spend most of their time playing or snuggling and snoozing together. They also get lots of cuddles from the humans. However when you’re a small kitten without a mum, what you want most sometimes is a big cat to cuddle up to. The other residents on the whole vary between unhelpful to downright rude. Grandad Hendo lets them cuddle.
And helps them with getting their supper.
He may have been someone else’s disposable item … but to me … and these babies …. he’s very precious.
We’re currently looking to recruit a few foster carers to join our 8 Lives family. As a small rescue we’ve cared for 98% of our cats in our own home. However as our funds become a bit more buoyant and the need for cats to come into rescue grows and grows … we’re looking for a few committed people to offer some space and love in their homes for cats who otherwise may not survive the circumstances they find themselves in.
You may have seen the lovely story of the transformation of Paul in his foster home. He came to us after living for months on the streets, grubby, wounded, not neutered, terrified of people. He went to his foster carers neutered, patched up, slightly cleaner and with a little bit of confidence and hope. His lovely foster family have given him a safe space, the opportunity to spend a lot more time around people than he was able to get here and lots of patience and love. It’s been an investment that’s paid dividends …. he’s now so clean that he shines, his confidence is coming on in leaps and bounds, in fact … speaking of leaps and bounds …. he’s now playing for the first time since his feeder spotted him as a stray many months ago.
It’s not just people like Paul who need foster homes, he’s just an example of the change that fostering can make: There are also oldies who need a safe space out of the wind and rain, and a lap to snuggle on until they can find a furever home.
And young mums with tiny kittens who need safety and a roof over their heads whilst they bring the kids up and then have a chance to restart their lives.
There are older kits who are often dumped once they’re no longer tiny cute kittens: they need a safe space to crash, and to sort out their family planning options before their little lives go awry.
There are cats of all ages and abilities who fall on hard times, almost never of their own making, who need a safe place to stay while they get their lives sorted out.
What we ask of foster carers:
A secure room separate from other pets and away from external doors
Cats to be kept safely indoors through foster placement
Feed, clean, play with, cuddle, observe the cat/s
Communicate with rescue and send updates and photos
Take cat/s to Millhouses Vets4Pets as agreed for appointments
Welcome potential adopters coming to meet the cat/s. [Potential adopters will have been homechecked by rescue prior to any visits]
What we offer: Any equipment needed …. litter trays, food bowls, beds, toys.
Food and cat litter
Vet costs including routine flea and worm treatment
Support/ advice with any health/behaviour issues
Advertising cat for adoption, homecheck of any potential adopters.
All adoption paperwork and transfer of cat to new home.
The opportunity to be awesome and make a real difference to lives that were going off the rails.
Don’t just take our word for it … here’s the experience of one lovely foster family in their own words:
Having adopted a cat from 8 Lives a few months previously we kept up to date of other cats’ comings and goings via Facebook. It was there that we read the story of one poor soul – so lucky to have been rescued by 8 Lives but desperately scared, anxious and withdrawn. After a few weeks it became apparent that he needed a bit more time to help him come out of his shell and, at the very least, work out what sort of home would best suit him. With kittens arriving at 8 Lives, that’s when we saw the message on Facebook asking for a foster family.
We could offer a spare room, safety, patience and most of all some time to spend with him. Our teenage daughters joined in the challenge of making him feel settled. Early days were slow with him hiding behind furniture and scurrying away when we walked in the room. Over a few days and with some gentle coaxing he gradually started to come out for treats from us, then he started to eat food in front of us. Still very anxious and wary, sometimes it was just a case of sitting in the same room watching television or reciting poems and Shakespeare in preparation for exams! Clearly every cat is different but once he started feeling safe and trusting us he flourished.
We found we didn’t really need to adapt our routines or home-life when fostering – it was more about offering what everyday life is about: hearing noises, seeing people and learning to trust. 8 Lives is always there for help and information, and we felt very supported. The reward you get is knowing that you are helping to bring out a cat’s true personality enabling 8 Lives to make the right choice of a forever home for them. Alongside your foster cat getting the attention they need (and deserve) it also frees up space at 8 Lives to help some other desperate kitty.
We’d never fostered before but as a family we have shared the satisfaction of knowing we have helped improve a kitty’s future and have found the experience genuinely fulfilling, and we think others will too!!
There are other rescues who are bigger and better known and attract more volunteers. We’re not so well known but because we’re a small rescue as a foster carer you will become part of our rescue family rather than just be A N Other volunteer. If you are interested in helping please contact us at email@example.com.
You may remember that Paul arrived in rescue a few weeks ago grubby and miserable and scared.
He made some slow but positive progress here ….. however with all the other cats to care for we didn’t have the time to spend with him to properly grow his confidence. We wondered if he might need to look for an outdoor / farm kind of home. The young woman who had been feeding him before he came into rescue had felt he really wanted to be friends, but was just very shy. I could see what she meant …. there was a real sense of a lovely character inside that hissy, grubby jacket.
So then there’s a dilemma:
A: Try to move him on as quickly as possible and have an outdoor home. There are some lovely outdoor homes as you’ll know if you’ve followed the story of Tab and Mowse. Difficult to hope we could find anything near so good as we did for them though.
B: Keep him here, moving desperately slowly towards being a timid house cat. He seemed quite settled and not in any rush to get back outdoors so that perhaps wasn’t too bad (unlike Ozzy who is banging on his bedroom door, desperate to be out). However it’s kitten season …. and not to put too fine a point on it …. Paul was bed blocking. Obviously we love him and care for him and want the best …… but there are mums and kittens struggling for their lives outside … and we can’t take them because Paul has the room.
Rescue is too often like a real life game of Lifeboat.
We dared to hope for option C …… which was to find Paul a foster home where he could have time with people, and grown his confidence ready for a purrmanent home …. and we could then free up space here for other cats/kittens. It was a big ask, given how Paul was at that stage .. but amazingly ….. Mikey’s adoptive parents stepped up. I could have cried when I got their email asking if I thought they might be a suitable foster home. YES YES YES! Having seen how they’d welcomed a rather anxious Mikey into their home a short while before, I couldn’t think of anyone more suitable for the challenge.
It’s been a complete delight to get updates about him and see him getting cleaner, happier and more confident as the days go by. He gradually dared to emerge from his cave and to not need to run for cover the moment anyone moved. Then he’d approach his foster family for food and treats … now he comes to them just because he wants to come to them. He’s also having a boost to his education as he listens to one of his teenagers quoting Shakespeare to him in preparation for impending exams.
VID 20180520 123713Trim - YouTube
So we had Paul’s room free and set about the next priority of trapping Stanlie. Stanlie is a stray who camps around our estate. We’ve been feeding him for a while and his trust in us (and our neighbour) has grown gradually over the last few months. He spends a lot of time sitting in our neighbour’s garden trying to fathom out my shift patterns … and as he’s got more confident, complaining loudly at me when I get back late.
Sometimes Stanlie seems to be in quite a bit of discomfort when he walks, other times he’s fine. He’s not confident enough for us to pick him up so would need trapping to come inside. That’s going to freak him out a bit I think. The weather is warm, he’s found a decent way of getting by. Should I try to trap him now and keep him indoors at least whilst he’s neutered and vaccinated. Is it fair to keep him locked up? Then again …. is it fair to risk him being on the loose and not neutered? I can sense he’ll be another Paul … wanting to be friends but struggling. Do I then keep him prisoner, or release him back to his previous life .. but no longer trusting me because of what I did. Having gone around in circles deciding what to do …. I took a rare decision to prioritise ME! I have the six residents with their various needs and squabbles, we’ve had Mathilde & Mollie needing hand rear help and lots of attention, and Ozzy who is adorable but completely fed up and crying in his bedroom (next to mine) a lot of the night because he’s lonely. I can’t let him out because that will inflame arguments amongst the rest of them. One way and another I’ve not had a decent nights sleep since Oz arrived a couple of months ago. The thought of Stanlie kicking off in a similar way in the bedroom on the other side of mine was just too much. I still have to be up in a morning for the day job.
The outcome of this dilemma was that because I didn’t trap Stanlie, I did in effect have a spare room. So when someone messaged me whilst I was at work on Tuesday to say that a cat had just had four kittens in her outhouse ….. Well if you know me you can probably guess.
Back to the Lifeboat game … she may have survived without rescue but her kits most certainly wouldn’t have. If she did survive she’d be pregnant again in no time. Stanlie hopefully will cope for a few more weeks. Right now … her room will be quiet because she’s focused on snuggling with and caring for her tiny kits.
Current dilemmas are more mundane. Is Hecate an acceptable name for a black cat … or will the witchy connotations put adopters off? Is it safe or acceptable to use tiny collars for her kits … just so we know who is who among the apparently identical quads?
Last bank holiday monday we took in a tiny kitten, Mathilde. How exactly she came to leave her mum remains a bit of a mystery. She’d clearly been well cared for prior to her arrival as she was (is) a chunky little kit, and was (but isn’t quite so much now) very clean. There are a few things we know for certain: she’s adorable, she’s very well travelled, and she’s a little madam.
I collected her from Ilkeston on the bank holiday monday. She’d already travelled a long way to get there. The Tuesday, day after she arrived I had day off and had arranged to meet ex colleagues for a catch up. So she travelled to the Tara Buddhist Centre, south of Derby for lunch and back into the centre of Derby to natural therapy centre for afternoon tea. Whatever in deep and meaningful conversations we’d planned were scrapped in favour of cooing over her and sorting out her bottles.
It’s maybe not a bad thing that we were out a lot. The residents are unimpressed to say the least. Rufus (our last hand rear kitten … now almost two years old) is particularly put out. Having been mummy’s (and aunty Jenny’s) baby boy for a couple of years … the arrival of a new baby is hitting him hard.
Thankfully aunty Jenny has been there for us just as she was with Ru, and we’ve done the same pattern of shuffling Mathilde back and forth to fit around my work. Who would have thought that one so small would need to travel with such an enormous amount of stuff?
The cats at Jenny’s aren’t too impressed either. The saving grace is cousin Oliver. Whilst cats are hard wired to do just what the hell they please, border collies are more able to think about the bigger picture and manipulate people by pleasing them. He’s considerably better at cleaning her than I am, and Mathilde adores him. Of all the furry people she’s met, Ollie the Collie is the only one who has been pleased to see her and happy to let her snuggle.
There have been some anxious times when its seemed she’s not putting on weight, but she’s an active and noisy little madam. She soon got close to climbing out of her baby cot and moved into a bigger bed … which she’s found she can climb just as well.
Her feeds have changed from gently trying to get the teat into her mouth and encourage her to have a few ml to her squealin when hungry, almost grabbing the bottle out of my hands and drinking it nearly dry before coming up for air. Check out the ears!
mathilde bottle - YouTube
It’s fascinating to watch her gradually working out which limbs belong to her and what she can do with them.
It’s been a fabulous weekend. Ruined all the cliches about miserable rainy bank holidays. The residents, and Ozzy (some of the time so long as he’s not too crazy kitten ish), and me (a little less of the time because I’ve been frantically spring cleaning the house) have been enjoying lazing around in the sunshine.
On Sunday it was Flipper’s 6th birthday. She was the first kitten born in our rescue. I’m not entirely sure how she managed to end up staying here … but she did …. and she’s adored.
Also on Sunday it was our fundraiser event at Heeley Institute. Many people put in a huge amount more effort to make this a success than I did. Jenny, plus Zhany & Steve, and Noel are the stars of our fundraising …. plus all of you of course.
We all had a lovely time. I was only a grunt in the process … but came home exhausted from that on top of the cleaning.
The plan for today was to chill, finish the last bits of cleaning, but mainly just flop and read my book. It started well enough. Had a bit of a lie in, fed and cleaned everyone and then flopped on the sofa with book and second cup of coffee. Flipper settled down to snooze on my tummy. All was right in the world.
Less than half an hour later a rescue friend tagged me in a post and my phone pinged the alert.. You know how your phone pings, but you’re comfy and you think you’ll have a look later? This time it felt like I should look NOW.
There was a 10 day old kitten about an hours drive from here, looking for safety and someone able to hand rear. Our house is cat dominated, and cats move slowly …. and we follow suit. On this occasion however, we were out of the pjs and into the car within about 20 minutes of the ping.
Mathilde is now home and safe with us
Mathilde is the small one ………. the big ginger is the last kitten we hand reared …. who is having some jealous issues right now. He’ll get over it when he realises that there’s still plenty of love to go around all of them.
So we’ve ended up with three tom cats, all at different stages in the rescue process but all gradually moving towards their happy furever afters.
Stanlie is the furthest away in some respects. He’s not even officially an 8 Lives cat. We’re pretty certain he’s a long term stray. He arrives every day for food and has gradually progressed from only agreeing to eat if we’re the length of the drive away, to being happy to eat whilst I sit next to him, to taking treats from my hands and allowing me to stroke him a little whilst eating.
We’ve not been able to find any record of anyone missing him, and the limited view we’ve had on him suggests he’s not neutered. So is unlikely to be chipped. When he’s a little more confident we’ll scan him for a chip but don’t want to scare him away for something that is unlikely to be there.
Stanlie getting brave - YouTube
Paul is kind of running neck and neck with him …. though on a different race track. He definitely doesn’t belong to anyone and is officially an 8 Lives cat with his own bedroom here. However for a couple of weeks he was much less confident around people than Stanlie. Perhaps ironically that’s partly because he is indoors … and maybe feels a bit trapped.
Paul at vets
He managed to be brave at the vets though, and came home from being neutered feeling more hopeful and positive. That was a bit of a turning point, when he agreed to accept chicken treats from hands.
paul takes chicken treats - YouTube
And then moved on to agreeing to be stroked .. a little …. on his own terms
paul being stroked - YouTube
He went back to see Dr Fran this week to start his vaccinations and was so much braver than last time. He didn’t need to hide under his towel whilst being examined. Not only braver . … but bigger! He’s put on half a kg since arriving in rescue. Days of lounging around, sleeping peacefully without fear of danger, and being fed regularly.
Ozzy is a different story all together: stuff of confidence and bursting with the desire to meet and greet people. Since his “little op” he’s singing fewer bawdy songs and starting to think about settling down and being part of a family. Since his ear drops, he’s got rid of his ear infection but gained some rather dodgy greasy looking sideburns. Sorry Oz … they’ll clean up/grow out very soon.
He’s had a few times of mixing with the residents and “doing outsides” and has been fine … but rather too boisterous for the laid back resident crew. Even the dog in the next garden reported feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sight of an excited Oz on the shed roof.
Oz just needs the right forever home and he’ll be sorted. His adoption advert is here
Things were a little quiet over Easter. We’d held on to a rescue space for a couple of weeks in the hope of taking in a pregnant cat and enjoying the patter of tiny feet. For various reasons that didn’t happen, and for a short, bizarre time through Easter week we had no one asking for rescue space.
It all changed last Sunday when the rescue friend through whom little Sparkle and her siblings arrived, contacted us about another poor stray cat. We shelved the hope of a pregnant female and took in a grubby, battle scarred gentleman from Leeds.
He’d coped remarkably well with his lovely feeder getting hold of him and taking him indoors overnight ready to come to rescue the following day. However the M1 and then other cats outside his bedroom door freaked him out a bit and he retreated into his shell …. or rather a cardboard box … and refused to speak to me other than the odd hiss.
Paul at vets
It was a bit touch and go whether Paul would agree to attending his vet appointment. Thankfully he decided he liked Dr Fran and let her have a reasonably good look at him. It was rather surreal as we had a photo of a wound from his feeder but didn’t know where it was on his body …… which led to several minutes of rummaging around hoping his patience would last. We found it and it appeared to be healing so we decided that checking his temperature would be an unnecessary pushing of our luck. We did however agree that a long acting antibiotic jab would be a good plan just in case. Paul decided to wait under his towel whilst Fran went off to get it.
Of course just as we’d filled the rescue space our occasional (believed to be) stray visitor became a regular. Aunty Jenny and I first spotted him a couple of months ago …. mud wrestling with another unneutered tom cat in a neighbours garden. It coincided with when Tyga & Belle had arrived here …. unspayed …. and were going through their pole dancing phase.
Stanlie the stray
A few weeks later my other neighbours asked me if I’d seen this tabby and white cat and were worried that he was limping. I soon spotted him and tried to engage him in conversation … but he didn’t want to know. It’s taken some time to make friends with him but we’re getting there. I invited him for a meal and he accepted … with the proviso that I sat the other end of the driveway whilst he ate. Then he started letting me closer, and sitting waiting for me at tea time, and then letting me stroke him a little.
We’re working towards him being confident enough to let me check him for a chip or even put a paper collar on to see if he’s going home somewhere. I doubt it though. He seems to spend most of his days on my neighbour’s lawn, looking through the hedge to see when I’m around to feed him.
And since then we’ve been inundated again with requests to take cats into rescue … all the usual excuses … mainly allergies and landlords …. but also one wanting rescue because the cat was scratching the wallpaper! We offered a space to another cat because they’d come via a friend. Then kind of wished we hadn’t because he turned out to be quite a bit older than ‘advertised’ …. full of hormones … singing pornographic songs from dawn to dusk.
He’s a nice lad … but sooner he has his snip and chip the better for the whole family.