Meet Babe & NayNay! These PetziFamily members are very special and have quite the story to tell. Kristen, a true cat person, has 3 fur babies of her own and fosters new kittens on a regular basis as well. A real animal lover and do-gooder for the animal community where she lives, Kristen teaches us about a rare cat disease and the perseverance of the heart.
Kristen’s family includes 3 rescue cats: Princess, a white and royal 14 year old, Duchess a playful gray 13 year old, Birdie a third female cat, 9 years old and a “foster failure” they just couldn’t let go, and now their angel, who was 12 years old, Sir Bobbles A Lot, or simply, Bobby. Bobby, a ginger cat with Cerebellar Hypoplasia, passed away from cancer on June 10th of this year and leaves Kristen, her husband, and their family left with a very large void in their home and hearts.
Feeding time with Princess, Bobby, Birdie and Duchess
Bobby was a special cat who came to them by way of rescued strays, found in the backyard of her parents home. Kristen and her brother rescued the two young cats, about 8 or 9 months old, when they realized the female cat was pregnant. Two kittens came out of that litter. Lucy, who is still alive today and lives with Kristen’s mom, and Bobby.
Cerebellar Hypoplasia is a rare cat disease which refers to an underdeveloped brain stem which can affect a cat’s balance and coordination. Bobby’s case was not so severe, his head would shake, hence the name Sir Bobbles A Lot, he couldn’t really run in a straight line and would sometimes fall over, and his jumps were not very high compared with most cats. Other cats with Cerebellar Hypoplasia might fall every 5 or 6 steps and need diapers and care 24/7, Kristen shared with me. “A lot of people won’t adopt a special needs cat,” Kristen puts it plainly. But Bobby’s relatively mild case of his disease coupled with his amazing little personality made all of the care and what they had to go through in the last months of his life well worth it.
Kristen shared with me some of the unique things that made Bobby, Bobby. He was the kind of cat that “never met a stranger.” He was so friendly with everyone, even the door-to-door salesmen who came inside and sat down for minute. Bobby took the opportunity to have a lap cuddle and sat in his lap the entire time he was there. Bobby loved to help out with the kittens Kristen fosters, he’d carry them around in his mouth like they were his own, while her other 3 cats would hiss and bat at them. Bobby loved riding in the car, sitting in the cart at PetSmart, and taking walks on his leash. He even enjoyed riding around in the basket Kristen and her husband rigged up to their bike. Being avid cyclists, that is one of Kristen’s special last memories of spending time with Bobby, getting to take him for a ride on their tandem bike they received this past Christmas. The cancer was found in Bobby’s mouth in January so he really only got to enjoy the tandem bike a couple of times.
Kristen was taking Bobby to his routine dental exam and the dentist noticed a cyst in his mouth. The biopsy showed that it was malignant. They immediately tried to have it removed, being told that they would have 6 months to a year with Bobby, if it was successful. Kristen had to somehow come up with the money to pay for surgeries and medical bills, Bobby had been a part of the last 12 years of Kristen’s life. 5 years prior she had joined her retired Grandfather for a baking class he wanted to take at the local Michael’s. She took to it very easily and started baking to raise money for mission trips that she would go one with her church. Once the news about Bobby’s situation came she redirected all the money that came from her baking towards helping Bobby.
Kristen’s website is called Kristen’s Kakes and has listed all kinds of baked goods Kristen will bake and deliver to raise money for Bobby’s medical bills. She has been baking furiously ever since. They were able to remove the cyst successfully but only to enjoy 3 final short months with dear Bobby. This was especially hard as this was the first time Kristen ever had to put a pet down. Kristen is still baking to pay off the bills today, they have only paid off around half the debt at this point. If you are in the Indianapolis area you might want to check out her website. I asked if she would ship to California, but alas no baked goods for Petzi headquarters. 😉
Bobby is actually the reason Kristen started fostering kittens. Having rescued him and caring for his special needs, Kristen wanted to help more kittens. When she first moved to her area the first neighbor they got to know fostered kittens from the local no-kill shelter. The woman who runs the shelter goes to all the pounds and looks for as many animals as she can save for adoption, especially the pregnant ones. “And that’s when I get a call” says Kristen. Some litters she brings home come with the mother and some don’t. If the mother comes too, Kristen pretty much gets to sit back and watch to make sure everything is going ok, keeping the room clean and the cats fed. When the mother is not around there are bottle-feedings every couple of hours and potty training around the clock for anywhere from 3 to 7 kittens at a time. She keeps the kittens for about 8-10 weeks until they are all big enough to be spayed and neutered. Kristen will take them to the clinic and bring them home for a few more days to heal and then it’s back to the shelter for adoption. Unless, of course, the kitten has a home to go to already. Kristen mentioned that sometimes prospective adopters will come to her home to get to know their potential new kitten and a kitten could be spoken for before it even leaves Kristen’s care.
Kristen has always had a soft spot for animals. Kristen offered, “a crazy cat lady.” Her mother had poodles in the house growing up but Kristen never became a dog person. As a kid, she cared for stray cats that her mother wouldn’t let her bring into the house because she was allergic. Kristen could keep taking care of them as long as she fed them outside. Slowly her mother came around and they were allowed into the basement and by the time Kristen left the home of her parents there were 8 cats. She says, “they are like my kids, my husband and I have been married for 10 years and we don’t think we are going to have kids so we have cats. They are pretty spoiled, we care for them like kids. My husband travels a lot and they give [me] someone to talk to.”
Kristen supports all the animal service organizations in the Indianapolis area. Another organization she spoke as fondly of as her no-kill shelter was IndyFeral. A program dedicated to taking care of the feral cats in the area. They will pick them up and get them spayed and neutered and returned as well as provide food for the colonies. They will even teach people how to make warm kitty houses for the feral cat colonies to be able to survive the winters.
Bobby was the reason Kristen found herself owning a Petzi Treat Cam and the foster kittens are who she checks up on now. She originally got the Cam when she and her husband were leaving town for a couple of cyclist weekend events right after Bobby received his diagnosis. Kristen says “I love it! It’s very helpful. I worry a lot anyway and it helps me not to worry about the cats when I’m gone.” Kristen says she’s one of those people that “constantly wonders if I left the stove on.” She fondly remembers checking in on Bobby, and even though they turned off the noise that it makes when it turns on so as not to disturb the cats, Bobby somehow knew they were there and would just sit, with a little bobble, and stare directly at the camera from his special perch, and what eventually became his sick-bed, on top of the dining table.
Bobby talking to Kristen on the Petzi Cam
I had a wonderful chat with Kristen getting to know about all her pets and of course hearing Bobby’s story, all the while she was caring for the current litter she’s got at home. She kept saying, “these kittens are so loud”, worried I might not be able to hear her over mews. One kitten she was caring for at the moment happened to be one of the two kittens in this litter that also have Cerebellar Hypoplasia. In Kristen’s 12 years of being mother to Bobby she had only heard of another cat having it and had never really come across others with the same disease. Not 3 days before Bobby’s passing, this new litter came to her with the two special needs kittens. Everyone is telling Kristen this must be a sign, especially since one is a ginger cat, just like Bobby was. It was clear to me that Kristen has an enormous heart and her love for the cats she cares for is inspiring.
Kristen’s favorite photo of her, Nathan and Bobby taken on his last day
I hope you have all enjoyed Kristen’s story! If you are interested in commissioning a dessert or donating, all information about Baking for Bobby can be found on her website www.kristenskakes.com