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Lulu's Amazing Journey - An Update: The Twist We Never Predicted!

Updated: May 10

Lulu's Journey Stage 1: "The saddest face in the world."

When Lulu arrived at RappCats, she was miserable.

Near starving, seriously ill and exhausted, Lulu was barely hanging on. She was too weak to eat, so we fed her by hand. She had a severe upper respiratory infection; you could hear her breathing from the next room. An ugly discharge came from her nose and her eyes watered. Her face was scratched, her skin red and raw.

Lulu's large intestine was full of whipworms, and lungworms filled her lungs and windpipe.

Lulu also had the worst case of ear mites we'd ever seen. She'd scratched her ears so badly she'd broken the blood vessels in her ear flaps. They were disfigured: little swollen mushrooms on each side of her head.

Her fur was so matted we had to shave off large sections. She was covered in fleas and old flea bites.

We didn't know if she'd pull through, but we already loved this poor girl and we were going to do everything we could.

We set her up in our isolation room, apart from the other cats. We started giving her pills - dewormers for the whipworms and lungworms, antibiotics, a steroid, and flea medicine. Lesley, our shelter manager, gave her an IV drip to to get her hydrated. Lulu quietly sat in Lesley's lap the whole time.

Lulu's Journey Stage 2: Healing, Then a Serious Setback, then More Healing!

In isolation, Lulu's energy and appetite began to return. Her expression even started to improve. Before you know it, she was moved to our regular intake room!

...But then she started sneezing...

...Back into isolation poor Lulu went...

Lulu's URI was worse. She was coughing; her nose was a faucet. She lost her appetite again, even though we sat with her at mealtime and warmed her food so it had a stronger smell.

We paid for a more specialized lung test. It showed Lulu still had a lingering URI, but no pneumonia, and her lung parasites remained gone. The vet said for a cat as sick as Lulu was when she came to us, infections take extra long to resolve, and lung worms, though gone, can leave residual scarring forever.

Lulu's Journey Stage 3:  More Healing, Then Major Surgery.

Lulu had been with us five months. We'd conquered parasites, mites, and fleas. Her respiratory illness was in remission. Now it was time to look forward. Lulu's ear mites and subsequent scratching and infections had done major damage. Her ear canals were blocked by scar tissue, resulting in hearing loss, and the liklihood of recurrent painful infections. She needed help.

But the necessary help was major, specialized, & expensive. A surgical procedure called TECA (total ear canal ablation) was needed to remove Lulu's ear canal and middle ear. We had to do it.

We put the word out to our supporters. Within three months, we raised the thousands of dollars necessary for the procedure and follow-up care. Lulu had her surgery January 9th, 2024.

Post-operative care for TECA is intense. Daily medicine and wound cleaning is vital. Nerve damage to the cat's eyes and face is not uncommon. Infection is a huge risk. It's not the sort of thing most shelters would take on. But RappCats isn't most shelters.

We could never have properly cared for Lulu without Lesley's over-the-top devotion. Les brought in a sleeping bag and stayed by Lulu's side for 2 weeks. She gave Lulu medicine, eye drops, and wound care. Equally important, she gave Lulu company and love.

Lulu's surgery was successful! She can hear better now. She's clear of infection and her risk of future problems is minimal. But the surgery required one unexpected step.

The surgeon discovered that Lulu's ears were so severely damaged that her outer ear flaps needed to be completely removed. We were initially taken aback, but we knew it was for Lulu's well-being. And to be honest, once we saw her, we thought she was even more adorable. (All of our social media followers thought so too:)

Recovery went well, and on January 29th Lulu rejoined the other cats. As the weeks went by, she blossomed - her energy & spirit renewed. Soon she was initiating play - batting toys, even zooming around the room!

Lulu spent February, March and April building back muscle, energy & spirit! She did great (and even got a little chunky!)

Now we could concentrate on finding the perfect adopter for this special girl. She'd been through so much. She deserved the reward of a great life and boundless love!

But Lulu didn't respond much to visitors. She was aloof and sometimes avoidant. We wondered if she wanted to stay with us instead of going through one more transition.

Then, magic happened...

Lulu's Journey Stage 4: "I just can't get her out of my mind".

RappCats has a popular twitter account, with over 10,000 loyal followers who love Lulu.

One of them, a woman named Ann, had closely followed Lulu's story. She decided to send us a private message. "I don't live near you, but I can't get Lulu out of my mind," she wrote. "I would love to give her a home."

Ann and her husband were seasoned pet owners. They'd lost a beloved cat last year. But they lived in New Hampshire most of the year, and were now wintering in Florida. They travelled back and forth by RV. They wanted to make a side trip to the shelter on their trip back home. They wanted to know if we'd allow Lulu to move to New England!

We weren't sure. The most important thing was Lulu's well being. Was this the right family? What would so much travel be like for her?

We researched road trips and consulted vets. The consensus was that a low dose of Gabapentin, which calms cats, could make the trip comfortable.

We vetted Ann and her husband. We talked to their vet, who gave them a glowing recommendation, and assured us this family adored their pets (they also have a Sheltie named Sadie, who is used to and adores cats, and Tiny Tim, an elderly, blind chihuahua).

I face-timed with Ann and could tell she would be a loving, calm presence for Lulu. I could also tell she was genuinely smitten with our sweet girl. I thought Lulu - given the right planning - could tolerate the drive. But I had one nagging concern.

Would it be fair for Lulu to live with two dogs and no other cat companion?

Lulu's most frequent playmate at the shelter was a mellow Tuxedo fellow named Sol. Visitors seemed to overlook him. He could be a tad shy with strangers - he never "sold" himself like some cats do with prospective adopters.

I didn't want to put Ann in an uncomfortable position, but I had to ask. "Would you possibly consider adoption Sol to keep Lulu company?"

"How about my husband and I go out to breakfast and discuss it?" she offered.

Within hours, Ann told us that yes, they'd be happy to provide a companion to Lulu! "Of course it's up to Lulu and Sol," she said. "But my husband's customizing the RV and he'll plan on space for a pair!"

It had become clear that Lulu (and now Sol) had hit the jackpot!

Look at what their new Dad built so they'd be safe and comfy and together during the road trip!! A space for food and water (on non-slip surfaces), plush beds, toys, and room to stretch their legs during rest stops.

Finally the big day arrived. The adopters came to the shelter at 5pm for a leisurely meet and greet with Lulu and Sol. If introductions went well, they planned to spend the night in a hotel and come back at 7 a.m. to hit the road. Adoption day would be Thursday, April 25th, 2024.

It went great! Whereas Lulu had been standoffish with other visitors, she seemed immediately comfortable with Ann and her soothing voice. She enjoyed being petted and then came out to play. Sol rubbed against Mom and Dad's legs.

"We talked it over and the vote is in. We're going on a road trip!"

And so it was settled. This sweet, brave, resiient girl and her pal had found the most loving, perfect forever home we could ever have dreamed of!

Ann sent regular updates from the road. Lulu and Sol were awake. Lulu and Sol were calm. Lulu and Sol drank and ate during rest stops.

They arrived home to New Hampshire late that evening, and though surely Mom & Dad were exhausted, they sent more updates to reassure us. Both cats were resting comfortably.

Within days, Sol had started to follow Mom around. Lulu was exploring. Neither cat seemed to take notice of Tiny Tim. Lulu even went into the kitchen when cat-loving Sadie the Sheltie was there and made herself comfortable across the room from him. She even sleeps on the sofa while he sits nearby.

Sol discovers (of course) the kitchen counter!

Sweet Sadie keeps watch over her new friend Lulu.

As I write this, it's been just 14 days since Lulu was adopted. In 13 more days Lulu would have been with us one year.

What a journey it has been. From doubting she would survive, we watched her get better, then saw her relapse. We learned she needed costly surgery, worried we could never afford it, then managed to raise funds to make it happen. And finally, the best adoptive family we could want appeared!

Lulu embodies what RappCats is about. Lulu is not an ordinary cat, and we're not an ordinary cat shelter. We believe animal shelters can do better than cages and time limits and lack of needed vet care. We will always do better. You can count on it as long as we can count on you. From cats like Lulu, and every single cat and kitten who needs us, we sincerely thank you for supporting us.

As always, thanks for reading my blog.

We plan to establish a "Lulu Fund" soon to raise monies specifically for the care of special medical needs like Lulu had. Vet bills are our biggest expense and we never want a cat or kitten to suffer because we can't afford the care they need.

With your help, we can ensure quality care for our neediest kitties.


Meow for now! Kitty kisses!

RappCats relies entirely on private donations

from animal lovers like you. If you'd like to contribute to our cats' shelter, medical, and care expenses,

please consider a donation. We can't do what we do without your support.

As you have probably seen, Give Local Piedmont is on Tuesday, May 14th this year. GLP has become RappCats' single most important fundraiser, yielding about 1/3 of our annual operating revenues.  If you make a donation through the direct link to Giving Local Piedmont, it may also help us win one of their bonus contests.

While you can make a donation any day through midnight on the 14th, please consider marking your calendar to make your donation between 3pm and 4pm on Tuesday. The non-profit who raises the most during that hour can win $1000!

Please use this link to make your May 14th donation:  

On other days, you can use the DONATE button below.

Please send this blog to your friends & family, and post it on social media so others will understand our work, and can choose to support RappCats.

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Donations in the form of checks and money orders are also accepted and can be sent to:

RappCats P.O. Box 307 Washington, VA 22747

We have a supply "Wish List" on Chewy's website.

Click on their logo below if you'd like to see what we currently need.


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