Marilyn Helmer (Part 2)—Unexpected Visitors

One of the great joys in creating this blog post is hearing how these stories of kindness touch and inspire others. I was incredibly heart-warmed when Marilyn Helmer, who had already shared her story, Random Acts of Kindness, told me she enjoyed reading one of my other posts.

 As a dedicated cat lover, Marilyn was particularly taken by the post titled, Kate and Her Cats. 

“Although I haven’t had anywhere near the number of cats Kate has had, I can certainly relate to her love for them. I particularly enjoyed her story about raising the young kittens”

In 2003, Marilyn was blessed with the opportunity to rear a litter of abandoned kittens  her son rescued from inside an air conditioning vent. Chris and his girlfriend brought them home for Marilyn to raise. With the help of her daughter, Sandra, also a devoted cat lover, and advice from the animal clinic where Sandra was working for the summer, all four babies survived and thrived.

Marilyn was delighted to have her story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul  in 2017. With their permission, Marilyn shares that story here for us to enjoy!

Unexpected Visitors


Marilyn Helmer

(originally published in Chicken Soup for the Soul—The Cat Really Did That?)


The phone rang while I was busy preparing dinner.

“Hi, Mom, we’re heading home now.” It was my son Chris. He and his friend Jenn had been out of town the day before.

“Great,” I replied. “We’ll expect you in a couple of hours.”

“Wait, Mom, I have something to tell you.” Just then my oven timer dinged.

“Tell me when you get here,” I said. “Pie’s ready. Got to go.”

As I started to hang up, I heard Chris say, “We’re bringing some extra company.”

Extra company? Yikes! Would there be enough food to go around? “How many?” I asked.

“Four,” said Chris.

“Four? Chris, I can’t feed four extra people on such short notice!”

“Good news, Mom,” he replied cheerfully. “You don’t have to feed people. The company I’m bringing home is four abandoned kittens.”

“Kittens? Chris…”

“We’re stopping at Sandra’s on the way. She’s getting formula for them.” My animal-loving daughter had a summer job at the local veterinary clinic. “They’ll have to be fed every four hours. Don’t worry, she’ll explain it all to you.”

“Explain? Explain what?” Too late. Chris had hung up.

The timer dinged again. My pie! I yanked the oven door open to a burned-apple smell. Too late for the pie too.

I made a cup of tea to calm my nerves and phoned Sandra.

“What’s up?” she asked.

“Apparently four newborn kittens,” I replied.

“Don’t worry, Mom. I got the formula and bottles. The vet said they’ll have to be fed every four hours. I’ll come and show you what to do.”

Show me what to do? “Sandra, I don’t know anything about caring for newborn kittens.”

“I’ll help,” she said. “But I work all day so I can’t look after them full time.”

And I don’t work all day? I’m a writer. Writers work day and night. Well, sometimes.

“I have to go,” Sandra broke in. “Chris and Jenn just arrived. See you soon.”

I love animals passionately but being caregiver to four newborn kittens was more than I could handle. I resolved then and there to follow that sage advice, “Just say no.”

I was working on it when the front door opened. “Mom? Come see the kittens,” Chris called from the vestibule.

I went downstairs, silently repeating the “Just say no.” mantra.

In a basket in Jenn’s arms lay four tiny kittens, snuggled together.

(l-r) Chloe, Zoli, Leo & Bailey

“Where did you find them?” I asked.

“We heard cries coming from the roof of our motel,” Jenn said.

“The guy in the office said a pregnant cat had been hanging around,” Chris jumped in. “He kept chasing her away but he thought she’d had her kittens on the roof.”

“He said he hadn’t seen her for several days so he figured she’d been killed on the highway and now he was stuck dealing with them. We knew what he meant by dealing with them,” Jenn said ominously.

“I told him we’d look after them,” Chris said. “I borrowed his ladder and got up on the roof. Somehow the mother cat managed to get inside the air conditioning unit and had her kittens there. She must have been desperate and thought it was a safe place.”

I quickly blocked out the thought of what might have happened to the kittens if Chris and Jenn hadn’t come along.

At that moment, the smallest kitten gave a faint squeal. Before I knew what I was doing, I reached in and picked it up.

Leo & Bailey

“He’s the runt of the litter,” Jenn said. “He may not survive.”

“Unless he has the best care possible,” Chris added. “Care only a mother can give.”

“I am not a mother cat,” I reminded my son as I wrapped my sweater gently around the unbelievably tiny bit of life in my hands.

The door opened and Sandra came in. Her eyes went to the sweater-wrapped bundle in my arms. I didn’t miss the knowing smile she, Chris and Jenn exchanged.

“I brought everything you’ll need for the kittens – formula, feeding bottles, wipes,” Sandra rhymed off.  “We’ll work out a schedule and we’ll all help. Mom, look at them.” She picked up the white one with orange and black markings. The kitten obligingly wobbled her head and managed to look sweet and pathetic at the same time. “How can you resist?”

The bottom line was, I couldn’t.

In no time the kittens were awake, filling the house with their hungry chorus. My “Just say no.” mantra vanished in the twitch of a whisker.

That afternoon, Sandra walked me through the steps of kitten care. “They have to be fed every four hours. Then there’s the toileting.” I won’t go into details but suffice it to say disposable diapers do not work on kittens.

And so I became a kitty mama. If I thought my children had been messy eaters, the kittens outdid them, hands…er… paws down. And bathing a kitten is no easy job. Imagine a body so small that it fits into the palm of your hand, with twig-like limbs and paws the size of a dime. Imagine toweling them dry, taking care not get tiny claws snagged in the cloth.

When I was on my own that night for the ten o’clock feeding, reality hit. There were four of them and only one of me. When one kitten woke up, its hungry cries woke the others. Suddenly I had four little pink mouths emitting heart-rending pleas. Begging the one I was busy feeding to hurry so the others could have their turn fell on deaf ears. Last but not least, every towel and blanket that lined their basket had to be washed because no one was toilet trained.

Fortunately, as the days went by, I did have help. On alternate days, Sandra took the kittens to the veterinary clinic where the staff argued over who would get look after the adorable quartet. Strangely no one offered to do the night shifts though.

As well as feeding the kittens on schedule, we had to keep track of every gram of formula they drank. I couldn’t bear to list them as Kitten 1, 2, 3 and 4 so I named them – Bailey, Zoli, Chloe and for the littlest one, the biggest name of all – Leo the Lion-hearted.


P1060078 (1)
Chloe, Bailey, Zoli & Leo

Once named, the kittens developed individual personalities overnight. Leo certainly lived up to his name. His heart stopped twice, thankfully when he was in my daughter’s care. Using two fingers, for that was all that would fit on his tiny chest, Sandra managed to massage his heart back into action.

Good news! They all survived and thrived. Zoli and Bailey were adopted by Sandra’s mother-in-law where they are presently living a life of leisure. Chloe went to live with a friend of Chris’s and wee Leo was adopted by a client at the veterinary clinic.

Seventeen years have passed since those four unexpected visitors arrived. Looking back, I am thankful beyond measure that I had the opportunity to play a part in their survival and to observe up close, the miracle of life.

Zoli & Bailey, 17 years old & living the life of luxury

If you would like to learn more about Marilyn and the wonderful stories she creates, please check out her website at

Kate Thompson (part two)- Kate & Her Cats

I’m delighted to bring you part two of my wonderful story about my dear friend and animal lover, Kate Thompson.


In my earlier post, I shared some of Kate’s animal rescue stories, from raccoons to squirrels to a sweet dog. Though Kate loves all animals, I think cats hold a particularly special place in her heart. Kate has shared her heart and home with so many cats, I thought it best to dedicate an entire post to Kate and her beloved cats.

Here is the heartwarming story about Chester . . .

Kate and her ex-husband used to travel north once a year to a small town between North Bay and Sudbury, to stay in a cottage community on Deer Lake. One summer when they arrived for their week-long vacation and were unpacking the car, Kate saw an orange and white cat approaching. He came right to up to her and was really friendly. Like all animal lovers, Kate wondered if the kitty had a home. She soon discovered that people in the adjoining trailer park had moved away, leaving behind the poor cat.

Kate’s first instinct was to bring the cat into the cottage. But she had brought along her own cat and didn’t feel comfortable doing so. Instead, she started feeding him, sharing her cat’s food. However, the cat was more interested in eating Kate’s Cheetos, so she started calling him Chester.

Though Kate considered bringing him back home with her, she first decided to canvas the people in nearby cottages to see if anyone wanted to add a lovely kitty to their family.

One of Kate’s cottage neighbours was a super sweet family, with a boy and a girl around five and seven. Kate made friends with them and soon broached the idea of Chester. To her relief, they seemed slightly interested— definitely not a hard no, anyway. Kate offered to go into town to buy a cat carrier and some supplies for them. Much to her surprise, the dad decided to come along, and when it came time to buying the supplies, he pulled out his wallet. It was then Kate knew Chester had found his new forever family. Kate is still friends with the family on Facebook, and although sadly they lost Chester a couple of years ago, he brought them so much love. They often sent her pictures and told her what a wonderful cat he turned out to be.

Though Kate couldn’t keep Chester as her own, she did end up keeping so many others. Spooky was one of those fortunate cats. When Kate first met Spooky, she already had been sharing her home with two black cats for a few years. Kate wonders if Spooky saw the other two cats laying in the bay window and knew he, too, would be welcome. He started showing up at her place a few days before Halloween and Kate instantly knew his name had to be Spooky—though he was anything but. Kate says he was the friendliest cat. The relationship began as many of Kate’s relationships with animals do—feeding him and putting a cat carrier outside, made cozy and comfy with soft bedding.

Spooky came whenever Kate called for him, and after only two days, would happily be picked up and cuddled. He was so friendly Kate thought he must belong to somebody. She called the local Humane Society to find out if they’d had any reports of missing cats. The receptionist said there hadn’t been any black cats reported missing, and if Kate was planning on giving him a home, she should do so immediately, because people can be cruel, especially around Halloween to black cats. Horrified at the thought, she scooped him up and brought him into the house. For the safety of her other two cats, Spooky spent the weekend in Kate’s spare room, happily receiving lots of cuddles.


First thing Monday morning, Kate took Spooky to her vet to have him checked out. As soon as she was given the all clear, she started introducing the newest member of the family to the others. It didn’t take long for everyone to meet. The other two cats were very interested in who had come into their home, and Spooky just wanted to make friends. Once he was allowed into the “general population”, he would climb into bed with the other two and insisted on cuddling them. Before long he had made himself very welcome.

Spooky & Wally

Sadly, Spooky passed away in 2019, at the young age of eight. He will be forever missed. Somehow Kate always knew she wouldn’t have a lot of time with him, but that didn’t stop her from giving her heart to this special and loving cat. She fondly describes Spooky as “an old soul and my angel.” 

I was fortunate to watch one of my favourite Kate-cat rescue stories play out first hand. It happened about seven months after Spooky joined Kate’s family. A client of hers had stumbled upon two abandoned kittens. Knowing Kate’s willingness to help animals, she brought them to Kate’s place. Though Kate had rescued many cats, she’d never rescued ones so young, but she knew someone who had! Her rescue friend came over and offered helpful advice. Kate learned the kittens were about 12 days old. She immediately went out and bought bottles and replacement milk, and began the task of bottle feeding them every three hours. Kate doesn’t have kids, so this was the closest she ever came to feeding babies, and describes it as ‘exhausting’.

Smuggles & Midget

At first, she thought they were doing okay, but after a day they were exhibiting signs of severe dehydration, and their tiny little bodies were almost lifeless. Kate rushed them to her vet, and was disappointed to discover her vet was not as kind and sympathetic as Kate had thought. The vet didn’t have much time for the kittens as they were “just barn kittens” and “don’t have a very high survival rate”. The vet gave them subcutaneous fluids, and sent Kate home telling her if it didn’t work she could try Gatorade.

Unwilling to give up on the kittens, she immediately called her rescue friends, and they directed her to the vet they use. Kate rushed to get the kittens to the vet before the clinic closed. The vet immediately put them on an IV drip, and sent Kate home with the IV and drip equipment, so she could continue with fluids for the next 24 hours. Kate says she will be forever grateful for Dr. Dev and the Fourth Line Animal Hospital in Oakville, because they saved her babies.


Kate already had a house full of cats, and thought at most she would be a foster mom for these sweet kittens until they were old enough to leave home. No one was surprised that Kate couldn’t part with them and almost eight years later they are still her babies!

Kate & her babies

As if this story wasn’t wonderful enough, Spooky made it even more special. From the moment the kittens came into Kate’s house, Spooky was desperate to see them. So desperate, he actually needed veterinary treatment because he kept pushing his leg under the door and damaged his paw.

When the kittens were old enough to meet Spooky, Kate wasn’t surprised at how gentle he was with them. Spooky quietly walked up to one of them, nudged the kitten onto his back and started cleaning him. From that day on, Spooky was both their mom and their dad.

Spooky nuzzling Smuggles

It had been quite a while since Kate had left the house, as she was worried about leaving the kittens alone. But when she finally did go out, she left Spooky in charge and he took his role as caregiver very seriously. He made sure the kittens didn’t get into any trouble. Anytime they would roughhouse, he would referee. It was quite a sight to see! Spooky took care of those babies right up until the day he passed away. He is, and will always be missed.

The gang
Smuggles & Midget (in front)

A couple of months ago, Kate was out fixing her garden when a sweet little cat ran up to her, rubbed up against her legs and purred. Kate noticed the kitty was limping. Being the kind and caring person she is, Kate went inside, grabbed a carrier and set it in front of the cat. Amazingly, the kitty went right in.

Kate took her to the vet. Good thing too, as it turned out she had a pus-filled uterus and was in critical condition. On top of all this, the cat was FIV positive, which meant Kate wouldn’t be able to bring her home after the surgery, because it would put her cats’ health in danger. With no other option, the animal control officer was called. They picked up the cat and took her to a local rescue, where her she would continue to be cared for. Even though this story didn’t have the ending Kate hoped it would, her decision to step in and take the cat to the vet was the right thing to do. The vet told her the cat would have died a painful death within the next twenty-four hours had she not been brought to the clinic.

Kate has shed many tears for this kitty. As all animal lovers, she wishes she could have done more. As heartbreaking as this must have been for Kate, I hope she is comforted knowing her loving actions at least saved this cat from a lonely, painful death, and possibly allowed the cat a chance to live a happy and healthy life.

Now we come to Kate’s most recent rescue story . . .

Kate and her husband live in a small rural town in Indiana. Their house is nestled up along the forest edge. Kate often sees stray cats come and go, but early last winter, one started coming around and became a regular at her house.

Kate says these situations always start off the same way. Her husband is a great guy with a huge heart, but he always leads with “don’t feed them”, which then it turns into “ok but only feed them at the edge of the property”, and finally . . . “Okay, but keep them out of the garage

So began the relationship between Kate and this new cat. Kate describes her as a Maine Coon, only quite a bit smaller than your typical Maine Coon. Kate called her Boujee because she was just that! Fancy, fancy, fancy!


Kate had been feeding her for about four months, when one day she noticed Boujee had a friend in tow. This friend was a pitiful looking little cat. He looked so sad and had these ears that folded all the way down. Kate wondered if he might be a Scottish Fold, or maybe the cauliflower ears were a result of many fights.


This new visitor would just follow Boujee around and hide when he heard any noise whatsoever, so Kate never got a chance to look at him up close. She started feeding both of them, realizing the second cat was hiding in the rafters of her garage. After a month or so, the weather started to getting warmer, and Kate was able to spend more time outside. This gave her the opportunity to slowly gain the trust of the cats. Boujee’s friend was beginning to venture closer to the house, still keeping a distance, but looking longingly in the windows.

Kate eventually got close enough to see a nasty cut on his neck. It was about a three-inch open wound, going right up into his jaw line. Even from a distance, Kate could tell it was bad.

Her chance to help him came one day when she was bringing food out for the cats and he came right up to her. Kate knew this might be her only opportunity to get him. She brought out her well-used cat carrier, lined it with a bed and a blanket, ready to put food in there the next day.

Shockingly, the following day, she was able to get him into the carrier. The cat hated it, but he needed to go straight to the vet. This all happened during the Covid-19 quarantine time so the protocol at the animal hospital was to pull up to the door and telephone the clinic. A veterinary technician would then come out to the car, take the carrier inside, and call to discuss the prognosis and treatment.

Kate was right, the cut was a bad one. The vet stitched up the cut, but that wasn’t the end of the treatment. Kate paid to have the cat neutered, treated for fleas and lice, and have some dental work done.

Kate has her own hair salon, and due to the quarantine, she’s currently closed. As such, she was able to bring Ewok, as he is now called, back to the shop for recovery. Ewok was terrified of course, and hid under a cabinet for three days, only coming out to eat after Kate was gone. Kate laid out cat beds, a litter box, blankets, towels, and everything she could think of to make Ewok comfortable.

On the morning of day four, the magical moment Kate had been hoping for happened. She was sitting on the floor of her salon, as she had been for a few hours every day to get him comfortable with her—and this time he finally came out. Ewok came right to her hand and let her pet him. Every day since, he’s become more loving and more trusting.


After about a week, he started sitting in Kate’s lap. He loves to be loved. To Kate’s absolute delight, her husband agreed that once Ewok was cleared by the vet, he could  live with them and their other three cats.

Kate says she is grateful for this little cat, who has become such a light in this time that is so dark and uncertain for everyone. Every day, she posts about Ewok’s progress on Facebook, and every day hundreds of people respond with positive comments and reactions, saying that he really has brightened up this time for them.


As for Boujee… she seems quite content living outside. She has a lot of protection around Kate’s house, in their garage and also the screened-in porch. And one weekend, her husband built a fantastic cat house with a magnetic door so that Boujee could be safe from nighttime predators. She wears a magnetic collar so only she can get in and out.

Kate wishes she could save them all, but she does continue to give Boujee love, food, and does her very best to keep her safe. And who knows what’s to come in the future… Kate says her husband seems to be getting quite fond of Boujee, so maybe they will have another house mate before long.

When asked the one thing she would change in the world, Kate’s response is, “I would just wish for everyone to be kind.”

To follow Kate and Ewok, please check out Ewok’s very own Facebook page:

Ewok Update: Twelve days after Ewok’s rescue, he moved into his forever home. He was an absolute angel going into the carrier for his trip to the vet, got a clean bill of health, and his transition is going very well. He made friends with Kate’s husband, but the friendship with the other cats will have to go at bit slower. Knowing Kate’s history of bringing cats into her family, I can’t imagine it becoming anything less than a full success.

Kate Thompson-Always Trying To Save Them All

I have known Kate Thompson for almost 25 years. She started out as our family hair dresser, and quickly became a wonderful family friend. We loved having our hair cut by Kate. Where else could you get a wash, trim and cuddle a cat at the same time?

One of Kate’s lucky clients-getting a combo cut & cuddle from Wally

Though Kate has since moved to the United States, we keep in touch via social media. It’s not the same, but it’s something. I was so happy when Kate agreed to share her numerous and amazing rescue stories with me.

I’m sure Kate, like all animal lovers, has often been told ‘she can’t save them all’. As you will soon discover, it’s never stopped Kate from trying.

Kate was born in England. After living most of her life in Canada, she moved to Monticello, Indiana three years ago with her husband.

Kate & one of her many furry friends

Kate has always been a huge animal lover. It’s just a part of her character. She says, “If being an animal empath is a thing, then I’m that.”

Over the years, Kate has had many opportunities to rescue animals in need, and thankfully for the sake of the animals, she always follows through. Kate jokingly wonders if she has a homing device for all needy animals.

Kate has rescued many animals—domestic and wild. I remember sitting in her salon chair, getting my hair cut, mesmerized as she told me about her daring rescue of a baby raccoon.


It was a stormy day and the small creek behind her house turned into a raging river. She heard screaming (almost like the sound of a baby crying), and ran outside to find a family of baby raccoons huddled in a tree trunk, clinging to the branches for dear life. Unfortunately, one of the babies had fallen from the tree, into the river, and was being swept away.

Not thinking about her own safety or the fact that she had just had her cast removed from her broken leg, Kate jumped in. She did so despite thinking, “This might not be one of my smartest decisions!”

The water was above her head, but somehow, she was able to rescue the baby raccoon. He was gasping for breath so she laid him down on a blanket in hopes he would be okay. After about an hour, he slowly got to his feet, shook himself off and climbed up into the tree with his siblings. Kate describes the moment as “magical”.

For years after, the raccoon came back to visit Kate, or at least she likes to believe it was him. He would let her hand feed him. In return, Lucky, as Kate called him, gave her the most amazing photography shots. It was almost as if he was posing for her.



Another one of Kate’s lovely rescue stories was about Murphy the squirrel. Kate’s hair salon in Canada was an old Victorian house. The salon was on the main floor and she lived upstairs. One day, a customer came in telling her there was a baby squirrel on the front porch. The customer had tried to shoo him off, but the squirrel wouldn’t go.

Clearly, the customer didn’t know Kate very well. She never ‘shoos’ an animal away. Kate immediately went outside and put her hand down to the squirrel’s level. Knowing he had found someone to trust, the squirrel stepped right into her palm.

Kate played with him for a minute but she had to get back to work. She made him a little bed in a plastic tote, turned it on its side and put in some Cheerios and peanuts. After work that night she went out and was thrilled to see he was still there, happily resting in the box. She put her hand in and once again he climbed on, gently running up her arm. Kate decided to name him Murphy. She couldn’t believe how friendly he was. She kept his little house on the porch and would visit with him many times a day. Kate kept this up for many days until one morning she woke to find Murphy was gone. Kate hopes his family somehow found him and Murphy went home. She reassures herself with the knowledge that Murphy was big enough to take care of himself. Kate believes Murphy is out there somewhere, alive and happy. She remembers this experience as one that brought her so much closer to the animal world.

Unfortunately, rescues can sometimes be difficult and don’t always have a happy ending… Last September, one of Kate’s local Facebook groups had a lot of chatter about a dog that had been seen limping badly in and out of a cornfield, and who wouldn’t go to anyone. Kate’s heart broke thinking about that poor, scared dog. She knew she had to do something. She went to the grocery store, bought a bag of dog food, and drove to the cornfield armed with food and some water. As soon as she turned the corner to the location of the field, the dog came right out onto the road and stood in front of her car. She immediately pulled over and got out. The dog continued to move toward Kate, snarling. Most people would have quickly returned to their car, but not Kate. Somehow, she knew the dog wouldn’t hurt her, that he was just reacting that way because he was scared and injured. Feeling the urgency to gain the dog’s trust, Kate didn’t bother with bowls, she quickly poured the food straight on the ground. Clearly, this was the exact thing to do. The dog went over and started eating. He still had his collar and leash on, so Kate was able to hold his leash and phone the police. They had been involved in the conversation on Facebook earlier so they already knew which dog she was referring to.

The dog must have instinctively known he’d met someone who only wanted the best for him. Kate sat with the sweet dog and cuddled him in the rain, while they waited for the animal control officer.

Now that Kate was able to be close to the dog, she noticed his leg was badly injured. He had a huge cut in the joint closest to his foot and whenever he tried to walk, he would limp with his foot just hanging. The reports on Facebook had described the dog as vicious and unwilling to go to anyone, but Kate disagrees. All she could see was a sweet dog who was desperate for affection.

His collar had a phone number on it, so once the animal control officer arrived, he called the number. After about two hours a girl showed up who didn’t seem very nice, and apparently was the sister of the owner. It seems that a couple of weeks back her brother had given the dog away to somebody who had gotten into a car accident, while Chiko (the dog) was also in the car. Terrified, poor Chiko jumped out and had been missing for almost 2 weeks.

Kate couldn’t believe it. She says, “If that was my dog, I would’ve been camped out at the accident site and looked for him every single day.”

Kate was shocked and devastated that Chiko’s family didn’t seem to care. She wished she could have taken Chiko home herself, but it was too late. Chiko went back to the owner, who from all reports around town was not a very nice person. Kate often thinks about Chiko, and it was months before she could think about him without crying. She did contact the owner to see how he was, and was sent some pictures. Kate was relieved to see Chiko looking good and safe. Kate tries to convince herself that maybe the owner wasn’t such a bad guy after all, and that Chiko will be okay.

Perhaps it’s true, we can’t save them all, but I’m grateful there are kind people like Kate, doing all they can to help as many animals as possible. Kate has rescued so many animals, that I’m going to continue the rest of her heartwarming stories in my next blog.

. . . to be continued