Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tess likes her shelter

Just a short note to say that this morning when I arrived to feed I saw Tess come from her new sleeping shelter. Jazz was sitting outside the shelter so not sure if he was inside too but because he and Tess are the best of buddies I am sure he will go in. I'm so glad Tess is using this shelter. It is very cold today with a wind chill of -16C, however we do have sun.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Made a sleeping shelter for Tess

These two pictures show the sleeping shelter before I surrounded with bales of hay. The second picture just looks like hay but the shelter is inside and protected from snowy weather.

Over the past month I have been somewhat distressed about Tess because she spends her days in an open and abandoned parking lot. This is fine during good weather but now that it's cold I am very concerned about her and Jazz and Que. I built a sleeping shelter a few years ago and asked permission to place it in the back parking lot of the company next door to the abandoned lot. It was fine and all was well. Then a new woman in charge came along who wanted to flex her muscle. Sleeping and eating shelters were removed. Notwithstanding the fact that all were kept very clean and tidy and only one was visible. All the rest were hidden from view. But that is a whole other story.

I am now feeding Tess, Jazz & Que on city property which borders on a private and abandoned parking lot which is fenced. As the weather got colder I was trying to come up with a solution for the cats. At night they sleep in a warehouse across the street but during the day they are out in the open and exposed to the elements.

Last week I bought a Rubbermaid tub, lined it with insulating foam and put a bedding of wood shavings in the bottom. I was looking for straw to put inside for bedding but it seems rather hard to come by right now. Not sure why. Making the shelter was easy but getting it on to the private property inside the fenced area was a concern, or so I thought.

As luck would have it, I was able to access the private abandoned parking lot via another private parking lot because someone left the gate open. I pulled my car in and dropped the shelter over the fence.

Next I had to come up with some way of adding bales of hay into this lot so I could surround the shelter to make it warmer for the cats. Fortunately my sister lives on a farm and she was coming into the city. Arrangements were made for her to bring in six bales of hay and she would just back her truck up to the fence. This made it super easy to get the hay up and over the fence and into the abandoned lot. We just had to do this quickly to avoid too many people driving by from seeing us and thinking we were throwing garbage over the fence.

The next big issue was that I had to climb the fence to arrange the bales around the shelter. My plan was to return that same evening. I would go under cover of darkness and being just before Christmas hopefully most people would be too wrapped up in their own thoughts to pay much attention to me climbing a fence.

I returned after dark and while there I left food for the kitties. Minutes before I was to scale the fence I looked around to see who might be around (this is a busy industrial area) when I noticed a lovely fox heading my way. OMG. I couldn't believe it. He came trotting toward me while I stood mezmerized. He was nervous of me but then I too was nervous. In my 7 years of feeding these cats I have never seen a fox, although I know they are around.

I was cursing myself because I always have my camera. Just before leaving home decided I didn't want to carry it so left it behind. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been without my digital. This dear little fox was hungry and he went into the feeding shelter for a bite to eat but every few seconds poked his head out. By now I was safely inside my car watching him. Something spooked the fox and he left the feeding shelter and I saw him duck through a hole in the fence into the parking lot.

I realized that maybe I didn't want to climb the fence now after all. If the fox got through that hole that I thought was only big enough for the cats, what other delightful evening creatures might there be inside the fence.

So the following morning in broad daylight I scaled the fence at a spot where it isn't quite so high and walked across the parking lot to the shelter in the opposite corner. I moved the shelter, surrounded it by the bales of hay so that wind and snow would not blow directly in the hole of the shelter. I had one extra bale and decided I would keep it so managed to heave it up and over the fence for future use. I walked back to the low spot in the fence to climb over and managed to catch my jeans. Lucky me I somehow managed to unhook myself and get back on the side to freedom without ripping my jeans. And without drawing attention to myself.

Now I am keeping my fingers crossed that the kitties actually use it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tess has an abscess

Tess is a sweet little tortie. She has been around since the beginning when I started feeding and caring for this colony 7 years ago. In all this time she still will not let me pet her, however she will come very close and I have tried petting her but she always hops away. I am guessing she is about 9 years old, which is pretty good for a little feral. She had her last litter of kittens in the summer of 2003 but I never saw any of them so assume they didn't survive. Early in September of that year I was able to trap her and take her in to be spayed.

About two and a half weeks ago on a Friday morning I arrived to feed Tess and Jazz, and Que if he was around. It was a warm sunny day for the end of November. Tess came trotting acoss the road towards me and I could see this strange "thing" on the left side of her face. When she got close to me I realized she had a huge abscess. It was about the size of a half tennis ball stuck on her cheek.

Catching her to take in to see the vet was not likely to happen but I knew that she should have the abscess lanced and drained. I always have my camera so took pictures. When I got home I phoned my sister who works in a vet's office to tell her I would be emailing photos. I also asked if I should start antibiotics. The answer came back that I should start her on antibiotics so I hopped in the van and drove back to see if I would be lucky enough to get her to come out for a bowl of food. No luck. Her tummy was still full from the earlier feeding and she was probably curled up sleeping somewhere.

I returned a few hours later just as the sun was setting hoping she might be there. She was. And so was Jazz. I put a tablespoon full of food in a dish with the antibiotic in the centre and waited for her to eat the food. Tess must have been hungry because she ate that little bit of food along with the pill. I gave her the rest of the food plus a bowl of Jazz and left.

The following morning it was another sunny day. Tess was there waiting for me. Her abscess had burst at some point and her neck was wet from the draining of the infection. I was able to get another antibiotic into her while I watched to make sure she swallowed it. Sunday morning the same thing. Her neck was still wet from the abscess draining but this was a good thing. And I got a third antibiotic into her.

Monday I arrived and she was looking good. The fur around the abscess was now dry so I assumed it was finished draining and she would start to heal. Tuesday she was looking good and the same Wednesday. I was feeling very confident we had managed to get the infection from the abscess under control. Thursday and Friday she didn't show up to eat when I was there so she didn't get any pills. I was away over that weekend and did not feel comfortable having someone else pill her.

Monday after the weekend away I arrived and there was Tess looking bright and happy and hungry. I was able to get a few photos of the abscess site and then look at the pictures on the computer once I got home. She was healing well. All the fur on her cheek/jaw had fallen out around the abscess site which made it easy for me to see how she was progressing. It had been 5 days since I had last seen her to give her an antibiotic so opted to discontinue.

A few days ago I noticed an open sore on her cheek so again I took a photo, loaded on the computer to have a look. The sore is about the size of a dime, red and raw. Back to the antibiotics.

As of today she is doing well. I wasn't unable to get much of a look at her face this morning because it was drizzling but she looks good, ate well and I got another pill into her. I will try to get a picture of her cheek tomorrow, providing the weather co-operates and it isn't raining.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Early History - Part 3

As of May 2003 I had been caring for the two colonies for about six months. One I called the East Side Gang and the other the Logan Gang. And while I could not touch any of these cats, they were becoming a little more comfortable around me when I arrived each morning to feed.

I had also met a few people who also cared about these cats. Without their help I'm not sure I would have managed as well. Barb and Kim were two of the hands-on caregivers. Neither of them was able to feed on a daily basis, but that was okay, I was able to manage quite nicely. However, they were very instrumental in the steps needed beyond the daily care and my feral cat education.

At the end of July/03 Valentine had another litter of kittens - 5 this time. The babies were found by a worker in the lumberyard and removed. Kim was called in to take the kittens. These wee creatures were only 4 or 5 days old so this was a 24 hour a day job. It was just too much work for one individual. Within about 36 hours, a series of phone calls, and the efforts of Kim and Barb to help out, we were able to capture Valentine and reunite her with the babies. Barb had made arrangements with her vet to keep Valentine and the kittens at the clinic until the kittens could go to their forever homes. When the kittens were weaned Valentine would be spayed and returned to the colony.

In the meantime, Jet and F.J. were both approaching the time when spaying/neutering needed to be considered. Kim made arrangements through a cat rescue organization to pay for one cat to be spayed/neutered. Jet was the first cat that I trapped using a humane trap. Thankfully I had seen a show on PBS about trapping cats and knew it was important to never leave a trap unattended and that once a cat was inside it was imperative that the trap be covered with a cloth. Cats get very upset and thrash around in the traps but when covered with a cloth they calm down - most of the time. And Jet did.

Off to the vet clinic on the other side of the city. I dropped Jet off still not knowing if this little kitty was a boy or girl. At the end of the day I returned to pick up Jet. The vet came out to speak with me. She let me know that Jet was a boy and in good health. He would need to be confined in the carrier until the following morning because he was still somewhat woozy from the sedative. And no food until the next day.

The next morning I drove Jet back to his colony and as I neared the location Jet began meowing. Guess he was smelling familiar things in the air because until that point he had remained silent. I got his carrier out of the back of my van, walked into the bush where the colony got fed and released him. He was one very happy little boy cat to be home.

After releasing Jet, the other kitties came out for breakfast but Jet was not eating, at least not while I was there. He had run to the safety of the lumberyard on the otherside of the chain link fence and the pile of waste lumber. Since this was my first TNR (trap/neuter/return) I hoped I hadn't scared Jet so badly he would never come back. He returned the following morning and didn't seem to hold any grudges.

A couple weeks later Jet's sister, F.J. was caught along with another kitty named Jag. They went off to the vet to be spayed.
Valentine had also been spayed and was now back with her cat buddies. I was very happy that 4 cats had been spayed/neutered. But still many more to be done, however, it was a start.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Early History - Part 2

The area near the northeast corner of the parking lot was all overgrown. It was a bit of a waste land between the parking lot and the back of the lumberyard. It took me about 10 minutes to find the spot indicted in the note. I called "kitty, kitty" and eventually a very pretty little cat showed up. I would eventually name this kitty Ollie, not knowing at the time if the cat was an Oliver or an Olivia. Turns out she's a little female.
Ollie was almost always the first to come out to eat when I arrived each day. As the days went by more and more kitties made an appearance.
It was just a few days before February 14th when I first met Valentine. I knew immediately that this kitty was a girl kitty because she looked quite pregnant.
Next to feeding these cats regularly my biggest concern was the addition of kittens. I did not want this colony to grow. I also didn't know how to go about dealing with spaying and neutering these cats. Feeding them was easy. Providing a simple shelter in which to place food was also simple. But catching them and taking them in for "the operation" was not something I knew how to go about, not to mention the financial end of it.
Eventually, I found that there were quite a few cats. Some were regulars while others seemed to be just passing through. My core group of regulars consisted of 5 cats: Badger, Jag, Ollie, Valentine, Spirit.
In early April Valentine came out to have breakfast. After she was finished eating she coaxed her 3 kittens to come for food. I stood mezmerized as I watched Valentine teaching her babies where to go for food now that they were getting old enough. There was a little shorthaired black kitten (Jet) a long haired solid black kitten (F.J. which stood for Fluffy Jet) and a 3rd kitten with the same colouring as Valentine.
Over the next few weeks I enjoyed watching Valentine sitting patiently near a bowl of food while her babies came out to eat. The kittens were very skittish, the slightest sound or movement would send them scampering back to safety on the other side of the chain link fence and the pile of waste lumber.
I don't know what happened to the 3rd kitten but it just didn't come for food one day. Jet and FJ came every day with their mother and became a little more relaxed as the days passed but always kept a safe distance from me, as did all the cats in this colony.

Early History - Part 1

This blog is going to be about a colony of feral cats that I care for, along with stories about the three kitties we live with.

About 6-1/2 years ago I was driving to my gym when I saw a little black cat cross the road. I was somewhat surprised because my gym is in an industrial area and I couldn't figure out how a cat would find its way there. Boy was I naive!

Some time later I again saw a black cat. Eventually I noticed a couple of cats eating not far from the side of the road on a grassy boulevard. I realized these were homeless cats. I stopped to watch them while still sitting in my car. I decided that since I was at the gym three times a week, I would stop on those days to leave some food too. Barely a week later I found myself going every day to leave food and check on the cats.

It was now November and the weather was starting to get rainy and miserable. I contacted my local humane society and learned that if these cats were feral they would be put to sleep, so that was not an option. I tried to find homes for these kitties but without any luck. I was only just beginning to learn about feral cats and that they often can't be socialized, at least not like the kitties I was used to living with.

Well, if these kitties couldn't live in a home with people then I had to make other arrangements for them. Namely some kind of a shelter for their food so the bowls didn't fill up with rain. Someone beat me to it. A board was placed leaning against the fence. This provided a bit of protection from the weather and kept the food sort of dry. And of course the cats would come to eat it right away so most of the time rain wasn't an issue.

There appeared to be three adult females, two tortoise shells and a solid grey plus three young cats about 5 or 6 months old. All the young cats were black so telling them apart was impossible. What I did find interesting is that their faces looked exactly like their mother, the solid grey kitty.

One of the little torties was quite friendly. She would rub against my legs and allow me to pet her. I named her Eloise. The other tortie I called Tess but no touching allowed. The grey kitty I learned from someone was called Hoppy and she kept a sizeable space between us. This dear little cat only had 3 legs. She was still able to get around very well and whatever the cause of the lost leg it had happened some time before. I didn't try naming the 3 kittens since I couldn't tell them apart.

Sometime around Christmas I noticed that I hadn't seen Eloise in a few days. I don't know what happened to her. A few years later I learned that one of the gym staff members had been feeding the kitties and had taken some of them home, so I have my fingers crossed in hopes that Eloise was one of them.

One cold late January morning I arrived to feed the kitties and found a note. The note indicated there were a few cats living near the northeast corner of the gym's parking lot. Could someone please feed them. So off I went in search of the other cats.

to be continued. . . . . .