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.