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. . . . . .