Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Winter and the Ferals

Tess, Jazz and Que at the Logan feeding station come when they hear me call "kitty kitty". Their sleeping shelters are inside a chain link fenced area and the shelters are surrounded by bales of straw. This fall I added a few more bales around the shelters.

Before I built the shelters for these kitties they spent much of their time across the road in a garbage plant which meant crossing a busy street with lots of heavy trucks. In the mornings before I arrived they made their way to the feeding station to wait for me, unless it was really cold. It really bothered me that these kitties didn't have a safe, dry spot to sleep or to wait for my arrival.

In November 2009 I decided I would make some winter sleeping shelters for the cats and install them in the vacant lot beside the feeding station. It is a fenced area and is private property but has not been used for the past few years. I had my fingers crossed that no one would see them and have them removed. My fingers are still crossed, but so far so good.

I bought 3 Rubbermaid containers and three sheets of insulation Styrofoam and production began. I had Boomer as my tester, first for the entrance hole to make sure it was the right size and then for making sure the interior would offer enough comfortable sleeping space.

I cut the insulating foam to line the bottom and the sides, which I also covered in a Mylar sheet that reflects body heat back to the cats. Once everything was fitted and secured in place I put in a thick layer of wood shavings so the cats would be comfortable and warm. Then I cut a Styrofoam top and secured it to the sides before putting the lid to the container on.

Next stop, vacant lot to drop off the shelters. Now that was a fun exercise! I was able to drop the containers over the fence but was unable to climb the fence here. There is a spot that is easier to climb which is way on the other side of the lot. A few days later my sister came into the city from her farm to bring me a load of straw. She backed her truck up to the fence and we heaved bale after bale over the fence. The next day I returned to arrange the bales around the sleeping shelters for the cats. It is relatively safe inside this fenced area, but I have seen a fox scoot through the same hole that the cats use to come and go. Because of this, I arranged the bales in such a way that the cats have two exits through the bales to escape if necessary.

The picture below shows Tess (foreground) and Jazz sitting just outside their shelters. It didn't take them long to discover these shelters and they were well used last year and are being used again this year.

I would like to add that shelters should not have towels or blankets for the cats to sleep on. A cat sleeping on a damp towel or blanket loses body heat. The ideal bedding is straw or wood shavings. Also, it is not a good idea to feed ferals too close to their sleeping shelter as it could attract other animals if all food is not consumed.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sophie, my litte feral tortie

Sophie arrived last Saturday evening a badly injured little cat. It wasn't our first meeting. This past August she had spent the night in my garage awaiting a trip to the vet to be spayed the following morning. Robin is the colony caregiver that Sophie is from and she has been going through the colony doing a wonderful job of TNR this summer.

Over the past week I have loved and cared for my sweet Sophie but just a little while ago I had to say good bye to this little girl. Her injuries, combined with what we all suspect was an auto immune disease, was too much for her wee body to cope with. Robin and I made the decision that it would be far better to help Sophie to cross the Rainbow Bridge than to watch her suffer needlessly. All week I have wanted desperately to hold Sophie and kiss the top of her little head but being a feral it wasn't a good idea. Early this evening just before we sent her on her way across the Bridge, I kissed her on the top of her head.

Just 48 hours ago she was eating and showing signs of improvement but that only lasted a few hours and when I got up the next morning she was not doing as well and she continued to decline.

I miss her but I know it was the right decision for her even if it is difficult for me. I love you Sophie, my little feral tortie. XO

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sophie, The Tortie - Day 4

I am heaving a small sigh of relief. Sophie seems to have turned a corner in her recovery. Yesterday I went in to see her early in the morning but she was not looking too good. She actually seemed a little bit worse than the day before. The only good thing is she was still eating a little bit of food.

I cleaned her cage and litter box, and gave her a fresh towel for the top of her carrier. When I came back into the room with her food she was on top of the carrier and I could see that some of her wounds were draining and making little puddles on the towel. If Sophie wasn't feral I would wash her wounds to help the healing process but there is no way I can touch her.

Around noon I was even more concerned for Sophie so got in touch with Robin who cares for the colony Sophie comes from. Robin put in a call to the vet who had treated her on Saturday evening and he recommended another type of antibiotic. I took off for the vet's office with hopes that this pill would be the magic we needed to help speed her recovery. I also stopped off at the store to pick up some food that Robin recommended, Fancy Feast Liver and Chicken.

Whenever I have had a problem with one of the ferals in my colony, I have had no problem getting them to take a pill. I give them a small amount of food with the pill inside and they always eat it up. Sophie on the other hand was really cagey. She managed to eat around it on the first two attempts, so I tried crushing a pill in a small amount of food. Well she hardly ate that at all. I even got some suggestions from anipals on Twitter - thank you.
This morning little Sophie didn't look much better. She was tucked way at the back of her carrier and even with a bowl of fresh food just warmed in the microwave she still wasn't too interested. I left her for a little while. When I returned a few hours later she had eaten some of the food, which was good because I had crushed her pill in it. I have also been adding a little water to her food to help keep her hydrated. I gave her more food and left her again.

About 2:00 this afternoon I gave her another fresh bowl of food and when I returned it was empty, so I gave her another bowl and this time crushed a pill and again she ate everything. I prepared another bowl of food and she has been eating that too. Before I go to bed I will give her more food to get her through the night and my fingers are crossed that she cleans that bowl too.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Little Sophie - Day 3

Poor little Sophie. She looks so sad and I think she is feeling bad too. Her wounds don't look any better today but I don't think they are any worse. She got an antibiotic shot on Saturday and I am assuming it is like antibiotic pills which take about 48 hours to start working. She is eating less today than she did yesterday and I am not sure what to make of this. I tried heating her food up and think she ate a little of that but will try another kind of food that smells a little stronger to see if that will entice her.

Sophie is very thin and I would guess that she probably weighs about 6 lbs at the most. The vet did say he thought she was injured about a week before she was trapped so she may not have eaten much for quite a few days.

She has spent the majority of her day sleeping/resting on top of the cat carrier in her cage. I'm glad she feels comfy enough to come out instead of hiding at the back of the carrier.

Hugs and love to you sweet Sophie

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sophie, The Tortie - Day 2

Sophie spent a very quiet day in her cage eating and resting. Near the end of the afternoon I went in to check on her and take in a fresh bowl of food to find her resting on top of the carrier instead of in it.

I also got a look at some of her wounds for the first time and it brings tears to my eyes to think that this dear little cat was attacked. Her wounds look like teeth puncture wounds which are all over the front of her neck and chest. The vet says they are just superficial so I guess they aren't that deep but they look painful. I was told she has about 15 of these wounds.

Since Sophie can't be handled, I have taken a few pictures of her wounds so that I can keep an eye on them and see the progress, good or bad. I wish I could wrap her in a soft blanket and hold her so she would know she is safe and she is loved.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sohie, the Tortie

Tonight I received another phone call from Robin. One of the little kitties in her colony was at the vet's office being treated for some injuries she sustained. Was I willing to keep Sophie while she recovered from these injuries. Silly question, of course she could come here to recouperate.

Sophie was spayed a few months ago and returned to the maintained colony. She is thought to be about two years old and is very feral. No one knows how she got these injuries but the vet feels that it happened about a week ago. I don't have to do anything special for Sophie while she is recovering other than to feed her and keep her litter box clean. She was given an antibiotic shot which lasts for about 2 weeks and the vet recommended a high calorie diet for her while she is getting better.

In the few hours since her arrival she has been very quiet, which I expected. I was glad to see that she has eaten a little food, but not very much. And I have given her a few of Boomer's special cat treats to enjoy.

So for the next 7 to 10 days she will live in our guest room in a large cage where she can rest and get better before being returned to her colony.

If I can get a picture or two of Sophie I will post on the blog, but she will probably spend all her recovery time in the cat carrier that is inside the cage because she will feel safest there.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Feral Baby Cats - part two

A week after Turtle left for his wonderful forever home I got an email from Robin saying she had seen another little kitten at the same location Turtle was from. She needed to know if I was willing to take in another kitten to love, socialize and foster. Of course I would. The alternative would have been to leave him with the colony to grow up and become feral. The next day I got a phone call letting me know that the kitten, Pumpkin, had been caught and they were on the way to our house.

Pumpkin arrived a scared, dirty little fellow about 10 weeks old. He was actually a very gentle kitten compared to some I have fostered in the past. I was holding him within a few hours of his arrival but he wasn't really sure about this contact.

A week after Pumpkin's arrival my husband, Mike, and I were going to be away for the weekend visiting friends on their farm and Pumpkin came with us. He was a good little traveller and slept for the entire two and a half hour trip there and again on the return. He was a good little guest too and loved all the cuddles he was getting from everyone.

Upon our return we decided he should have more freedom to run around so we gave him the whole first floor during the day and at night he was lose in the master bedroom. I loved waking up in the morning to find Pumpkin curled up sleeping next to me.

During the last week we had this wee tiny treasure, he became more and more confident. Boomer again was a great little playmate for this kitten as well. I would never leave them unsupervised because sometimes Boom got a little too rough and I had to step in, although Pumpkin never seemed to be afraid. He was ready to go right back at it with Boomer at the first opportunity.

I don't know what vibes Mike gives off but every cat or kitten loves to sleep on him. Everytime I bring a new foster home (and this has been going on for about 6 or 7 years) all kittens climb on Mike's lap and go to sleep. Pumpkin is not different. Good thing Mike is as soft in the head as I am about kitties because he loves having fosters around and is sad when they leave.

After two weeks of living and loving Pumpkin he went to his forever home. It was a very tearful good bye but I know he has gone to a wonderful new home with three other kitties, all of them girls. I heard that one of those kitties has turned into a mother kitty since Pumpkin's arrival, which is just great. I hope that I get updates on Pumpkin's life and photos as he grows into a big kitty. He was such a treat to have for those two weeks and I will think of him often.

Boomer and his little orangey buddy Pumpkin in one of the only pictures I got of the two of them sitting quietly together. I love this photo.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Feral baby cats

Right after Labour Day weekend I thought my life was going to get back to the old routine. I kinda missed it, although it was a fun summer with lots of family things happening. I said good-bye to the last family member and started the day by going off to feed my two feral colonies and visit the gym.

A few hours later I got a call from another cat caregiver to say she had just received a phone call from someone in the office at the recycling plant where her colony lives. They had just found a small kitten under a pile of tires. It took me a nano second to say I would take this wee baby in to socialize and care for. When Robin arrived with the baby in a huge box I opened it up to find a tiny 4 week old black kitten with runny gooey eyes and wheezing breath sounds. We immediately took off for the vet's office. During the vet visit he got his name, Turtle. The vet was reluctant to start antibiotics until this wee baby gave us a poo, so I was told to keep him warm and fed and loved and to wipe his eyes with warm water.

Baby Turtle had to be bottle fed but he was having trouble adjusting to the bottle so feeding times where stressful for both of us. Going to bed late, getting up in the middle of the night and then again at 5:30 was taking its toll on me but I wouldn't have it any other way. This baby had to be fed and I knew it was only going to be temporary.

After three days of watching this wee baby closely, listening to him wheeze and gurgle when he took a breath and those runny eyes that needed constant attention, it was time to return to the vet. And I brought along a little Turtle poo. Turtle was given eye drops and antibiotics. He hadn't gained or lost any weight since being in my care, which meant he was getting just enough nourishment to survive. After only one treatment of eye drops his eyes looked so much better and continued to improve. It was only about 5 days of treatment and he looked at the world with bright baby blue cat eyes, just what I wanted to see in Turtle. The antibiotics took longer to clear up his URI but he was getting better.

A week after his arrival I tried him on a combination of canned kitten food mixed with kitten formula. Turtle tried it and liked it. The next feeding we tried again and this time he really got into feeding himself. I was finished with bottle feeding and Turtle was on his way to gaining weight and growing.

What surprised me most about Turtle was his very neat eating habits. Right from the beginning he did not stand in his food nor did he get it all over himself. He was eating well and often.

During the time I had Turtle he went from a tiny sick baby to a playful and thriving kitten with a zest for life. He spent his unsupervised time in a special kitten cage but much of the time he and I spent in the kitchen where he played and played. He also got to meet and play with my 3 year old orange boy, Boomer. These two got along so well, much to my surprise. I really didn't expect Boomer to be a gentle giant with wee Turtle but he was.
Three weeks after Turtle arrived, I had to hand Turtle over to his next foster home because I was going to be away for a few days. It was hard to say good-bye but his new foster mom invited me to come visit Turtle when I returned which made it somewhat easier, but only mildly.

When I did go visit Turtle, it was two days before he was scheduled to go to his forever home. He was doing really well at this foster home too, he was given the freedom of the main floor of the house and had taken over both the dog and cat's beds.

Five weeks after being found under that pile of old tires, Turtle went to his forever home where he has two kitty sisters. Last I heard they were not too fond of him but he had melted his new mom's heart with his sweetness. It always feels good to know that a kitten born in a feral colony has found a home with lots of good food, a warm bed and oodles of love.

Two weeks ago I got an email from Robin to say another kitten from the same colony had been spotted. Pumpkin was caught the following day and came to live with us. Will post more about this cutie in the next few days.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Doodle is loving all the attention. Whatever was making him so nervous about a month ago seems to be forgotten. He is eating the way he used to. Also instead of sleeping in a location away from the rest of the colony he is now back in their midst. When I arrive in the morning to feed he comes out of the hole in the wall with everyone else which is great.
These pics were taken today and he was totally into all the extra attention. I even put my head down close to him and he headbutted me so hard it almost hurt.

Love my Doodle Noodle and it makes me happy to see him happy.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I have learned over the past 7 years of maintaining my two colonies, The East Side Gang and the Logan St Gang, that there are a lot of people who really do care about homeless cats but unable to commit to daily care and feeding. And that's okay. I am fortunate that my life allows me to feed daily, or twice daily if the weather is really cold.

I have been fortunate to have quite a bit of support from many people. Some offered me cash, which goes into a "kitty" for other expenses like meds or vet bills, some provide me with food and others have offered to feed if I am away. I appreciate all this support because I couldn't do everything myself all the time.

The second winter I was caring for my kitties an older gentleman approached me while I was feeding. He asked a few questions which I answered and then he gave me $200. You could have pushed me over with the feather.

He wasn't able to feed but he wanted to help. I saw him again about six months later and he gave me another $200. This money went toward the cost of having two of the cats spayed or neutered. Others gave me smaller amounts but every cent has gone towards the cats.
It has been a few years since I have received any cash donations, however I have received many, many food donations for the cats and that is also greatly appreciated by me but more importantly by the kitties.

If you know someone who feeds ferals cats, offer to buy some food or take over the feeding if they are going to be away for a few days.

If you buy a brand of cat food that your own cats don't like, donate it to someone who is caring for feral cats, a cat rescue group or your local human society. There are lots of ways you can help without having to commit a great deal of time.

Often cat rescue groups have fund raising events. Offer to assist them for a day or even part of a day at one of these events. Or make some cat toys they can sell at their fundraising events. Until I began caring my homeless cats I was unaware of ways I could help cat rescue groups and I imagine there are a lot of other people who don't know they can help in small ways that can make a big difference.

To everyone who has helped me to help and care for my homeless kitties, thank you, thank you, thank you. I appreciate every dollar, every can of food and every offer to help with the feeding when I am away

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Doodle Noodle

Lately Doodle has been picking at his food but mostly because he is very nervous about something. However this week he has been eating much better at the end of the day.

This morning he ate about 3 tablespoons of food so I was again concerned. This evening when I went back about 4:00 p.m. he ate so much I thought he might explode. In fact I even took the food away after he ate about two bowls of food, which equals two cans of Friskies 156g cans.

This picture was taken this afternoon of Doodle eating beside FJ on top of the feeding shelter. Once he was finished eating all he wanted to do was give me headbutts, which I glady accepted.

Today's temperatures were warm compared to what we have had recently. No wind and sun this afternoon made all the difference.

Even though Doodle hasn't been eating as well as he usually does, he does not appear to be losing weight. I am going to keep my fingers crossed that Doodle will continue to eat well, if not at the morning feedings, then the evening feedings.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Doodle is one of my dearest little ferals. He arrived in the colony the end of March 2004 and I think he was about 8 to 10 months old. It didn't take to long before this dear little cat became a very friendly guy allowing me to pet him and rub his ears and even pick him up.

In early December 2004 Doodle showed up with an injury. He was unable to put weight on his right front paw and when I tried to pick him up he let out a pained cry. I was unable to see any obvious signs of a cat fight or other injury. Repeated attempts were made to capture Doodle to take into the vet's office but he was not going to allow me to put him in a carrier. Injured or not he was still very strong. In the end it took Doodle about 4 or 5 weeks to be able to walk on all four paws. In the mean time it was recommended that we put him on antibiotics just in case there was a wound or infection. Today he walks normally.

A few years later a new gas station was being built nearby. I arrived one morning to feed all the kitties and there was Doodle with dried cement all over his legs and his belly. Little cement balls were hanging all over him. I assume he jumped down into some freshly poured cement thinking it was a solid surface. I had no idea what to do and as it turned out I didn't have to do anything. Within two days Doodle had managed to remove all the cement.

This little cat is an extremely friendly little guy. If I could find a home for him I would be willing to let him go. He loves to be groomed, have his ears rubbed and headbutts me at every opportunity. He is a real people cat.

Recently Doodle began showing signs of being very nervous. Something has happened to him that puts him on edge. He is no longer living with the rest of the colony but comes for food when he hears my clicker. He is eating but not well. He takes a few bites and at the least sound he stops eating, looks up and watchws. I never see anything. Some days he just takes off back to his "safe" place. I have followed him but can only go so far before I run into a fence.

Doodle scoots under the fence and is living in the back corner behind a lumberyard. I went in to talk with the manager who informed me that a number of cats, raccoons and skunk lived in their warehouse. He allowed me to go out behind the building and I found Doodle sitting in the sun. On New Years Eve day I went back to see the manager and ask permission to put a sleeping shelter out back for Doodle. I had all kinds of arguments planned for why I should be allowed to do this and didn't need to use any of them. I got permission immediately.

Yesterday when I arrived to feed in the morning Doodle ate a decent sized meal. He used to have a fantastic appetite so it bothers me he has been eating so little. At the end of the afternoon I returned for the second feeding and was really impressed with the amount of food Doodle consumed. He didn't seem to be as upset as he has been. He ate a whole bowl of food and some dry food. He rubbed against my legs to let me know he needed some loving. I picked him up to give him a hug and rub his ears while he purred and purred.

Today he ate almost nothing at the morning feeding but did eat well when I returned at 4:00 pm. I have no idea what has caused this change. He eats with the other cats so I don't think it's an issue within the colony. And he appears to be in good health. I think some person frightened him because the sound of another humans voice sends him running. I am hoping that with time he will get his confidence back.