September 2010

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We armed the traps on Saturday, 9/25, to capture cats for clinic on Monday 9/27.

Big T

BigT - Ready for clinic

BigT - Ready for Transport

A medium hair grey tabby, related to Fluff E and Little T but much bigger. He has large paws and a large head like our resident Jojo. When threatened he growls, like Jojo. I transfer him to a medium carrier, taking care to not present any possible exits. I put the carrier in a cage and open the door. When I check back later he is out of the carrier, in the rear of the cage and looks miserable.

Lucy

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Lucy ready for clinic

Late on Sunday we catch a light grey female. She too is very unhappy to be in the cage.

Clinic

Again, Marilyn of Forgotten Felines is there before me with six kittens for the clinic. They are less busy today.

When Marie picks up the cats they tell us that Big T is 12 lbs and looks healthy and well fed and that he has an intimidating growl. We’ll release him on Tuesday but hold Lucy for several more days to ensure she is well.

Releasing

Tuesday we decide to release BigT because he’s spent the last 12 hours laying in his carrier. He is either depressed or not recovering – we can’t tell. Since the clinic said he was generally robust we decide it is probably depression and decide to release him that evening. At Mud Bay we open his carrier door. He takes several seconds, pokes his head out to look back at us, and then takes off.

Wednesday we see that Lucy has been active most of the night (thanks to a web cam I set up to monitor her. The clinic said that ideally we would keep females for 3 days but should release her if she is not suitable to be kept in a cage. With all her movement she seems as likely to hurt herself in the cage as she is outdoors. We can’t get her back into her carrier so we transport the whole cage to Mud Bay. We back the car in and open the door. She surprises us by not running to the nearest shelter but instead through the parking lot to the side walk then hangs a left. Bye bye Lucy…

Trapping planned for next Monday’s clinic.

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Because we buy a lot of food at Mud Bay we have gotten to know one of the clerks, Jon. He asked if we knew anything about trapping feral cats as there is a colony behind Mud Bay.

There are an incredible number of people working to help feral cats in this city. This is good because there are an incredible number of feral cats. I always knew there were some, but did not appreciate how many until I started to work with feral cats.

I knew that Deb, our Seattle Animal Shelter foster case manager, worked with ferals so I ask her. The problem with feral cats is that their life is difficult and they breed more feral cats. The consensus solution is to trap, neuter, and release (TNR). Most of these cats will not be happy living indoors or with people. Since there are already many healthy, friendly cats who do need a home it is not worth putting the effort into cats who don’t want to be a companion. Releasing them back allows them to live out their life in the environment they are familiar with. Neutering them prevents them from brining more cats into that life.

The Mud Bay Colony

Jon described about 5 cats that lived behind Mud Bay. A mostly tame pregnant female he was able find a home for. We decided to trap, neuter, and release the remaining cats. We gathered supplies, many lent to us by Deb, set a clinic date and placed several unarmed traps with food to encourage the ferals to go inside the traps to eat.The Sunday before we were to take them to the clinic, we armed the traps. Early afternoon Jon calls – we have a cat. It’s the friendly little grey cat, a medium hair tabby. He’s not tame but will approach closer than any of the other cats. Jon names him Fluff E Face. We take the trap back to our garage and successfully transfer him into a carrier.

A couple hours later we get another cat, twin to Fluff E, who we name “Little T”.

The Clinic

The Puget Sound area is served by the Feral Cat Spay and Neuter Clinic in Lynwood. They run free clinics, 3 to 4 times a week, with up to 50 cats per clinic. Because they are such high volume and low cost there are specific procedures we must follow, such as bringing a clean towel for each cat. The clinic takes some reservations which fill up one to two weeks in advance. They also allow up to 10 drop in cats. Most trappers I’ve talked to use the drop in and just show up early. The clinic opens promptly at 7 am and we are there at 6:30 am to make sure we get a spot.

Releasing

Little T is clearly not happy being in the cage so we release him one day after surgery. He shoots out of the cage, under a fence, and is gone.

Fluff E’s status is less clear. We end up holding him for a week to evaluate his socialization potential but in the end can find no one with the dedicated space and time to take on this task and back to the briar patch he goes. We have seen him several times since then, hanging around the traps. Unfortunately, he seems to be a likely candidate for re-trapping.

I am used to seeing cats as companion animals, not as wild animals. But that is what these feral cats are: wild animals. They are dirty, scared, and agressive.

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Luna

In late December we went back to the shelter, officially adopted Nelson, and then asked who else needs our help. This is a difficult question to answer. There are lots of cats who need our help – more than we can help. The shelter officers are not much help either, through no fault of their own. When we ask who needs help they often bounce the question back to us: who do you want to take. But it is not about who I want to take – it is about who needs help. Well, that and who I feel enough connection with to want to help. This question comes up every time we go to choose our next foster cat. Answering it has become a little easier as I rely more on the officers to tell me who they most want to see taken to foster.

On this day we saw several cute cats who had not been adopted for a while for one reason or another. Then we saw Lucky. She had licked the fur off her belly and flanks. There was a large bald patch on her left front leg. Her tail was strangely flat. And she would not come out of her cage. When removed she just jumped back in. She did not look appealing to me – I did not want to snuggle her or take her home – and these traits are exactly what made her a great foster candidate. But we knew we would have to change her name as she appeared to be anything but Lucky.

We sequestered her in the brown room and would spend time visiting with her. I built a barrier so that she and Nelson could see each other but not get into a fight. And we changed her name to Luna.

Marie and I are particularly sensitive to the suffering of loneliness. To ease her loneliness we would, at times sleep in the brown room with her. Mostly she would hide under the bed but at times she would come out, lay on my chest, accept very gentle pets, and purr. Then she lay in the chair next to me and fell asleep.

Luna behind the Introduction Barrier

Looking looking at me

Nelson and Luna Sniffing

Nelson and Luna Sleeping Near Each Other

Luna in Bed, Nelson Near

Nelson in Bed, Luna Kicked Out

Precious

Soon we could not imagine giving Luna to anyone else. She was a delicate flower and we did not want to trust her care to anyone else. By February, we had adopted her.

Being a two-time foster failure, the house was starting to feel full and we decided to get serious about the fostering part of being foster parents. Once again, we went back to the shelter and asked who needs help. This time we were sent home with Precious – a sweet young girl who had crawled into an engine compartment for warmth and was injured when someone started the engine. We cared for her for a couple weeks, keeping her well away from our other cats so she could heal from her injuries. She started to need company and our cats were too much for her state. At the same time, there were foster parents with a cat much too playful for their older kitties. An exchange was made and we said goodbye to Precious and hello to Jojo a playful boy cat who we thought might make a good playmate for Nelson.

Jojo



Jojo and his toy mouse

Jojo is large and is intimidating when he’s scared. He growled at our other cats (through the closed door) and at us. We were both a little intimidated to go into his room. Introduction took a while but eventually he integrated with Nelson and Luna. And, Jojo and Nelson did become good play buddies. They spent several hours each morning – much to our sleep detriment – thundering around our bedroom. 90% of the play was mutual but perhaps 10% of the time Nelson would take it too far, would play too aggressively. Still, Jojo was big enough to handle Nelson and mostly they seemed to enjoy each other.





Our cat shelves

Maxwell, Sabine, and Blanca

Beginning of June we decided to adopt Jojo. At the same time Marie picked up a scared 7-week old semi-feral kitten, she named Maxwell, who had been found in an alley off Lake City Way. He was a darling ball of energy and quickly picked up the nickname “little peep”. Since he was semi-feral he needed socializing to humans and other cats. Marie slept on the floor of her office (where Max lived) for two weeks, and I made a point to spend time with him every day. After a couple of weeks, we picked up two more kittens, Sabine and Blanca, rescued from a hoarder and each around 6 weeks old, to socialize Maxwell to the company of other kittens. Their story is the topic for another post. In late June the girls got adopted to a nice family in our neighborhood.

Maxwell sprawled on Lap

Blanca and Sabine in cardboard cubby

In July we integrated Maxwell in with our residents and this caused a big upset.

Fractious Residents

Very playful Jojo soon realized that Maxwell was really, really fun and never got too aggressive. Soon Nelson was cut out of the play. Nelson became more aggressive toward Jojo. Jojo, in turn, became more aggressive toward Luna. Seemed like the only cat that could get along with every one was Maxwell. Soon we were separating Jojo and Max in one part of the house, Luna and Nelson in another.

By August, we redoubled our efforts to adopt out Maxwell and soon he went went to his new home on Capitol Hill to live with Dan and his resident cat Scraps.

(About this time the Seattle Animal Shelter sent out a desperate request for foster parents to take some cats from their overfull ISO unit so I picked up Whiskers and Kinka followed by Feather and Juliet. We housed them in the basement while their health improved and never integrated them with our residents, all a story for a later post.)

Present Day

This brings us to the present day. We have our resident cats, Nelson, Luna, and Jojo, who don’t quite get along. We have consulted with a behavior specialist and a natural veterinarian (and gotten good help from both). We are on a program of behavior modification to encourage the cats to re-integrate. Jojo has turned out to be a sweet heart, event spending some time in our laps. Luna is our darling girl. Nelson. Well Nelson, when he’s not pouting or playing king, is a real lover.





Luna has become subtly more confident. Confident enough to climb to the top of the scratching post.

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