October 2011

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The knights came to us from a horader in seattle. Cats from this site trickled through our garage facility for months.

Our group, Alley Cat Project, is a small cat rescue – about 7 volunteers – working on trap-neuter-release in the city of Seattle for the purpose of reducing cat population and the number of unwanted cats. In the past when the Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) got a feral cat – any cat who was sufficiently warry of or even hostle toward people that they were unadoptable – the cat was euthanized. The shelter is great but they must accept all cats surrendered to them and don’t have the resources to deal with them all, especially the difficult cases. Fortunately the shelter is willing to work with our group so feral cats get transferred to us.

It is always our preference to return a cat to the site it came from but sometimes that is just not an option. We won’t just drop them in the country, no matter how wild they are, because they are not likely to survive and the people who live there don’t want abandoned cats. The best options for cats who can not return home is a barn home – some place were they are wanted, perhaps to control rodents, and allowed to keep their distance from people. Fortunately, a good number of people want barn cats, will accept them as they are, and take good care of them. The most feral of cats have no desire to be even seen by humans. Others are somewhere alogn the spectrum from feral to companion animals.

Tinker came to us in early September. He is young, perhaps a year, very active and very curious. He is approachable, but wary of being touched. If I can slip my hand onto his neck just right he likes the touch – for about 5 seconds and then is off. He also startles easily and shies away. Tinker was also mouthy. He likes to lick and nip. He would sniff my hand, then lick my hand, then gently bite my fingers. Most of the time he was very gentle but once, when I was feeding from my hand, he broke my skin. There is no aggression in this but never the less it is a bad trait for companion cats.

Now this is not completely unadoptable but you have to understand that the shelter is already full (and I mean full) of cute little kittens and super friendly adults who come to the front of their cage, meow for attention, and then are super loving. It takes a special adopter to recognize and want a cat like Tinker and it takes a long time for these adopters to show up. Tinker could not compete with these cats. If he stayed at the shelter he would languish for a log time, likely get a URI. If the shelter got over crowded he would likely be euthanized. So Tinker got transferred to ACP and ended up in our garage.

Tinker

R.H. Head Butts

We originally planned to pair him with a beautiful buff siamese who came from a different site by way of SAS. It was pretty clear why SAS found this guy unadoptable – for the first day with us he stayed in his carrier and growled when approached. But he then got very sick with a URI and pretty much stopped eating. While slipping food into his carrier I decided he did not look very menacing, checked, and found him touchable. Since I could handle him I could adminsiter sub-cutaneous fluids (to restore hydration to cats who are not eating). I named him R.H. which stood for “Radient Health” in the hopes he would be so restored. After 6 days he started to eat again and slowly returned to health. All the while I worked with him. He either decided to be friendly or, more likely, remembered his friendly nature and was soon front-of-the-cage friendly. We returned him to SAS where he has since been adopted. We have had a couple other turnarounds like this.

Soldier came to us in late September. We had him altered at the Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project. As with other feral cats, one ear tip was removed to indicate they have been altered. (Tinker was altered at SAS and therefor not ear-tipped.) Soldier too came down with a bad URI and stopped eating. He was touchable so I was able to administer fluids and antibiotics. In fact he was so much like R.H. that I hopped he would come around to friendly and adoptable status.

Tinker also seemed close to being adoptable. Both were between the worlds of companion animals and feral cats. They had never lived outside enough to know how to do that safely but their previous “owner” never interacted with them enough to socialize them to live as companion animals. Because they lacked outdoor experience I did not want to see them sent to a barn home – too many unfamiliar dangers in the country. They needed some indoor time to give them an opportunity to find their friendly nature (and for us to assess them). I lobbied our group for someone to take them in. Unfortunatey everyone’s house was already full of other cats with equally urgent needs. (Marie and I could not take them in because of our resident Nelson who is very anxious around other cats.)

Snoggling Tinker

I worked with Tinker and Soldier as well as I could with limited time visiting them in our garage. Soldier showed some enjoyment of human touch by leaning his head into a cheak rub or raising his rear to a back rub but he never purred for it. As he got his energy back he showed more wariness and less enjoyment. With time Tinker became less willing to be picked up. I had to admit that neither met the criteria for companion animal adoption through a shelter.  (Video of Tinker).

It might have been possible for our little group to find a companion home for them – we have found homes for other difficult cats. The right adopter has always come along, but it can take time. I’ve decided it is important to not let effort helping one or two cats take energy away from TNR, which indirectly helps many cats.

Good buddies

Fortunately, about this time Monk responded to our ad for barn cats. Monk runs a rope factory in an old Seattle wearhouse where they make fine hemp rope for bondage. They and other tenants have a mouse problem. Monk grew up on a farm and knows that the green solution to rodents is cats. He, his wife, and all his employees are also cat lovers. Marie and I went down to visit and decided this was a very good fit for the boys. They will be indoors, the adopters want to interact with the boys but don’t expect perfect companion animal maners, other people in the community are on board with cats in the warehouse.

We dropped them off on an evening in late October.  That day I cleaned the garage.  Tinker and Solder were unsettled by all the activity:

Tinker

Solder - uncertain about moving

Monk and his wife had screened in the small sleeping loft in the back of the factory and planned to spend several nights with Soldier and Tinker. This will be an excellent introduction.

Tinker and Soldier's new home

Because Monk’s name is “Monk” his factory is named “The Abbey” and the cats who are protecting The Abbey are named “The Nights Templar”. You can read about their life at The Abbey on their facebook page.

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Summer Kittens

Over the summer we had two litters of kittens from feral mother cats.  We trapped Lilly, realized she was lactating, and the next day went back and found her kittens.  She lived and her kittens lived in our garage for several weeks.  When I visited the kittens would peep and come out to visit me while Lilly stayed hidden in her carrier.

The two brothers

Then Deb brought Emma and her 4 kittens who we also housed in the garage. Here are Ursa and Booboo.

After a while I moved Lilly and her kittens to my office so they could have more indoor time and socialization.  I also brought Emma’s kittens up for visits and when they were fully weaned moved them into my office.  We also trapped a beautiful little snowshoe kitten who I socialized and integrated.

Saami integrated:

 In the end we had a mess of kittens upstairs:

 

Here’s a video of them all playing together:

On Friday our group got word of a litter of kittens seperated from their mother.  She housed them on a boat in drydock.  The boat was then launched and moved.  The boat owners discovered the litter and did their best to care for them but were not told the kittens had to be fed every couple hours.  They were very young.

Our group is amazing.  By that evening the mother was caught and the kittens were re-united with her.  They were housed in our garage overnight.  But things did not look so good.  The kittens were cold and undernourished and the momma did not seem interested in caring for them.  In the morning we found one dead, two alone, and the momma sitting away from them.  She would not help them when we brought them to her.  Our attempt to introduce them to another mother we were housing also did not work and we didn’t have any kitten nursing supplies on hand.

Once the stores opened I ran out and got some KMR.  We bought them inside and fed them.  The black and white kitten had gotten too cold and dehydrated to take any more food.  He was gaunt around the head, cold, weak, and breathing through his mouth.

We called one of our group who came and got them.  She said that she has never seen a kitten showing the signs like the black and white baby who survived.

Death is all around us.  When it comes close I get stirred up about it.  It is important to try to save the kittens and cats that come under my care but I also try to hold a larger picture so as to not get too caught up into this particular instance of suffering but to remember there are many animals and people facing sickness, death, and suffering in different forms and they all need my care or at least my prayers.

Feisty girl CJ and her black and white brother