We have been back and forth to Fitchburg quite a lot lately. A family there told a friend of ours that they needed help spaying/neutering a group of cats that they have been feeding. We went to see what was what and got caught up in a complicated series of events.
This is a chronicle of our activities between December 9, 2010 - January 22, 2011…
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Some of the kittens, in their excitement, would regularly wander into the house and family members would gently pick them up and place them back outside. We had an idea that we might be able to capture as many as four kittens that way and place them in crates. We were half right.
Family members helped us grab two kittens that strayed. After that, the cats were wise to us and none of them would come into the house. We left with one black&white kitten and one grey kitten, both long haired about 3-4 months old. We took them straight to our vet, got them spayed (both females) and vaccinated. The little B&W one had an upper respiratory infection and we got her antibiotics. That kitten would probably not have survived the 18 degree weather that evening. Perhaps not surprisingly, the kittens had zero percent body fat.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Luckily, a barn owner we know agreed to take both kittens. Just one day after being rescued from the outdoors and vetted, we delivered the kittens to a bright new life — in a heated barn office in West Newbury.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
We went back to Fitchburg to trap more cats and take them to the free spay/neuter clinic for feral cats at the Cummings Veterinary School at Tufts. We had reservations to spay/neuter 7 cats; that represented a cost saving of around 750 dollars in spay, neuter and vaccination fees. Low-cost spay/neuter/vaccination fees can run anywhere from $75 to $100 per cat.
We set the traps with tuna fish and in no time at all, we reached our quota. It was an unseasonably warm day — 50 degrees — but it was supposed to rain that night, so we bundled up the cages in old clothes and covered them with tarps.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
We drove back to Fitchburg again first thing in the morning to pick up the cats in the traps and take them to Cummings Veterinary School in Grafton.
There were seven traps. Unfortunately, we discovered that two traps had more than one cat in them. In our zeal to cover the traps as quickly as possible - to calm down the animals caught inside - we didn’t realize that more than one cat had been feasting away on the tuna in the trap.
The spay event allowed one cat per trap. The extra cats had to be released. We opened up one trap and were lucky: one cat escaped and one remained. On the next trap, the release effort failed: both cats escaped. We were down to six cats; still quite a few in the scheme of things.
If we hadn’t borrowed my sister’s Chevy Suburban, a monster of a truck, it would not have been possible to transport more than two traps at a time.
Not long after we arrived at the spay event, one of our cats was rejected. He had an upper respiratory infection; and a severe one at that. He was a sad looking fellow. He couldn’t go back to Fitchburg; he needed to recuperate indoors and the family that had been feeding him could not take him in.
If all else failed, I would have to take him with me, although I didn’t have a place for him either. (Our family has one dog, a Jack Russell Terrier; no cats.) I decided to run out and buy a crate to keep him in - if I really got stuck.
Then fate intervened. By the time I returned with the crate, the people running the spay clinic introduced me to a kindly soul and generous spirit by the name of Trudy from Community Cat Connection in Webster, MA. Trudy offered to take him into her shelter, nurse him back to health and adopt him out. That was an incredibly gracious offer and a better opportunity than I could imagine the other cats were ever likely to receive.
The five cats that remained in my custody, so to speak, were among the last to leave the clinic after 5:30pm or so. They were all females. (Note that we had spayed 7 cats, all females to date.)
It was an hour back to Fitchburg and one weird thing happened on the way. Near the end of the ride and while I was driving, a cat sat on my shoulder for a brief moment. She had managed to escape the Havahart trap, pretty darn unexpected. Still, it was a new trap and I assumed that I hadn’t closed it properly. What surprised me more was knowing that a feral cat would never come that close to me, let alone sit on my shoulder.
At the end of the drive, I saw the escapee was a tiger kitten. I managed to scruff her after she dashed under one of the truck’s seats. She and one other cat in my charge that day were just babies, about three to four months old. They weighed less than four pounds each. I didn’t feel right about leaving them outdoors. I doubted they would survive the bitter winter cold. I thought I would ask the family if I could take them when I returned the next day.
The clinic professionals had advised us to keep the kittens and the other three cats inside their traps overnight - to allow them recuperate from their surgery. The family wrapped the traps in old clothes and we placed them in a shed and packed them with straw. Straw is a great insulator - better than hay. I had brought two bales of straw with me that day, in addition to seven traps. Enormous capacity is an ancillary benefit of driving a Chevy Suburban.
Monday, December 13, 2010
I returned to Fitchburg once more to retrieve six traps. (One trap had been donated to the sick orange and white cat).
With the family’s permission, I took the two young kittens with me-one tiger and one grey, both long-haired kittens. I drove them straight to my veterinarian and asked her to check them out, test them for FIV/FELV and board them for me until Saturday. I hoped to find them a home in the interim. Luckily they were double-negative for FIV/FELV.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
I didn’t find them a home.They ended up in mine. That’s the setup below; the crate is set on a drafting table. The kittens were pretty depressed when they arrived.
I don’t have cats of my own but I’ve placed nearly a hundred ‘unadoptable,’ semi-feral and otherwise difficult cats in barns. I knew these young ones needed to be contained; I outfitted their cage with litter box, food, soft bed, a kitty condo and toys. I thought I could find them a barn fairly soon.
Monday, December 20, 2010
They were unresponsive Saturday and Sunday. Then they started moving around a little. The grey one came out and sat on top of the cat condo. I started petting them. They started eating in front of me and the little tiger let me pick her up. She was affectionate; she was not meant to be a barn cat. She deserved to be a house cat.
The grey kitten was much shyer but loved being petted. These cats were sweet weaklings; all skin and bones, and they seemed sickly. They were eating more, but they didn’t play. The grey had raspy breathing and the tiger was sneezing.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
I took them back to my vet, who gave me antibiotics for upper respiratory infection; medication for coccidia an internal parasite and ear drops for ear mites. The little tiger weighed less than 3 pounds. But I was able to hold both of them at the vet. A tiny revelation. Also a very good thing because you can’t squirt a syringe of antibiotics down the throat of a cat you can’t hold.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Fortunately, the vet showed me how to administer the medication. The little tiger was eating like mad. She could practically inhale an entire 3 ounce can of Wellness kitten food in one sitting. But she had some problems from the coccidia. The grey cat was really shy. I saw her eating less but she weighed a pound more than her little friend, so I was less worried about her. The vet also gave me diet supplements. It was a lot to do and while I was still actively looking for a home for them, I didn’t want to try to re-home them until they were well.
Meanwhile, my sister offered names for the cats - Gigi short for Georgia Rose for the tiger; and Amanda for the grey cat. There are two oblique references there - Georgia is actually a reference to Giorgio Armani as is Amanda; Rose is the name of the cats’ original caretaker in Fitchburg. One might well ask, what in the world does Giorgio Armani have to do with two kittens from Fitchburg? Well, here is how it goes…
A. A woman named Barbara is a good friend of Morene’s, a cofounder of Shelter Me Inc; B. Barbara sells clothes on ebay and gives the proceeds to Shelter Me Inc.; C. Morene’s husband had lost about 50 pounds and gave a collection of Armani suits to Barbara to sell; D. Barbara sold them through ebay, took lots of boxes to the local post office to mail;
E. A postmaster asked Barbara what she was doing. F. Barbara told him the story which leads directly to cat rescue; G. Whereupon the postmaster explained that he and his wife had been feeding stray cats for many years; and were badly in need of assistance in getting the cats spayed and reducing the population overall. H. Barbara told Morene the story. I. Morene wanted us to help the family and I was glad to pitch in.
By the way, Gigi is the cat who escaped from the Havahart trap and sat on my shoulder while I was driving the cats from Grafton to Fitchburg. If she was a male, I would have liked to name her Houdini.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
After I brought the cats back from the vet, the crate where I had been keeping them started to look awfully small to me. Gigi (the little tiger) was kicking her litter everywhere. It was getting all over their food, which is not good.
I decided to place them in an acclimation cage that we use for barn cats. The cage is big - 52 inches high x 36 inches wide x 26 inches deep. It can hold a much larger litter box - one with higher sides to prevent splash over. It has a three shelf capacity so food and water bowls can be placed well above the litter. It is also high enough to hold two kitty condos, in addition to a soft bed that I placed on the floor of the cage.
This is the set-up - note that cardboard is set around the sides to prevent litter from being projected across the room. You can see Gigi eating at left while the grey kitten, Amanda, is hiding out in the upper kitty condo. If you look closely, you can see a bowl of Wellness wet food placed inside the condo. I never saw them eat at the same time and thought Amanda might need her own serving. They both love the wet Wellness kitten food. But they were eating it so fast it seemed to upset their stomachs, so I cut back on it. I wanted them to get well.
December 27, 2010
Little Gigi has been gaining weight; acting as friendly as can be. She purrs constantly while she is being held. One of our barn cat owners has expressed an interest in turning her into a house cat. I hope that works out but the grey kitten would still need a home. The grey kitten, Amanda, may be more comfortable with other cats than with people. It is hard to tell.
The pictures above are of Gigi. Hard to believe that two weeks ago today she was living outside in the cold in a colony of semi-feral cats.
December 29, 2010
The kittens are finally starting to act like normal, healthy kittens. Yesterday, the grey kitten purred (for the first time) while she was sitting in my lap. And today, the tiger kitten finally began to play. I had never before seen nor heard of kittens that didn’t play. I brought them home from my vet on Saturday, December 18th, a scant 11 days ago.
When I picked the kittens up at my vet (after being boarded for four days), the Tiger weighed less than 3 lbs. Now she is starting to look plump. It is harder to tell with the grey kitten; she weighed a pound more than her little friend when I brought them home. They are both long-haired beauties. They have five more days of medication.
The grey kitten caught a break yesterday. One of our favorite people, Pam Welty, the owner of Silver Oak Farm, offered to give her a home in one of her alpaca barns. We gave Pam a pair of kittens a year ago (aka Hansel and Gretel) and they have done spectacularly well in her care. I had finally come around to believing that the grey kitten was not likely to be comfortable in a house around people.
On Saturday, I was planning to drive the grey kitten to Pam’s alpaca farm. Meanwhile, Pam took two remarkable pictures of Gretel, and shared them with us. (See below.) Gretel is one of two barn kittens we settled on the alpaca farm a year ago. These pictures are remarkable.
Sandy on December 22nd 2010