This tiny kitten was living outdoors as the polar vortex approached—or trying to. He would NOT have survived! He (not verified, just convenient) was so hungry he was licking the steps where the wind had blown the cardboard with the canned food on it. He’s only been around for a few days and came to a home where someone feeds and has a shelter on the porch. He was impossible to catch by hand but turned out not to be feral.
On Tuesday, a person from Carnegie, the town I live in, posted about a kitten showing up at her feeding station. She had loaned her trap to a friend, and also had to go to work, so the soonest she could trap was that night. That day the polar vortex arrived and temperatures were dropping with wicked winds, a kitten would suffer and had to be trapped. The kitten could go to foster with Amy through Pittsburgh C.A.T. as soon as it was trapped.
I know her neighborhood—it’s the one Sienna and Hays came from—so I contacted Megan, the young woman I’d worked with on them, finished what I was doing in the afternoon and headed down with a couple of traps and food. The woman who’d been feeding had also mentioned another young gray tabby cat she’d seen the previous autumn, one she hadn’t seen since then but presumed it was visiting her feeding station, and might be a mother to this kitten. I always like to have more traps than I need, especially when the area to trap has several entrances and exits.
We hadn’t seen a sign of the kitten so I just took a guess at the best places to set the traps. There was no way to get onto the porch but by the steps leading up to the door, especially for a kitten. It might have been in the shelter on the porch, but I really didn’t think it was. A hedge of dense shrubs filled a small spot between the porch and the sidewalk and I had the feeling that was a likely place for cats to hide. The side of the porch and side of the house were pretty bare of foliage and set along a side street, open to the wind and cold. A cat would not likely go that route unless it had to.
I set the traps on the porch, back near the cat shelter and feeding station and at the top of the steps. The wind was so wicked my hands were stiff and I had a hard time ripping up the cardboard and setting out the food. I was bundled and had gloves on and am typically not bothered by the cold, but it was freezing me and I couldn’t imagine a kitten or even an adult cat out in that weather, especially when the temperature was about 15 and steadily dropping down to zero. The wind kept blowing the cardboard I’d put in the bottom of the trap at the top of the steps and I knew that would frighten off any cat or kitten, so as much as I prefer to have cardboard instead of the wire trap for them to walk on I took it out and put my little trail of three tiny pieces of canned food between the wires. I didn’t have a chance to pick up anything else or even warm it up, but if no cats or kittens came to the traps I could deal with that later. My friend and I sat in my car with the engine running and heater on full blast.
Not 30 minutes after I’d put food in traps on the porch a small gray kitten popped out from from the dense bushes next to the steps where he’d been hiding and appeared on the steps. I was shocked at how young he was, younger than I’d expected, tiny, and that pointed tail gave away his age. He ate the little scraps of food that had been blown onto the steps and licked and licked the spot, he was so hungry, then ran back, looked in one trap, started to step in, then ran back, came back and headed down to the back of the porch where I couldn’t see him, where the other trap was, then came out again and dove back into the bushes. I sat in my car just holding my breath, taking the occasional photo, hoping he didn’t see me though he kept stopping to scan all around, until finally he followed the little trail of food pieces into the trap at the top of the steps and tripped it.
After banging around for a bit he began to calm down with a blanket over the trap and I moved him to my back seat. Megan went home and said she’d keep an eye out for the other cat and any other cats outdoors down there. By the time I got him to Amy’s house to foster he showed signs of being socialized like making eye contact and meowing at me. In time I was petting him through the trap and he ate the food I’d used for bait. Amy and I got him into a playpen and set up with food. He was a little frantic at first trying to get out.
At one point in racing around inside he saw the bed with the cuddle toy in it and got right into the bed and snuggled up with the stuffed snuggle toy. I knew he was missing his mom, or a sibling, and it just broke my heart. How frightened he must have been! His whole little world suddenly became very frightening.
It’s very odd for one lone kitten to show up. We looked for more kittens, and so is the person who was trying to feed him. I hope he was the only one. No sign of others that night or the next day, not even paw prints.
I checked on him the next day when I went to see Smokey, who is still in Amy’s basement. Little gray kitten is doing well, still scared but eating everything in sight and tolerating pets. Amy said earlier today he finally slowed down eating. He enjoyed petting, little strokes around his face and down his back, and gave me a good purr and rolled onto his side. He has wonderfully thick fur and makes me think of a Scottish wild cat. I don’t really know if he is a “he”, I’m just going with it. So glad he’s not out there tonight.
A few updates about other rescues
Rosie and Vanilla Latte both graduated from foster, were vetted and adopted! They socialized very quickly and had a list of interested adopters. Two more rescued kittens who will never know life on the streets again. Their presumed parents, Ink and LeRoi, were released and never need to worry about chasing around kittens again. The neighbors are happy about that.
Smokey is, after a month, showing signs of socializing, and Shannon, the woman who was feeding him at CVS and helped trap him, has also started visiting him and has done amazing work with him while I was busy with several projects. She is not a “cat person”, she has a dog and never really interacted with cats before now, but you’d never know it by the way she works with Smokey. I will update more about Smokey in a later post.
Would you like to help?
As always, I love being able to help cats this way. My goal is not just to go out and trap the cats, but also to be a good example to others who are following, then give lots of information so that others learn how to do this too, and if they find a cat in a similar circumstance they have an idea what’s entailed.
Even more than fostering, bringing a cat in from a perilous life outdoors is so rewarding. Of course, it’s also time-consuming and has its expenses, and I’m on a tight budget. Thanks to those of you who have sent donations that paid for spays and neuters and food for Smokey and the ferals. If any of my readers would like to help me with expenses like extra food and materials for trapping, or gas money, no small amount when running back and forth to clinics and trapping sites, I would really appreciate it. A friend and I managed my car repairs, but this is also the time to register for several vendor events during the year, including the Steel City Kitties Cat Show next month. My Paypal address is bernadette (at) bernadette-k (dot) com, you can go to Portraits of Animals and purchase a gift certificate in amounts of $5.00 or more and let me know it’s for me, or whatever else you’d like to do. Or buy a calendar (below) or something from my website www.PortraitsOfAnimals.net .
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