TNR Update: Kitten Family Reunited, and Clinic Day

The little tux kitten waits for us to show up.
The little tux kitten waits for us to show up.

Blurry as it is, I don’t think I’ll ever forget this little tux kitten waiting for us in the dryer vent hole each night. He was there tonight as well. As soon as we pull up I shine my flashlight across the yard and see his eyes glow and the shape of the markings on his face and chest there in the hole. But we trapped him tonight, and the whole little family is back together. Saturday is the TNR clinic. You can read background on this project in

Domino early on.
Domino early on.

The feeder had caught Domino by hand last week, and he’s quite the friendly guy now, all the nastiness on his face is cleared up. We caught the black kitten Tuesday, and he’s now sidling up to the human, rolling over and accepting light belly rubs. We caught the gray and white kitten Wednesday, and she’s still hissing and hiding behind the toilet, and the black kitten joins her to keep her company.

The black and gray kittens.
The black and gray kittens.

The tux kitten would hardly go near the traps except to eat the bit of food I’d put outside the trap to lead them in. Last night he walked all the way up to the trip plate eating bits of sardines, then came back out. Later, he played around in the grass, chasing bugs, so I suggested we take our laser lights so he could chase the red dot right into the trap. Initially we had it down on the concrete pad but he wasn’t budging from his hole in the wall. I put it up right outside the hole in the wall, and either he is so lonely or hungry, or he’s tired of our antics, that he walked all the way in the trap, stepped over the trip plate to eat the food, and just like all the others stepped on the trip plate when he turned around to leave. He is in the bathroom with the others now, ready to learn how to be a regular old housecat.

We still have Big Daddy and a young adult black cat to trap, but we’ll catch them next week when I can borrow the drop trap. Big Daddy laughs at traps, and the young adult black cat is so very shy and elusive we rarely see him. Then we’ll be done.

The clinic

Four girls are going to the clinic tomorrow: the black and white mom who I’ve named Penelope (Pepe LePew’s girlfriend) is being transported by Brittany who is fostering her for the week, I am transporting Braveheart and I named her look-alike Betty, and the black kitty mom we trapped on Tuesday, who I’ve named Koshka, Russian for “cat”, because her sleek black fur and huge yellow eyes look exotic, like some creature you’d find wandering the snow on a moonlit night.

Some sad news

We lost all of Koshka’s kittens. Amy commented on my post in our group that they were all nursing and cuddling and all seemed well and happy Wednesday morning. Wednesday evening Amy called me to tell me one of the kittens had died, but she had to go to her granddaughter’s graduation, so I ran over to see if I could figure things out. I saw Koshka curled up on her bed, looking a little scared, and a tabby and a gray and white kitten in front of her, not tucked up next to her, looking lethargic. What I thought was the two black kittens turned out to be her paw and elbow. Looking at her position, the only place for the two black kittens to be was underneath her, and they were. I reached around her and pulled them out to see if there was any life left, but there was not. I couldn’t tell if she had accidentally smothered them, but by the looks of the other two it might be that the other kittens weakened and died and she pushed them behind her to work with the two that were left, then they began to fail. I took the other two out, put them on a towel inside a small bed, preparing to warm them and see if I could perk them up.

I could see she’d eaten well and used the litterbox, so she was not febrile or suffering any great pain from a possible retained fetus or other aftereffects from birth, though smaller discomforts were possible. I remembered her kittens when I had found them in the file drawer, the one that had been deceased already was tucked into a groove in the bottom of the drawer, and I wondered if she had gotten herself in there and laid down to nurse them, and laid on that kitten. Also, the remaining kittens hadn’t been tucked in a pile, as kittens usually are, but scattered around the drawer as if she had just dropped them in there. I looked at her so young and scared and wondered if she knew how to do this. Most of the time cats do know, even though they’ve rarely seen it and would hardly remember their own births, but sometimes they don’t.

The other two kittens would not retain heat, and had no interested in eating. I consulted with other rescuers and our vet techs, considered running to a regular vet or even the emergency hospital. But everyone knew there was little to be done to save them, and keeping them warm and comforted under hands would be a better choice for them than trying to drive somewhere. The tabby died while I was there, and the gray and white one later, after Amy had returned and I had gone back to the house to trap for a while with the feeder. That was when I really hoped we would trap the tux kitten, to redeem the day, but he played his little games.

I talked with other rescuers with similar experiences and with my own veterinarian Thursday. It could have been from the prolonged exposure and hypothermia, and its aftereffects. Even though they really warmed up well and pinked up and had good strong cries and movements, and raced to their mom’s belly even with their eyes still shut, organ damage can happen, and to the digestive tract, not as important as the heart and lungs when the body makes decisions what to save, and the food went in and sat there, though they had urinated when stimulated which proved it was functioning. It could be that mom was young and gestating so many kittens, eating cheap cat food in the crazy weather we had in April and May, there was an issue with the entire litter that their bodies’ own function could only carry them for a few days before they began to shut down. They may have been premature if she went into unexpected labor from the stress of all the changes, from the homeowner cutting down all the grass and brush and trees in the yard where they’d always hidden, then we came and there was no food, only traps, thinking of the kittens kind of dropped into the file drawer. The night we trapped her she was outside milling around with the others for a couple of hours, and presumably her kittens were in that file drawer. It could still be that she was not their mother, despite their seeming recognition of her, and even though we saw and heard them nursing and they didn’t cry from hunger at any point, she wasn’t producing enough to give them enough nourishment and they weakened.

The one certain thing with cats is that many kittens die, especially rescued kittens. Years ago, when I’d begun rescuing and often found abandoned kittens because people would dump them and keep the mother, mortality was high. My veterinarian at the time said a 50% death rate was what they understood to be normal among all kittens born, because cats went for quantity and not quality. It’s never easy to face, but if they had to die I’m glad they didn’t die in that file cabinet drawer for someone to find little corpses one day. If the prolonged exposure they had because I removed their mother contributed to it, it seems it would have shortened their lives, which would have already been quite short.

So Koshka will be spayed instead of staying with her kittens. And she is still frightened, but she lets us pet her. She was someone’s cat at some point in her short life. I don’t know if I have the room to foster her, and other cats are waiting for foster too, if I have the space, but she is beautiful. She will spend a week with a foster until I move them all to the farm, but the TNR package will tip her left ear, so I should decide before tomorrow morning.

But we remember those five little souls who were gone too soon. It’s one thing to accept when kittens die easily, it’s quite another when you put your heart into finding them and getting them to safety, and reviving them with your hands, feeling the warmth and life come back to them. That will stay with me a long time. This picture was taken on my lap.

Five revived kittens.
Five revived kittens.

So tomorrow I head off to the clinic for the day, and the girls will be one step closer to their future.

Here is where we stand with all the cats involved in this project:

BW mom
Tabby mom
Braveheart look alike
longhaired black mom

10-week white with black spots (Domino, caught by feeder before we started)
10-week black
10-week tux
10-week gray/white
2-week tabby
2-week tabby
2-week tabby
2-week tabby
newborn black (deceased)
newborn black (deceased)
newborn tabby (deceased)
newborn tabby (deceased)
newborn gray/white (deceased)
newborn tux (deceased)

Big Daddy
young adult black male
orange adult male (hasn’t been seen since yard was cleared)
Sammy (hasn’t been seen since yard was cleared)

Also read

Help with costs for these cats and others

Homeless Cat Management Team

You can make a donation to the Homeless Cat Management Team (HCMT) and let them know it’s for these cats—I will send you a gift certificate.

HCMT is a 501c3 and all donations are tax-deductible. Visit the website at


Send directly to Paypal:

Mail your donation

Send a check to:
Homeless Cat Management Team
P. O. Box 100203
Pittsburgh, PA 15233

Pittsburgh C.A.T.

Pittsburgh C.A.T. is not a 501c3 but all donations go directly into cat care. Raising the litter of five kittens including surgeries for all and mother, vaccinations, any illnesses that come up, all adds up to hundreds of dollars. You can use Paypal: If you’d like to send a check, please ask and I’ll give you the address.

Donate for a Discount

To donate to me, visit this article on Portraits of Animals which explains how to donate to me for a purpose. I will send you a gift certificate in an amount as described in the article: from $5.00 for donating $25.00 to $20.00 for donating $100.00.


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