And a Side of Cats in Traps

Rosie, the little dilute tortie.
Rosie, the little dilute tortie.

I really have been trying to get back to posting regularly, but little things come up, like this little dilute “tortilla” kitty and her siblings who needed to be trapped. I follow local groups on Facebook and joined Nextdoor several years ago specifically to follow cat issues and help where I could. Usually I offer advice or coach people and I help network with others who can help, but sometimes it’s either in my own neighborhood or close enough and I’m happy to run out and help cats and people, because I can, because others don’t have the skills or the traps or the time, but I do, and I’m glad to help both cats and people.

Last summer and fall I had some big ones: the abandoned house on Dunbar Street, the eleven Cherrydell cats and kittens, the Greenbriar cats, and in between some smaller ones like the gray kitten in Scott Township Park and a few other situations where I helped others. A few came up in December and trying to keep it together through the holiday season with making things and filling orders and minding my shop here along with regular work kept me way too busy to do much else. But there is some time now.

On Wednesday this week a person posted on Nextdoor Carnegie that she’d found a kitten. I asked where she was and she turned out to be on “the other side” of my street, which goes up to the top of a hill and stops, there’s a steep drop, then the street begins again at the bottom of that hill. I advised her it was unusual to find one kitten and to look for others, then two others showed up. I connected with neighbor a cat rescuer Peg who lived one street away and knew the woman, and said we needed to trap these kittens while we could. Michele and her daughter Emma, who was thrilled with the cats, had managed to grab and hold onto the little dilute tortie but lost track of the other kittens.

I presumed the kittens were those of the feral female Ink who’d appeared pregnant then disappeared and was not looking pregnant anymore. She showed up again at a feeding station looking plump. We needed to trap her to have her spayed, and we needed to trap those kittens to bring them in and socialize them. Peg agreed, and would foster the kittens and their mom.

I went over with one of my traps (the other is borrowed) and Peg’s trap. No kittens were seen, but to my surprise after about two hours of sitting in my car and watching I saw two adults come along who just happened to be their parents, Ink and LeRoi. The male went into one trap and I moved him off to my car.

The time was 11:00 p.m. and I attempted to run home to feed my poor cats, find more traps and a place to hold the intact male since Peg nor I could not, then come back to stay the night, knowing I’d get the female and the kittens if I did, but my car battery was dead, no doubt the result of using the cell phone charger in my cigarette lighter. Then it seemed I had no oil in my car. Yikes! Michele and her husband gave me a jump and I came home and fed and messaged a bunch of people but my battery had stalled again in my driveway. I would have to take it out and completely recharge it or this would continue.

I checked my messages and Michele said the female had gone into the trap! Romeo and Juliet’s gig was over, they were no longer spreading their DNA all over the neighborhood. I had no more traps and a car I basically couldn’t drive. I couldn’t get them to Margo’s house where she’d offered to hold them, so they spent the night in the back of my car, just about as warm and protected as if they’d spent the night in a cat shelter.

Okay, we caught Romeo and Juliet, otherwise known as Ink and LeRoi, who’ve been busy spreading their DNA all over the neighborhood. They are being spayed and neutered right now and after a few days will be returned and fed and cared for and possibly even taken indoors if their temperament allows it. We didn’t catch any other kittens last night, but at least there won’t be any new ones from these two. We’ll be trapping again tonight and in the next few days.

Thursday was like a puzzle fitting trips to clinics together with no car, but it all worked out. Peg drove me and the two cats to the low-cost clinic that takes walk-in ferals for surgery until noon. I met with my retired friend when I got home to work on my car, and he drove me back up to the clinic to pick them up. My battery was charged when we got back, but I wasn’t sure if I should drive through the dark to a place where they could spend a couple days recovering from surgery. A friend who’d come to pick up an order and who is also a foster ended up driving me and the cats to the foster space. I am always happy I can rely on the support from HCMT, Pittsburgh CAT and other rescuers when I need to find a person to foster a rescued cat in the middle of the night, to borrow more traps, even to get medical care if needed.

Michele hadn’t seen the kittens on Thursday and was a little upset thinking she’d done the wrong thing and scared them off. I told her just to keep putting food out and have faith they were still out there. On Friday she reported that some of the food had been eaten but she still hadn’t seen them. Keep the faith!

On Friday I also had a date with another cat, “the CVS cat”, a gray cat many of us had been following on Nextdoor in a community next to mine. He was an adult and seemed more like a displaced cat than a feral cat, though he wasn’t social with people, more timid than unsocialized. Through December I gave lost of information about how to help him and how to rescue him, from checking for a chip to finding a home if he turned out to be feral. A woman named Shannon began visiting him and feeding him daily, and she and I private messaged about him and what to do. We couldn’t do a thing until another woman, Nancy, offered to foster or at least hold him if we trapped him—if you trap a cat they have to go somewhere safe. But there were the holidays, then other people were feeding him, then we didn’t see him for most of a week, and New Year’s Eve was in there.

But Shannon saw him later in the day Wednesday and I said we should try to trap him as soon as possible. We decided Friday was the day. Nancy had a trap and I borrowed a trap and we set it up where he had been staying. I was sure he was off schedule and we’d never see him, there were two bowls of dry food there already, if we saw him he probably wouldn’t eat, but all we could do was try. I demonstrated for Shannon how to set the traps, we put them in place and picked up the food, then looked around to see if he was in the bushes. I turned to talk to Shannon and he was right there in front of the dumpster, behind her—he must have heard her voice. So we slowly backed out of the area and let him explore the traps. He looked into the traps, started to walk into one, then stopped. We crept back across the drive through to the parking lot and watched. He came out of the bushes, settled on the berm of the road leading into the dumpster area and looked right at us. Cats always have to do that, stare at you and let you know they know what you’re up to, and let you know they aren’t that stupid.

See those flashlight eyes over there? That’s the infamous gray CVS cat. We’ve been after him for weeks. There are two traps baited with tuna in the bushes behind him. Go in guy, better things await.

Flashlight Eyes, the CVS cat.
Flashlight Eyes, the CVS cat.

Despite the fact he’d shown up I felt we had a long night front of us. We couldn’t see him and couldn’t see the traps in the dark under the bushes. I just hoped we’d hear it if it shut, but I missed having my flashlight and I really felt I needed one in case he left or I felt we could make an adjustment. Shannon offered to go into CVS and buy on and I was glad.

But while she was inside I heard a trap close! I ran over with my sheet to cover it and he really was in one! She came out and looked for me and I told her we had him, and we just couldn’t believe it happened that fast. We tucked him into the car and packed up all our things and took him to the foster’s house.

He’s a nice big cat, but after flailing around for quite a while he calmed down, and he’s been quiet. He’s still in his trap, inside a large cage, in the foster’s house. From the beginning he acted like a displaced cat, not a feral cat, so we’ll see how he feels tomorrow. But he definitely smells like a boy I’m so glad we finally trapped him, and I’m totally shocked it happened so fast!

The CVS cat in the trap.
The CVS cat in the trap.

Nancy had a huge crate all set up for him and was ready with food and treats. I wasn’t sure how he felt about people, but I felt he needed to stay in the trap overnight. We slid the trap into the crate and kept the sheet over it, then gave him food in the trap. Then we covered the crate with light fleece to help him feel even more protected.

Shannon and I will go back tomorrow to see how he is. If he seems to be inching toward socialized, which I really think he is, then we’ll let him relax until he can leave the trap. If not, I’ll find a place to take him where he can live a nice life as a feral. To be continued, of course!

I will be picking up and releasing Ink and LeRoi, and that may bring the kittens back out. If they’ve been around, I will try trapping them over the weekend. The little tortilla was named Rosie by Emma, and in two days has gone from small hisses and some hiding to greeting Peg with tail up and a purr. Hopefully the other two, a tux and a creamsicle, will be just as sweet.

I will update again when I can! 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, the 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. If any of my readers would like to help me with expenses like a feral spay ($45) or neuter ($35), 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. Not only is there a potential car repair, but also this is 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 something from my website .

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