I’ve been trying to get back to rescues over the past year for updates, and some newer ones too, plus talking to a few others about their activities to include in my weekly Rescue Stories feature for weeks, without success. I can’t wait to share those stories, but not without the full story and photos! So, I’ll fill in with some other thoughts on the same subjects.
Last year at this time I was unexpectedly chasing a number of cats and kittens around a neighborhood on the other side of my hill, providing TNR and in the process rescuing kittens and an adult from life outdoors. A year later it’s done pretty much what TNR is supposed to do—stabilize then reduce the population of stray and feral cats.
This is the neighborhood where Callie had her kittens last summer, and she was part of that TNR goodness too. New cats had been showing up there pretty regularly for years, but most seemed to be abandoned formerly owned cats who were socialized but frightened. Most were taken in, vetted, fostered and were adopted privately or through a few small rescues. Some of these cats were left behind by renters, some put out by renters who weren’t permitted cats, or by people who just didn’t want them, though we also suspected a home on the street below kept their cats outdoors and didn’t feed them regularly.
Then a lot of kittens started showing up but disappearing, then a few would reappear later as feral adults. Many of the cats could finally be traced to one home that fed them but didn’t provide shelter or TNR. Nor, it seemed after trying to talk to them, were they interested. But the cats were fair game for trapping when off their property.
Last January someone posted about finding one kitten on her back porch, and she turned out to be a few doors down from that house. I told her that finding one kitten at about six weeks old was pretty unusual and to keep her eyes open for more. Another did show up, her daughter Emma managed to grab the kitten, and our friend Peg took Rosie in to foster. I got my trapping kit together and went over to scope out the situation and trap some cats.
Right away I was lucky enough to trap not a kitten but both parents, Ink and LeRoi, apparently out on a date now that her kittens were weaned. They had been spreading their DNA all over the hill for a couple of years and were hard to pin down. Ink was known to have had at least three litters and visited Michelle, one of the feeders in the neighborhood who had taken in two other kittens and kept them, then later taken one of Ink’s litters, fostered and socialized and adopted them out. Ink was no doubt preparing for another litter but we TNRd her and LeRoi and released them to start work on the kittens again; the photo at the top is Emma and me releasing Ink in Emma’s back yard, and I remember carrying traps and trying to bend over with my hip in pretty bad shape already.
Emma knows all the animals over there and found where one of the other kittens had been hiding since his parents were gone, and I trapped him the day after we released his parents. That night I also saw the other kitten Emma had seen, but the tux was older, probably one of Ink’s earlier litters still staying with mom when a new litter was born. We planned to trap that one too, but no one ever saw it again after that night. Did it leave for another neighborhood, did someone take it in, did it not survive the winter? That’s the hard part in all this, not knowing what happened, but knowing they likely suffered.
Ultimately Ink settled down to visiting her former kittens at Michelle’s house and eats there each day. LeRoi was acting pretty friendly by a week later, and he was eventually brought inside by Peg to socialize some more and was adopted by Stephanie who used to feed him and always loved him.
Once we’d started the process and were organized as a team everyone kept a lookout for kittens and their mothers. In August when Callie was seen to be pregnant no one could track her feeding places until after she’d had her kittens in a minivan in “that” house’s driveway. The plan was to take the kittens and use them to trap Callie, let her raise them, then TNR her, or foster her as well if she was friendly. She was not, at all, and wasn’t even lured by her kittens into a trap. When she was finally trapped a few days later she had no interest in them. Michelle had been bottle feeding them and continued after Callie was spayed and released.
A few wandering male cats aside from LeRoi were also difficult to pin down for trapping, but one of them, Tommy, a long-time tom who started out in my neighborhood, finally decided he wanted to come inside in October. Peg was able to befriend him and he’s now in her foster room, and eventually I’ll get over there to take photos of him and write up that story.
The story without TNR
If no TNR had been done and they had all been left to follow their course of nature, both Ink and Callie would have had at least one more litter in the past year, and likely Rosie would have matured enough to have one litter as well. With an average litter size of four, that would have been a dozen more cats. Considering the apparent kitten mortality in Ink’s litters, reduced from four to two, about half of Callie’s litter would not have survived, and possibly even Rosie or Latte as well even though they were older because our winter weather in the early part of 2019 was brutal, and that would mean a lot of upper respiratory infections for young cats. Then add in the dozen new kittens, with only half surviving, more suffering and death, and more cats ready to reproduce this spring.
That is mostly conjecture, but based on both observation and studied outcomes of community cats.
The one conclusion is that TNR WORKS!
And it works for people as well as cats.
What started out as a small mess and would have become a big mess in a couple of years just fizzled for the compassion of all those who put time and effort into working together to watch and track and follow feeding schedules and work out rescuing and trapping, and continue to keep track of cats in their neighborhood, especially at “that house”. Of 12 cats and kittens living outdoors, only two remain there now, both spayed feral females who are regularly fed and monitored. Eight kittens were fostered, socialized and adopted, never to live outdoors or bear litters of their own, and two males, one feral and one formerly socialized, were taken in to foster and live indoors. There are likely a few more at “that house”, time will tell, but we are ready.
I’m more than happy to help, and have a plan for those elusive males, and the remaining female. Thanks to Peg, Denise, Stephanie, Michele and Emma, and Michelle and Philip for caring so much.
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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters Tuesday: Rescue Stories Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork Thursday: New Merchandise Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!