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Rescue Story: A Lucky Last-minute TNR Appointment

black cat in trap
She was lucky for that TNR appointment.

Just after I lost Jelly Bean, still feeling pretty numb and speechless, I was able to help a cat in a way that seemed to arrange itself that really gave me a lift at that sad time, on the Friday morning after we’d lost him. Being able to arrange a last-minute surgery is something I’ve pulled off before, but I have to think housepanthers Jelly Bean and Mewsette may have had something to do with aligning the stars for this young black feral kitty on that particular morning.

Looking for the Oriole kittens’ mom

We’ve been trying to identify, trap and spay the mother of the five kittens you’ve read about here, and any other community cats in that neighborhood. I’m so grateful the foster, retired and enjoying the challenge, is game for it all and keeps watch along with talking to the neighbors. I suspected she might be pregnant again because she had deposited the kittens, seven to eight weeks old, under this man’s shed and stopped visiting them regularly and then not at all. So they were weaned and healthy and it was that time of year when cats get pregnant as often as possible. Because she’d disappeared it was even possible she had already given birth.

He began putting food out soon after we trapped the kittens, and a couple of weeks later it was consistently consumed. Neither of us has a trail camera or a security camera to set up to see just what is eating the food so we prepared for the next HCMT clinic, on July 15. That worked for me to help him since that fell on the weekend between the basement and roof work and the kitchen floor installation, when the cats had a break to roam the house before the kitchen work began.

He tied the trap open and put the food inside from the beginning of the week as we had to trap the kittens, then set the trap on the Thursday evening before the clinic. He did trap a small black cat! We know the mother is black and she’s fairly small, so we were hoping she was the one, even though when I went over to see her she looked a little too small and quite young.

black cat in trap
Not this girl either, and she looks so young.

It turned out she was less than a year old and about four pounds and had no sign of ever having had kittens. Likely she was related to the kittens, but not their mother. I remembered what the neighbor had told us about the litter the year before in November and the one neonatal kitten they’d found. It’s possible this cat was one of the kittens from that litter.

He held her for two days to give her a little more healing time. We both felt bad when we let her go from the trap because she didn’t want to leave it, then sort of walked out of it with our urging and to the neighbor’s driveway, turned and looked at us for a long moment, then went slowly walking through the neighbors’ yards. I didn’t have a camera of any sort with me at the moment but I really wish I’d caught that moment. Oh, to be able to socialize her…

He reset the trap tied open, but the food went uneaten, so we missed the next clinic on July 22.

A sad situation for me

That weekend, after the kitchen was finished and I let my cats up out of the basement, I was shocked at how Jelly Bean seemed to be deteriorating quickly even though he’d been so active and social while they were in the basement and when I let them back up on Thursday evening. His diagnosed conditions didn’t really indicate this and we’d done imaging and blood tests. Sunday before the farmers market I didn’t want to leave him but gave him some palliative treatments. When I came home he seemed to feel much better, and an email from Dr. Sudberg about his blood tests which surprisingly didn’t look alarming gave me some hope. But Sunday night and through Monday he was up and down, then really began to fail; Tuesday I took him to urgent care and discovered he really was in organ failure. We had just lost his sister Mewsette six weeks before. It was unreal. All thoughts of trapping and just about anything else in the world had no space in my mind as I planned his in-home euthanasia.

Trying to trap the next “possibly mother” cat

The caretaker had messaged me that the food was disappearing regularly in the trap so he was planning to trap for the coming weekend’s clinic. I heard him, but my mind was not connecting. Typically I’ll make the appointment first, but there is a clinic nearly every weekend so I didn’t even check, just told him it was fine, and then told him when I found that I’d have to have Bean put to sleep and I’d be out of commission for a few days but to keep in touch with messages and I’d help him if he needed it. He has trapping down really well and I was totally grateful for that. He messaged me Thursday that he was planning to set the trap that night, I said okay.

Snap out of it for a moment and find that elusive TNR appointment!

Then he messaged me Friday morning that he had another black cat in the trap, a slightly bigger one this time! I’m still in my fog trying to get used to my new reality and decided I’d better contact my contact for clinic appointments, checked the website, which I maintain so you’d think I would know, and found there was not a clinic that weekend! I couldn’t push this off on someone else and I’m uniquely qualified to work out an unexpected spay/neuter surgery after years of doing it for myself and others. With TNR you don’t always get the cat or cats you had planned to trap and that meant scheduled surgeries with cancelled patients that were open for a replacement cat, if you could find them in time. So my mind clicked over into focus mode and I got to work looking for that elusive appointment.

She could stay in the trap for two, maybe three days until we got an appointment, but not much longer than that, not like the kittens’ mom we unintentionally trapped two summers ago when HCMT didn’t have any extra appointments and she went five days until I talked a veterinarian who occasionally does TNR surgery into taking her. You just hate to let a cat go who you know needs to be spayed or neutered and you may never get another chance, but that’s the importance of planning ahead.

I immediately began looking through my alternate TNR options at regularly-scheduled clinics. Beaver County Humane Society had two appointments on Monday so I called him to let him know we should take one of those, but I’d keep looking for something sooner. The weather was hot and stormy and she’d have to come inside somewhere to wait for that appointment and make accommodations afterward too.

I checked for other clinics that sometimes posted open surgery spots, then called him back to let him know the results so far, nothing. Then I went back to check the BCHS website and found the appointments were gone! In less than an hour! Either he was going to have some extra caretaking while we waited on Monday morning, or we’d have to let her go.

I lined up my next possibilities on my computer and left messages at the shelters, considered calling a few of the veterinarians I work with now and then, but just took a chance and called the spay/neuter clinic where they did TNR surgeries each day and had at one time been the walk-in clinic that I’d used constantly when I was intensively trapping in my own neighborhood four and five years ago. I knew they didn’t take walk-ins any more but I could find out if I could get an appointment on Monday.

I explained the situation with the kittens we’d trapped and that this cat may be pregnant and she may also be a nursing mother. The receptionist said Monday was full but paused and said she’d check with her surgery staff.

She came back and told me, “If the cat can get here before noon she’s got an appointment.” Whoa, way more than I was hoping, but a lucky break for all of us that two of their scheduled appointments hadn’t trapped their cats! I gave the information and address to the foster and he was right on it.

Right at that moment I was elated, even in the midst of my deep grief. This had distracted me just enough, and was successful in a way that typically doesn’t happen, that I stood up from my desk chair and said “Yes!” and fist-pumped the air and had a good laugh. Then I shared it privately with a few close friends who knew my state of mind in grieving.

Not the mother either, but…

It turned out that the cat was a female, unspayed, 5 pounds, and 2 years old. They said it didn’t look like she’d ever been pregnant. I find that hard to believe, but maybe at her size she just couldn’t conceive or carry kittens to term or her development had been delayed or prevented. The two black kittens in the litter we were fostering were not two pounds even though they were about 10 weeks by the time we trapped them, so this mother cat may produce extra small kittens that somehow survived; those two kittens are quite healthy now and the slightly larger one has grown to equal weight with her larger gray sister (see Cats for Adoption: Midnight, Moonlight and Pepper). So this cat is not the mother of those kittens either. But at least we got another intact female spayed, and now the foster is back to putting food out to see who takes it, and getting a security camera to use for this.

This second black cat was not at all reluctant to get out of the trap when we released her!

All these black cats, coincidence or cat paws arranging the stars?

The cat needing surgery was black, two of the kittens fostering are black, and the one older kitten we spayed the previous weekend was also black. It’s kind of significant to me that I’m rescuing all these black cats, of course it doesn’t matter what color they are, and it could just be a coincidence, the same way it’s a coincidence that most of the cats in my house are black because I had no idea what color they were before I trapped or rescued or agreed to foster them. Mewsette and Jelly Bean had always been careful and comforting to their elders as they grew frail and passed, and then to all the frightened feral kittens, adult cats and hospice fosters who have come through our home. The stars may have aligned for this one necessary surgery, but maybe there were a few playful paws pushing them around up there too. Sometimes the least likely things can help ease the grief of the loss of a beloved animal companion.

About the Oriole kittens

You can read more about the kittens and the whole rescue and TNR effort by searching “Oriole kittens”. I tend to name my TNR projects after the street they were trapped on.

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Fine ArtPhotographyGiftsGreeting CardsBooksCommissioned Portraits & Artwork

Great Rescues Day Book:
Portraits, Rescue Stories, Holidays and Events, Essential Feline Information, All in One Book

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Great Rescues Day Book

Each month features one of my commissioned portraits of a feline or felines and their rescue story along with a kitty quote on the left page, and on the right page the month name with enough lines for all possible dates, with standard holidays and animal-themed observances and events. Great Rescues also includes a mini cat-care book illustrated with my drawings including information on finding strays or orphaned kittens, adopting for the first time or caring for a geriatric cat, a list of household toxins and toxic plants, or helping stray and feral cats and beginning with TNR.

Each book includes also 10 sheets of my “22 Cats” decorative notepaper with a collage of all the portraits in black and white so you can make your own notes or write special notes to friends.

The portraits in this book, collected as a series, won both a Certificate of Excellence and a Muse Medallion in the 2011 Cat Writers’ Association Annual Communication Contest, as well as the 22 Cats Notepaper mentioned below.

Read more and order.


All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.

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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!




From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

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