Rescue Story: Ferals Down on the Farm

tabbies
Tabbies

So I left you hanging with my most recent TNR project just as we had one cat to go, and then they all were to go to the farm in a day or two. I had planned this TNR-relocation hoping that I could get them all to our clinic to a spay/neuter appointment and then off to the farm so they didn’t need to stay too long in their traps, or be fostered by someone for a few days, and I am still surprised it actually happened. Initially, the caretaker thought there were 12 cats and there very well might have been at one time, but there was no sign of any but the 10 we trapped. They are all now at the farm, and I hear from Birgitta they are doing well as they near the end of their transfer from their home to hers. None had any post-surgery problems, all have eaten well and while they don’t show any signs of wanting to socialize, they aren’t hostile, except for one.

When I left off, I had fixed the back panel on the trap that cats mysteriously eaten the food then disappeared from, and on Saturday night I set that trap for the last cat. I had the last two we’d trapped to pick up and take to a TNR appointment at the shelter Sunday morning, and the caretaker let me know the cat was in that trap. I took off with the two cats and let Margo know in case she had any appointments, and then messaged in one of our groups, knowing that I’d have very little time that short week after Memorial Day after taking four days to trap the first 11 cats. I went back and cleaned up and fed the cats in their traps, picked the two up at the shelter after their appointments, and fed the cats in their traps again.

Eight traps
Eight traps

A friend who lives near the clinic and volunteers as well as cares for her own feral colony said she had an appointment at a clinic out her way. She had also formerly transported a couple of mom cats from Mariposa’s colony who had stayed behind to raise their kittens out to Birgitta’s farm and they had become friends. If I could get the cat to her before Tuesday, she would get the surgery done and transport the cat too.

Since Tuesday was the day I would be traveling to the farm, I decided that I would take the cats home with me Monday evening and they could stay in my car. It’s large enough they could all be pretty much in one layer. I could get an earlier and easier start and they could have their first meal after I got to the farm; I really didn’t want to be driving them after they’d eaten because they’d all have to “go” while traveling. And I knew the caretaker would have a hard time saying goodbye. We’d have more time on Monday, and I hoped to eliminate the chance he’d want to keep one or two, or not let them go, or any of the other things caretakers do when they have to let their colony go. No matter the circumstances, we do become attached.

So on Monday I took care of the cats in traps, picked up the last cat and drove her to the woman’s house out by the clinic, then visited for a while. Then I swung back past the clinic to pick up the tux whose heart had stopped in surgery on Saturday; he’d shown no signs of any further problems so he was free to go. When I came back the caretaker’s sons were there and the family had had a Memorial Day get-together, so they gave me some leftovers and we sat and talked, which I really enjoyed. Then I packed the remaining eight cats in my car, and off we went to my house.

In my car, four in the back, five in the middle because two are in carriers.

I left at about 10:00 a.m. Tuesday morning to avoid commuting traffic and got to the farm about noon. Birgitta and I started talking before I got out of the car and didn’t stop until I left. I opened up the car doors so they could get some fresh air and smell the place they’d be living.

She had six large crates set up in her basement, which is easier for the month of transfer for this many cats. Typically you want to set them up in the place you want to call home, which would likely be one of the barns or other outbuildings with these cats, those some might choose to remain in the house. But there wasn’t enough space for the cages in the barn, and washing dishes and litterboxes for this many cats is far easier with a washtub and running water right there. Typically you also want to have one cat per crate, but these cats were all from one colony and were really all related, so I knew I could safely double them up. I decided how to organize the cats in them, we put sheets over them, added the litterboxes then food and water. I like to add some Rescue Remedy or other holistic calming solution to their food and water, but I had forgotten to get a bottle to set them up with and give to Birgitta.

We then carried the cats down from my car. None of the cats gave me any trouble except the solid gray tabby—nothing bad or dangerous, just as totally unpleasant as he looks. I am missing two below.

And I noticed one of the tabbies had a very strange looking eye. Knowing that might have happened in trapping or even as a result of the surgery, and could mean the eye was damaged enough to need to be removed now or soon, I messaged Margo. We decided he should go back to the clinic for a checkup, and I could drop him off there on my way back home. We left an empty cage for the one who my friend would bring out after her spay. “The eye cat” turned out to have an old injury that was stable so she eventually brought him back out too.

We took a break and had coffee with her white cat, whose name I can’t remember.

Then we walked around and looked at her current creative work, much of which consisted of untrimmed locks of sheep fleece that she dyes various colors and sells for addition into skeins and onto garments.

Then it was time to visit the farm! We walked around to see the chickens…

…and the sheep…

…and the goats…

…and a few farm dogs, two of them hers…

Birgitta with her dogs.

…and a few more belonging to her son…

…and of course there were cats there too! This tabby by my car was busy getting messages. I’m pretty sure he was one I’d brought out the very first time I took cats to her, in March 2017.

One of these things is not like the other. See if you can figure out which one.

This orange-eyed ginger showed up neutered, but she never found an owner, same with the black and white cat.

And there you are, another successful delivery of cats! And one more colony that had to be moved. This is my third including Mariposa’s colony (Dunbar) and a group of 11 a local family had been feeding (Cherrydell). I’m just glad that I’d been able to find a place for each of them to go, and the means to get them all the care they needed and move them there.

As I’ve had more experience with a variety of TNR and trapping, and learned more regarding not only about cat behavior but about ways to alleviate the stress of feral cats as well as socialized cats I’ve made some fundamental changes to the way I trap and transport. Trapping cats by keeping as close to their routine as possible is always the best decision for the cats and most successful for the trapper, as is minimizing hold and transport and keeping the hold to a quiet place with as little contact as possible. I love trapping cats who need it because I can oversee the whole operation and know they were well-cared for because I did my best.

But when my hip started to go I needed to make some changes, and I had also seen opportunities to safely engage the caretaker in trapping through the years too. Where the caretaker felt able and was willing, I would train the person in the whole procedure and try to stay away as much as possible. That began with the Cherrydell group—after I’d trapped six of the kittens with a drop trap, the caretaker trapped the remaining five, and cared for them in her basement for the two days necessary after I did it the first time to show her how.

This time I looked at the routine they had and knew the best thing would be to have the caretaker set the traps in the detached garage and act as if he was normally feeding their meals. We made that work by me setting the traps with food the night before, or before the evening feeding, with a folded sheet on top of each trap, then leave. The caretaker only needed to open the garage door and they literally walked right into the traps. We didn’t have to trap any outside of regular mealtimes. I’m kind of shocked, but happy all around, especially the cats who had as little fear as necessary in their last days in the place they knew best.

The caretaker and his family were taking a five-day trip to visit family in Indiana a couple days after I moved the cats, and that was a good break for the caretaker. Being away from the routines would make it easier to make a break from all that went with caring for those cats for 20 years.


Read more articles in my TNR Series and Rescue.


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Bernadette

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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