Sunday, April 14, 2024
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Rescue Story: Kittens in the Greenhouse

All six kittens!
All six kittens!

Yes, there are kittens everywhere, including at my niece’s workplace in Savannah GA! She did a great job getting a grip on the situation, trapping kittens and mom, fostering kittens in the office and releasing mom and one kitten who had no interest in socializing, with a little help from her aunt in Pittsburgh, and a friend of mine who lives in Savannah who rescues cats and kittens. With several people feeding and some construction/deconstruction on site, not to mention temperatures over 100 degrees and fire ants that defeated even the water moat around a bowl of cat food, there were lots of twists and turns for a first TNR project.

She is a designer at a wholesale plant nursery on 13 acres that provides plants and filled baskets and containers to landscaping companies. The land has several large greenhouses and outbuildings, and a few older houses that are rented by people who work there. The majority of the land that’s not used by the greenhouse is both wooded and marshy. Someone had lived in one of the houses and kept cats, and stray and feral cats would also wander in as they tend to when food is out. Most were spayed and neutered and taken away when the person moved. One of the adult cats left was eartipped, two were not. It’s kind of a surprise there weren’t way more kittens.

Jennifer called me a couple weeks ago to say she’d seen kittens and she was going to trap them and do whatever she could. She wasn’t sure how many kittens but there were at least three adults, one of them likely the mom and possibly a dad.

On a Monday the kittens were in one of the greenhouses and she saw at least four. “There were kittens in the crotons, I thought I might just be able to pick them up,” she said. That would be handy and also interesting if they were that friendly, but I also warned her to be careful about being bitten, even by a kitten, because that would mean confining the kitten for a rabies watch and possibly needing a nasty series of rabies shots for herself. If she was going to grab one, have a glove, a blanket and a carrier ready.

I asked her how old they were and if she’d seen their mother. They sounded to be about 8 weeks old and people often dump litters of kittens at that age, but there was also a cat who looked very much like them and might have been their mother. She’d have to get her hands on the kittens before she could figure out how socialized they were.

She checked around for TNR groups or programs and found Island Feral Cats right off, contacted them and was assured a spay voucher for the mom but she wasn’t sure where to go for the surgery. The mom was supposed to go to the person who had lived there after the surgery. She knew she could surrender the kittens, if friendly, to the shelter, so she had something of a plan.

On Monday night she trapped one adult cat using a trap they had at work, but let it go not having the voucher yet and not knowing yet where to take it for surgery or even yet where to keep it, and only having one trap at that point and needing it to also trap kittens.

The first kitten trapped.
The first kitten trapped.

She reset the trap and trapped one kitten right away. That kitten was the smallest but turned out to be pretty calm and quiet for a feral kitten. I told her about how to set up a dog crate for them and even possibly mom. She had decided to foster the kittens at work but until she could get home to get her own dog crate and set it up she put that kitten in the storage room with food and water and litter. The kitten didn’t hide, but didn’t come out for affection. It did eat and drink and use the box so that worked out well enough for the moment, and no lost kitten disasters.

I checked around and found Petfix at The Humane Society for Greater Savannah (HSGS) that had both a low-cost and a TNR program. The TNR program was an early drop off Monday through Wednesday, pick up the next morning. As usual cats need to be in a trap. I also put her in touch with a friend who lives there and both rescues and fosters kittens from whom she could borrow traps and be able to ask questions and find local resources.

The second kitten trapped, the torbie.
The second kitten trapped, the torbie.

Catching four more kittens one at a time over the next several days and into the weekend she started socializing them in the crate. None were as friendly as the first one, and a few were hiding behind the litterbox with “airplane ears”, but she and her co-workers made kitty purritos and held them, fed them freeze-dried meat treats (my recommendation, irresistible to any age of cat when you have to get them accustomed to your hands), and Jennifer cleaned up after them as they slowly adapted to the crate and started to play hard.

To pick up the pace she decided to borrow traps from my friend. Kittens went into the traps, and even the adults, but the traps didn’t trip until finally on Wednesday morning she trapped the mom and one kitten she hadn’t seen in one trap, and one more kitten in the other trap.

The pretty mom cat.
The pretty mom cat.

Wednesday was the last day that week for TNR surgeries, so she added the two new kittens, totaling six, to the dog crate and ran off with the mother cat, a little late, to Petfix. They took her. Because she wanted to trap other cats she decided to hold the mom inside for a few days and borrowed a crate from my friend too, so mom was in one of the bathrooms.

No other kittens had been seen, but everyone kept watch for more, just in case. Four of the kittens were tabbies or torbies, one was gray with white paws and bib, and the last kitten who had been trapped in the trap with mom was pale ginger with white paws and bib. That kitten was not at all like the others. All the kittens had hissed and taken some time to adjust, but this one was growling and hissing and hiding and running around. It actually frightened the other kittens who began to mistrust the humans and hide again. I told her to separate the kitten and work with it on its own to see if that would help.

Two kittens enjoying the sun.
Two kittens enjoying the sun.


She had a large dog carrier and put that in yet another closet with food and water and litter for that kitten, but the kitten didn’t eat or drink or use the box. I suggested she put the kitten in with its mother. Mom wasn’t too happy about that, but at least the kitten relaxed enough to eat and drink.

All six kittens behind a file cabinet.
All six kittens behind a file cabinet.

She fed them all in the morning and came back into work in the evening, and during the day she and her co-workers handled the kittens. Jennifer let them out into small areas in the office one by one for a few minutes at a time until they seemed comfortable enough, and then let them all out to explore for 15 minutes or so. In time she took them out in the morning and in the afternoon to play on her desk and in her work area in the office.

The pale ginger kitten never adapted to being handled. No one could take it for further fostering and it couldn’t be surrendered as it was. Initially no cats were to be left on the property but the owner was fine with the mother staying there, and when the kitten wasn’t socializing, they decided to TNR the kitten and release it with its mother. She took the kitten, who turned out to be a girl, the next week for TNR surgery.

They're back in their crate.
They’re back in their crate.

One of her co-workers brings her brindle mountain cur named Waylon to work each day. In time Waylon chose a kitten for himself, the little torbie. Be prepared for total cuteness as Waylon and the kitten cuddled as if they’d always known each other and the kitten hadn’t been living a feral life just days before.

She tried to trap the other cats outside but had no luck, other people were putting out food despite what she’d asked. I had told her from the beginning that most of the problems you encounter with TNR had to do with people. It could also be the cats were leaving the property and eating elsewhere. I had explained the process for adapting feral cats to a feeding place and schedule to minimize the amount of time food was left outside so no vermin would come for the cats’ food, and she released them, first in a shadier place where they’d have some protection for a few days, then slowly moved the food back to where they would be fed. They have water out all the time, and the shady places they had had before she trapped them.

Kittens hanging out on her desk.

HSGS is a managed-admission shelter and manages their population to avoid euthanasia. They are legally prohibited from taking in stray animals, and strays are supposed to be taken to animal control, which is always a frightening prospect. Jenn did discover, however, that if she held the kittens for two weeks, they were no longer considered stray, and she could apply to surrender them. She’s had them for two weeks on July 3, and right after July 4 she’ll contact them to see about their surrender.

My niece is also the person who adopted Simon and Theo, and long ago the person who caught Moses in 1987 and who talked me into taking Allegro and his brother in 1986. In addition to this she also fosters monarch butterflies! When milkweed plants come into the greenhouse and before they are sprayed to kill anything living on them, Jenn sweeps them all for monarch eggs, larvae and caterpillars and takes them home to her monarch habitat to develop until they become butterflies. Pretty special!

Released monarchs in Jenn's yard.
Released monarchs in Jenn’s yard.

Read other Rescue Stories and other stories under TNR and TNR Series

I hope that relating the details of my TNR and rescue projects I can help you if you’re new to it, commiserate and celebrate if you’re not, and help to spread the idea of why and how cats are rescued, how much work goes into rescuing, and how so many people are involved. Mostly, I hope to share why it’s important that we rescue cats, and all animals.

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Bella and Foster Friends Tote Bags!
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O.M.Geeeee! It’s Bella! On a bag with green button eyes just like her big round eyes! Others don’t live in a house full of housepanthers, so I added the white, gray and ginger kitties who are her foster friends. Read more and order.


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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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