Last year this lovely lady began dining at our friend Peg’s front porch diner. Everyone notices a Siamese mix cat because their markings are so distinct, and they are typically very nice-looking cats. And they often belong to someone.
Ling did belong to someone—who really didn’t want her. As a kitten she hadn’t socialized well and eventually she ended up outdoors because she was so unfriendly. That was when she began visiting Peg’s porch. Peg found where she’d come from and her story, and when the neighbors moved they decided to leave Ling behind as a community cat because they felt she’d adapted to the situation.
This lovely Siamese mix was well-known in the neighborhood partly because of her looks, and while she was not considered by her former owners to be a friendly cat, she was not a feral who disappeared into the scenery. A cat-owning neighbor wanted to take her in, but hadn’t ever dealt with a cat like her. Peg knew it was only a matter of time before Ling had her own litter of little fluffies, and began to work on Ling’s personality last year while we managed Nugget‘s and F’Ave Tux‘s needs, offering her affection and treats and talking to her, and slowly winning her trust. The neighbor who was interested also fed Ling and did her best to befriend Ling as well.
I took the photos of Ling on the sidewalk last November on the day Peg had trapped F’Ave Tux. I suggested also trapping Ling just to get her spayed even if she went back outside at that point, and that would avoid the inevitable littering and also help to calm her personality somewhat. Peg said the game plan was to bring her indoors one way or another, and in fact Ling had almost walked into Peg’s house a couple times! If she would do that with her potential adopting neighbor then Ling would have found herself a home. If not, and Ling was still very shy around the neighbor at that point, then as soon as Peg could pick her up she would bring Ling inside and get her fixed and finish her socialization, and let the former feral Tommy, who had a home in Peg’s foster room, show Ling the ropes about living indoors. When Ling had settled in a bit she would transfer her to the neighbor. Hopefully Ling’s biological clock would hold off until then and everyone kept an eye on Ling’s activities and behavior.
Moving into January Peg and I discussed Ling’s progress and various ways to bring her indoors. Ling was very friendly with Peg and Peg could pet her all over, including her belly, which did not show signs of pregnancy or nursing. But Ling was intimidated by the carrier. Peg wasn’t sure how to get her in there though she could pick Ling up. I suggested putting Ling’s food in there and tossing treats in there, and closing the door behind her.
As a few weeks went by and we all noticed a couple of intact males hanging around, along with Denise’s Ebby, who also ate breakfast on Peg’s porch, was still intact, we knew it was just a matter of time until the inevitable happened.
Peg messaged me January 19 to say she’d just gotten Ling into a carrier and she was in the house. “She is extremely not happy with me and is very vocal about it but she’s good when I handle her,” she said. “Any chance there’s a spay neuter clinic anywhere this weekend? I suspect she’s pregnant but if so she’s not very far along.” In fact, we did have a low-cost clinic that weekend, and I got Ling scheduled. Ling would get “the works”: spay, vaccines, combo test, worming and flea treatment. Three days later, Peg reported Ling was still fussy… sometimes friendly, sometimes napping in the litter pan, a little reactive and generally not ready for prime time as a socialized cat. I mentioned that a good spay often helps to temper a cat who may be going into her first heat or carrying her first litter.
The Sunday after the spay she was noticeably different. “Miss Ling is doing beautifully! The folks at HCMT just fell in love with her and said she was a purrfect customer. They even drew a little heart ❤️ on her chart! I kept her in her crate all day today so she could recover, and I think she appreciated the alone-time. She came to the front after dinner for petting and purrs. She has a beautiful purr BTW!” Peg remarked.
Peg called a few days after the clinic to report that Ling had horribly soft stool and was still spending time in her litterbox, resulting in a gooey, smelly mess in her fur, which Ling would not let Peg clean up. She was still eating and not acting at all lethargic, so my guess was the worming treatment had taken effect, in which case the messy output shouldn’t last more than a day. I also suggested a few techniques for encouraging her to nap somewhere else than the dirty litterbox—sometimes cats sleep in litter because it’s comfortable and conforms to their body, sometimes it’s because they feel they have some cover inside the litterbox, and sometimes they aren’t interested in the box so much as that they feel safer or more comfortable sleeping in the spot where the box is. I suggested putting a bed or blanket where the box was and also another somewhere in the crate. Peg switched things around and swiped at the mess in Ling’s fur with a wet paper towel. “Just a quick note to say Miss Ling was much better yesterday and is back to her feisty self. And has cleaned herself up remarkably well (yecccchh). I tried putting two ‘beds’ (fluffy towels) in her crate, one in the back and one in the front, and she is very happy with that arrangement and is using both as the mood strikes her. On the whole, doing great!”
From then to now Ling has gotten into a daily routine in the room, sleeping in her crate at night but outside of it all day. She was still shy but has learned the sound of the treat jar. She has come a long way in just a few months, and we hope she’ll continue so that she can move on over to the neighbor who is eagerly following Ling’s socialization.
So, another one off the streets!
Two past graduates of our community cat program!
Peg took the photo below showing both F’Ave Tux and Callie having breakfast on her porch in January. Callie is one of the cats belonging to a neighbor who feeds cats outside their house but we’ve been taking care of the spay and neuter for the past few years. We trapped and spayed Callie in 2018 after we had swiped her six newborn kittens from a broken down car, knowing we stood a chance of never seeing them again until it was too late. No more kittens from her! We still have one female to trap, and then we might be done with that situation. Read A Little TNR Goes a Long Way for more details on what we’ve done.
Helping cats this way
TNR does stand for “trap, neuter, return”, but studies of stray and feral cat management as far back as 1993 conclude that TNR alone is not an effective way to reduce cat populations. Studies published in 2002 and 2003 and later report the results of studies beginning as early as 1991 that incorporated the removal of kittens and any cat considered adoptable. They showed that the population of even a large colony could be reduced by half or more within a year or two of beginning a monthly trapping and neutering program, and thereafter diligently keeping up with any new cats who showed up as part of the colony. (Julie K. Levy, DVM, PhD, DACVIM; David W. Gale; Leslie A. Gale, BS, 2003. Evaluation of the effect of a long-term trap-neuter-return and adoption program on a free-roaming cat population: https://www.avma.org/News/Journals/Collections/Documents/javma_222_1_42.pdf) You can read more about this process in my (award-winning) article “Stray and Feral Cats and TNR”.
So, one way or another, we hope to find Ebby a home, reduce Denise’s colony of 12+ by one more cat, and have one less cat to feed and house on the streets. We think this really nice cat deserves that!
We can always turn to HCMT for low-cost surgeries and veterinary care for our community cats like F’Ave Tux and Nugget, and also friendly community cats to find an indoor home through surrendering to a shelter like Rocky and Balboa and fostering and adopting like Charm and her kittens through Pittsburgh C.A.T. If you can, send a donation along to them for supporting rescuers like me in helping cats along from the outdoors to the indoors.
Homeless Cat Management Team: www.homelesscat.org
Pittsburgh C.A.T.: facebook.com/pittsburghcat
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