Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Rescue Story: Patience is the Most Important Ingredient, and Other Cat Things

black cat in trap
Angry, ready to go home.

One more mom cat won’t have to worry about kittens anymore! Angry is part of a multi-cat trapping I’ve been helping someone with for the past few months that is finally successful. More about her below, along with other situations that are ongoing right now.

One of the reasons I chose self-employment years ago was the need for variety, in assignment type and subject matter, medium I’d be working in from art to writing to production, daily schedule, people I’d work with, places I’d go, and I’ve been very happy with how that turned out. Not sure if I chose rescuing cats for the same reason, but in that area my head spins on a daily basis with the variety of projects and possibilities. Of course, as time went on, my work and my cat rescue have kind of merged, and I can’t say that wasn’t in my mind from the beginning.

Though I’m not physically heading out to take care of cats as often as I was, I have been able to help just as many by helping other people, finding them the resources they need and instructing them in what to do. In many ways this is really fulfilling because I’m actually teaching others what to do in the circumstances they have, making connections with many others who can help and connecting the people in need as well, then they can go on and help others, and I can still get my work done…mostly. Now that vendor events have restarted for me, helping others while I stay home and work is going to be crucial, and I’m grateful for the many people who keep in touch and follow my instructions and help the cats who need it.

Angry, and her cohorts

A woman who lives about a mile from me contacted me about TNR for her colony autumn 2020. She was feeding a number of cats, some of whom seemed friendly and others clearly feral, obvious intact males and others of various ages. There are many cats wandering the neighborhood generally, and in autumn 2019 a friend found an abandoned gray kitten who I took in to Pittsburgh CAT who looked like a few of these cats, so we knew there were probably a few generations of cats and kittens roaming. But trapping has been a challenge because, by the cats’ behavior, other neighbors probably also feed when they see cats, plus there’s a shopping center down the road with restaurants. Withholding food did not impress the cats—they just went off to eat elsewhere.

And to add an extra challenge, her yard and the ravine behind are full of deer ticks, the kind that carry Lyme disease. One of the neighbors was diagnosed with it, and she’d already had it and didn’t want it again—I don’t want it either, so planning trapping and holding the cats was a challenge in itself. But one of the intact males was hit by a car and killed near one of the restaurants last autumn, so we put on our long pants and made some plans.

She was feeding the cats when she saw them, so I recommended she start feeding at a regular time of day and take away the food after a couple of hours. We also introduced the traps and had one tied open with a bowl of food in it to condition the cats. In January we managed to trap a pregnant female by putting out the trap with food in it when she showed up and hoped the magic would continue as cats were actually mating in her back yard, but no luck. Soon enough the males quit showing up so we presumed all the females were pregnant. This one below certainly was, and no matter what I suggested she eluded the trap—this is Angry back in March, probably within a week of giving birth.

black cat outdoors
Angry in March.

We tried targeting again for the males and the cats she saw most often in April, with no luck, and that was when I could tell someone else was feeding. Cats also came and went from the green space in the huge office park across the street, and people feed in several areas around the buildings. At one point she brought all the traps back to me and said she was done, it was too stressful. Finally at the beginning of May a neighbor posted a photo of three kittens and Angry who had been living under their shed. They had been feeding and trying to coax the kittens closer to grab them, then finally asked for trapping assistance. From that time on, except when I was trapping the colony in Green Tree in May, we tried trapping in every method we could think of, including a drop trap, no luck, but the caretaker did all the work, setting traps as early as 5:00 a.m. and in different areas around her yard.

Angry moved her kittens to the abandoned garage next to the caretaker. The caretaker decided she wanted to try to trap and socialize them rather than TNR, and they were a good age for that. Angry ate pretty regularly, though it seems the kittens still wanted to eat at their old yard up the street. She rarely even saw them. I told her they were likely moving around at night as they learned their way around.

tabby cat outdoors
Tabby mom.

Then on Thursday last week she trapped a tabby cat, a black cat, and a kitten! I got the two adults into the HCMT clinic on Saturday, and I had set her up with a crate and covers for the kittens, so in that one went. On Friday she trapped another kitten, and another black cat—she had presumed the first was the mom cat, now she wasn’t sure. At the clinic it turned out the tabby was a female, who knew what had happened to any kittens she had, but the black cat was a male and so much like the second black cat they were probably siblings.

HCMT didn’t have room for the second black cat, so I started calling around for an appointment for that one. The kittens hid in the carrier in their crate, but ate well and occasionally peeked out at her, but Angry got her name by how she raged in her trap. If you look closely at her face, you’ll see areas where she rubbed off the fur trying to get out of the trap. And she never calmed down, never stopped, even with her trap right next to the crate where the kittens were. I can usually find an appointment within two days, but poor kitty had to go from Friday until Tuesday when I successfully pleaded her case and got an appointment at a vet who occasionally does TNR—one of the reasons you never trap without a plan and an appointment, but when you trap one of your main target cats you do your best. That was a lot of phone calls and emails.

It’s likely whoever was feeding cats in the neighborhood went on vacation, and thank goodness! We don’t need a kitten explosion where it’s already pretty full. She hasn’t seen the third kitten and is thinking the worst, but I told her not to be surprised if it showed up to eat. There’s often a kitten that is far more timid than the others and they can be difficult. She’s going to take a break for a while because I need my traps, but we’ll be back to it soon. And I hope to get kitten photos very soon too!

Parsley, and siblings

The tux kitten watches us.
The tux kitten watches us.

In June 2018 I trapped Mariposa and 10 other adults plus 11 kittens of various ages at the abandoned house on Dunbar Street near me. This little guy had a special hiding place and played games, but in the end we trapped him. He and his siblings were about eight weeks old, and I named him Parsley because there were so many tux kittens and I thought that would be unexpected. The caretaker, who lived a few streets away from me, had already grabbed one of the litter who was pretty friendly for a feral kitten, and agreed to socialize the entire litter for adoption. She wasn’t successful in socializing them and agreed to keep them. She and I collaborated on a few other rescues, including Gabby who she saw had been abandoned in a neighbor’s apartment when they moved. Unfortunately, she died in January 2020. The homeowner where she rented contacted me for help feeding the cats and I sent him goods but didn’t hear from him again.

Then a couple of weeks ago another neighbor posted a photo asking for help with a cat who looked very much like an adult Parsley. I messaged the person and found out the entire litter of four along with one of the caretaker’s original cats, a tortie, were all there in her back yard, and she fed them daily. No response from the person I’d contacted. I feel deeply connected to and responsible for these cats, and I knew I could help Parsley, and help the feeder with all these cats. I messaged my HCMT contacts about the situation and I’ll be trapping Parsley this evening, then taking him to a veterinarian tomorrow through HCMT, along with showing the caretaker how to use a trap. If he needs to be treated I can get her a crate that she can use for him and she can hold him on her enclosed porch until he can be released. Then I’ll keep up with her with winter shelters and any food or other goods she might need.

I feel bad for what happened to these cats. I knew the caretaker wasn’t socializing them well because she ignored everything I told her about keeping them contained until they met certain goals and she just wouldn’t do that. I longed to take them home and socialize them from the beginning, but I had no space, and that particular summer neither did anyone else. But they did have a home, and socialized well or not the caretaker loved them all. And many kittens are TNRd instead of being socialized and live their lives as community cats, as this group is now at the neighbor’s house. The woman is happy to have them live around her, and I actually hope that she may be able to socialize some of them enough to be able to find a forever home for them. Things don’t always work out the way you think they should, no matter how hard you try. Having them end up on the street was not a good outcome, but I am grateful for the kindness of the person who took them on. Send purrs for Parsley and some love for all the rest!

Ebby’s eye care

black cat
You and your camera.

Our handsome Ebby has a problem with his left eye and needs to see a veterinarian, and thank goodness I can again turn to HCMT for help with that. Denise mentioned his eye was occasionally half open, then had a discharge. The other day she mentioned it was becoming cloudy, and this morning there was discharge in the other eye. She takes him into her garage every night as we try to get him accustomed to living indoors for potential adoption. She lets him out during the day because he gets restless. Occasionally he has a conflict with another male, and both of them show up with a half-closed eye. But cloudiness could be many things and one of them is glaucoma, which will not go away and needs to be treated. I made an appointment with one of our vets and I’ll take him next Monday.

Denise would take him inside permanently in a heartbeat, in fact, Ebby sometimes breaks out of the garage and sneaks upstairs. But her Maxi is older and not happy with that, she is already feeding her colony of a dozen or so, and after COVID and some health issues taking on another cat permanently, even just one cat, might not be the best idea. So send purrs for Ebby that he comes out well!

Helping cats in a neighbor’s memory

I had mentioned a few months ago that one of our cat-loving neighbors had died and was a good friend of Denise, so she was helping to care for his five cats in his house. That situation took several weird and interesting turns and is nearing some completion, but the cats are all doing well and are far more friendly and healthy than they were months ago, and may soon be able to move off to adoptable homes. It’s been taking far more of Denise’s time than mine, but I’m happy to advise on socializing and do the background work to see that they are all vetted and the whole situation is handled humanely. Photos soon!

F’Ave Tux has changed his status

tux cat by food bowl
Peg’s first photo of F’Ave Tux.

You may remember F’ave Tux from his rescue and famous prolapsed rectum last November. At the time he was clearly a feral cat with maybe a little socialization at some point in his young life. Even while he was held in the clinic after his surgery he was not friendly. You’d think that whole experience would turn him off of people, but since spring he’s been increasingly friendly with Peg to the point he followed her around her yard and voluntarily sat on her lap out on the front porch! Peg could not resist that type of treatment. He’s no longer eating out of the bowl outside Peg’s front door, he’s upstairs in her office with her other former ferals, and his name is now Strider.

I’m always happy when a cat no longer lives on the street. That’s one fewer life we need to worry is in some clear dangers, and when they choose someone and court them like that, you know it’s forever.

Still, the transition from the enrichment of outdoor life to indoor life in a room doesn’t happen overnight for a young cat. The other two cats are older, and while he’s good buddies with them as they welcome another former feral to the club, he wants to run, climb, hunt and do all the cat things he did outdoors, especially in the middle of the night. I haven’t been able to stop over yet, but Peg and I spent some time discussing his particular habits and I explained what he was accustomed to and how she could provide enrichment that might meet his needs, including a good solid cat tree, a food puzzle, and even a feeder with a timer. So far so good. Once things slow down for me I’ll be stopping over to meet and photograph him and the others.

I’m grateful as always to the Homeless Cat Management Team, who I can call for the assistance to help many of these cats. And I’m grateful we can all work together to help all the cats in our neighborhood, especially to help keep them from overpopulating. Teamwork works!

And you can donate to our neighborhood group, Cubbage Hill Cats

Our little group has its own PayPal account,, so that you can donate to help us care for the community cats we serve, and that includes donations to the Homeless Cat Management Team for the veterinary care they cover for feral cats. Our cats have benefited immensely from my relationship with HCMT, and I donate personally, but I’d love for our group to be able to donate as well. The needs never stop, and we do our best to find out if they belong to anyone, and to give them whatever care they need, whether it be TNR and a shelter, veterinary care, food and love, or a ride to a shelter that will help them find a new forever home. Our name is Cubbage Hill Cats, and you can find us on PayPal at Donations are not tax-deductible because we are not a 501(c)3, but all donations will go to help the cats in our neighborhood, from TNR to rescue and foster to food for ferals.

And don’t forget—

Tootsie Anne Shirley is still waiting!

First, Marshall County Animal Shelter is the recipient of the Touchstone Award from Best Friends Animal Society this year! For a shelter that used to be picketed by people and flamed online for their cruel and inhumane conditions, they have really turned things around! They have currently closed to the public except for adoptions by appointment, for staff training in new things they’ve learned. I love to support a shelter that works this hard.

But you still need to see Tootsie Anne Shirley! The shelter has her listed for adoption—it was certainly interesting to see that familiar face. She looks a little scared but more bewildered, I’m sure it’s all been very strange for her. I had guessed her age as two to three at least because her face and body looked mature like an adult’s. The shelter has her listed as seven years old, so she would be in the mature adult category. Of course, I will follow her! And encourage you to go and adopt her!

screenshot of shelter cat
Tootsie Anne Shirley on the shelter’s Facebook page.

You can also find her on Petfinder.


Phone: 304-845-9770
E-mail: [email protected]



Screenshot of Emery’s listing.

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Sitting Pretty Refrigerator magnets.

I worked out the manufacture of my own “die” or basically a cookie cutter to use for creating consistent shapes of one of my sketches. Each magnet is hand-painted. Read more.


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Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life

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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.

2 thoughts on “Rescue Story: Patience is the Most Important Ingredient, and Other Cat Things

  • Thirty years of helping cats around here have taught me that! I’m always happiest when I can bring some new people into the fold.

  • TNR is a marathon, not a sprint.
    Every cat you’ve trapped or helped to trap, is in a better place than before, and you are doing all that you can.
    No one can ask more than that.
    Thank you!


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