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Rescue Story: Trap, Neuter and Socialize, Another Litter and Mom

cat and kittens in cage
The little family.

“Mariposa passed her first test of socialization—messing up the neatly-made bed! I’ll be sharing more photos, but right now I’m off to trap a feral mom and kittens before they get into some trouble with the neighbors. Nuzzles and purrs to all!” So I shared on Facebook the day I posted the photos of Mariposa looking precious on my bed, one of the first days she was out of the bathroom for any length of time. You haven’t heard very much from me since then. I didn’t get the chance to share them here until after I’d trapped that feral mom and litter of kittens! And here I finally have the time to tell you about these cats, two weeks later.

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.

Back at the end of August when I trapped the little gray kitten in Scott Park, two of the people who helped, Carolyn who was there for hours before me and Cathy who came to help after the others had left, both mentioned a mom and litter of kittens on Greenbriar Drive. That is just a short distance from Cherrydell where I’d helped trap the eight kittens and three moms, but far enough that it was a different neighborhood and different cats. And so, because I name these projects by the area or street or some landmark, this mom and her kittens became the Greenbriar cats.

Two kittens exploring.
Two kittens exploring.


Through September, as I caught up after my Panhandle exhibit and Pet Memorial Sunday, I corresponded with Patricia, who was feeding them on her deck and getting ready to trap them. She’d trapped other cats and kittens in her neighborhood just a few years previous so she had her own trap and was experienced in using it. We also discussed using a drop trap because they all ate together on her deck, and about getting a bunch of traps to try to get them all at once, trying to coordinate it with a clinic and with other people. We were planning it for the end of October because Patricia was going away. Patricia would foster the kittens in a crate in her home because she had experience with that, and the mom would likely be released. From her photos they appeared to be about six weeks old.

Emergency trapping

However, on Friday the week prior, Cathy called, very upset, and said a neighbor was trapping the kittens, and he had one that he had trapped. There were various stories about what would happen to the kittens and their mom, off to a farm, off to the shelter, but in the end Cathy got the kitten, taped up in a box. Her neighbors Debby and Mike set up one of their large crates in Cathy’s house, and the little tux kitten went into it by herself.

long-haired tuxedo kitten
The little tux girl, several days after being trapped.

I knew the little family was in danger so there was no delay. I had finished the larger jobs I’d had that week and just collected traps and trapping materials—cardboard, sheets and blankets for trap covers, canned food, paper plates, can opener, flashlight, carriers—and tossed it all in the back of my car. I’d stopped over a few evenings before Pat left to check things out and set some traps to see what we’d get (nothing that night). I had met Debby and Mike that night, rescuers of many animals of several species, and they had showed me the spot across from their home where they’d set traps. But this time I knew I was in it until we had them all, however many days that might take.

First night of trapping

An alley ran behind all the houses so I continued along. I saw the trap the neighbor had set to trap another kitten or the mother; he intended to continue trapping. At the other end was Pat’s house and Cathy’s. A fence ran along most of the alley at the top of a ravine, separating it from a condominium development below. The cats lived in the ravine and came up through breaks in the fence or at one end or the other. I set traps by Mike and Debby’s house, one near where the neighbor had his trap set, one at the end of the fence near Pat’s house where they’d seen the family coming up, and one on Pat’s deck in addition to the one she had set there, tied open, where she’d been feeding them.

I don’t like to set traps that I can’t see, but there was no way to set this up with traps near enough to monitor all at once. So I got some exercise walking up and pausing, then back down the alley and pausing. I still have sciatica and though it’s much better after working with it, I still tend to walk much slower than I normally do. The morning had been sunny and warm but  rain was forecast, a steady overcast had settled in and as the dusk came a drizzle began. During one of those slow walks near dusk, as I approached the spot where the neighbor had his trap, I could see in the dim light that two kittens were headed for the trap, the Siamese mix and one of the gingers, a rather tall and lanky one. As I watched the Siamese mix went into the trap and started eating. The trap tripped and the kitten didn’t seem to notice, just kept eating. I tiptoed over hoping I’d see both were actually in the trap, but no luck there.

Look at that face!
Look at that face!

The trap was held in place with a bungee cord attached to the fence. As I was leaning over the fence to pick up the trap a person came by walking his dog who turned out to be the neighbor who owned it and wanted to trap the kittens. I told him I’d take the kitten off his hands and we had quite a discussion about it. He wanted them to be gone and objected to the kittens and mother cat being brought back. I said the kittens would be fostered and adopted, and he wouldn’t be convinced of that and wanted the kitten in his trap. I told him my goal was to get as many cats off the street as possible and any cat who was at all socialized was not going back out anywhere. The rain was starting to fall faster and I had covered the kitten in the trap with my jacket. The neighbor finally said I could take the kitten but not the trap, and if I was really going to trap them all and not bring them back then he would not set out his trap again. But if he started seeing them around again, he was going to trap them.

The Siamese mix kitten is a nearly purrfect chocolate point.
The Siamese mix kitten is a nearly purrfect chocolate point.

I had my kitten and a promise and that was good for the moment. I needed to go and get a trap or a carrier to transfer the kitten into when I saw Debby’s husband walking up the alley, and he agreed to talk to the neighbor about letting us take the trap, release the kitten with the other, and then bring the trap back.

I don’t “give people a piece of my mind” because the other party doesn’t bother to listen or get into screaming matches with people, I negotiate. I have to keep myself under control or I lose track of what I need to say and whatever I want to achieve is gone. The discussion remained a discussion and we negotiated and came to an agreement that worked for both of us, he got my promise, and I got a kitten in a trap and the promise to let us trap until we had them all. After that, I’m so glad Mike could convince him to let me take the kitten and return the trap later. I wasn’t looking forward to possibly letting the kitten go in trying to transfer it there on the street.

With full darkness came the rain, and instead of walking the alley with my flashlight I drove my car, probably a better idea where the cats were concerned because they paid no attention to cars going up and down the alley, but when they saw people they ran. As the hours passed and the rain persisted I decided I’d pack it up for the evening, cats rarely came out in the rain, and they hadn’t even come up onto the deck for the food there. I drove down the alley one more time and shone my flashlight where the traps were near Debby and Mike’s house—and there were eyes in it. and they were cat eyes, and it was the tortie mom! I really thought she’d be difficult to trap, but there she was, quite wet too. I picked up my traps as I drove up the alley and headed for Cathy’s house.

Debby was at Cathy’s house and we discussed the next day. First there was an HCMT clinic so I contacted Margo to see if we could get the mother in. Thanks to Margo we could and I let Mike know the arrangements. We decided we’d start again as early as possible the next day and hope to get the two ginger kittens.

Don’t worry, little tortie mom, you are safe tonight along with two of your beautiful kittens. I’m keeping watch over the traps, hoping they’ll go in even in the rain tonight, so we can get you all back together. If I don’t get them tonight we will be back again tomorrow.

 tortoiseshell cat in trap.
The little tortie mom.

Second day of trapping

The next day I discovered my car battery was dead from using my cell phone charger without running the engine. My neighbor jumped the battery, but it wouldn’t start again when I got to Greenbriar. So along with setting traps and checking them while walking in pouring rain, Cathy, Debby and Mike helped me get my battery checked and recharged. That was also the day of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, which seemed so unreal to me at the time because of the rain, being unsettled about trapping, about my car being off the road all day, I kept checking for updates every time I settled down between checking traps hoping to hear it wasn’t true, but it only grew worse all through the day.

And on top of that those two last kittens were very skittish, then the rain kept them under cover. At one point I was in Pat’s house—though she was away Cathy is a good friend and had a key—watching out the deck door with the drop trap set over a dish of food. I saw a smaller, darker ginger kitten appear at the end of the fence, look in the trap and walk away, but toward the house. Eventually he appeared on the deck and was frightened of the drop trap and left. I checked all the traps again then settled back down inside with the drop trap, and he came back. Slowly he crept up to the trap, crept underneath, twitching and glancing around in all directions, freezing in place, but finally all the way under, and started eating. I chose my moment and pulled the cord, be he saw the initial movement of my hand through the vertical blinds and was out from under the trap before it hit the ground. At least I had seen him but I as sure he’d be completely spooked, and in this rain and coming cold he could easily develop a URI without the protection of cuddling with the family.

Hours passed, and I went to check the traps just after dark. I set the drop trap down so no one would be trapped by it, but left Pat’s trap set with food on the deck. While I was coming back up the alley Cathy messaged there was a ginger kitten in the trap. Yay! We had a round of pizza.

Caught one of the gingers, one more ginger to go! Worried about that little guy, haven’t seen him all day and it’s cold and raining, he’s all alone.

three kittens in cage
Adding a ginger to the other two.

Then Carolyn, the other neighbor I’d met in Scott Park, stopped by to say there was a kitten in the trap by the end of the fence. She was out walking her dog and knew we were trapping, and there she saw it. I’d just come in from checking and was about to get the flashlight to shine down there.

Just like that the other ginger appeared from the woods and was in the trap. SUCCESS! All four kittens in the crate and mom is back from her spay relaxing in her trap overnight. Her trap is right up against the crate and her kittens are visiting her through the bars (second photo). We were so worried the other ginger was lost or maybe something had happened, or maybe someone else might have even trapped it. But now the whole family is together, mom doesn’t have to worry about any more kittens, and the kittens can grow up with humans and find loving forever homes. Well worth a cold weekend walking around in rain and mud to find and trap them all.

All four kittens together.
All four kittens together.

And lest you think it’s all about traps and kittens and cats, thanks to Catherine Rang for feeding me yesterday and Debbie for being prepared with the kitten food and provisions, and her husband for transporting the mom cat to the clinic and back, and helping me get my car battery recharged and replaced in my car! I look forward to sharing photos of these kittens as they grow and socialize.

Mike had brought back the mom cat and I decided we would keep her in her trap overnight with food and water so she could finish recovery and get a meal before her kittens were on her. She is so tiny, and they were about eight weeks at that point. I pressed her trap against the crate so they could see her and she them and the kittens came forward.

The kittens visit their mom.
The kittens visit their mom.

The next day Debby, Cathy and I discussed the best way to work with the mom and kittens. We couldn’t release the mother cat in the neighborhood, so if she was to be released we’d have to find another place. However, Debby told us the story of trapping three kittens last year who she had socialized and still had, who were quite likely the mother cat’s siblings. Their mother had been a tortie cat, and there had been four kittens but though they continued trying to trap after they’d caught the three, they never saw that fourth kitten again. Debby said she and Mike would take her in and see how that worked, if she were to live in the basement room with her siblings.

Some kitten photos to ease our souls. The family is reunited, mom cat is with her kittens, and they were so glad to see her and cuddle with her again. She and the gingers aren’t ready for exploring yet, but no histrionics, they are simply quiet and out of reach. But that little tux is a real diva (not sure of genders yet), and the Siamese mix is ready for play! They were out of the crate for a bit; they were also the first two trapped, and that’s often how it works. Really remarkable for being indoors together for less than 24 hours!

cat and kittens in cage
The little family.

On Monday I had a 20-page newsletter and some photography for it, and the newsletter had to be released to the printer the next day. I did finish it and released it to the printer on Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, Halloween, I finally had the chance to get over to the kittens again in the afternoon.

Are you skeered of us? We heerz it’s Meowloweenz!

Two kittens.
Two kittens.

I haven’t posted any kitten photos since Sunday. I’ll try not to let that happen again! They are progressing little by little, especially the two ginger kittens who were clinging to each other in the corner a few days ago who are are now stepping out. There was concern about mom Allie but she is fine, acting like a normal feral cat indoors.

Two ginger kittens and their mom.
Two ginger kittens and their mom.

Sorry Catherine Rang, Debbie Taylor and Patricia Nagle, I’m glad I can come over and play with them and check things and take pictures while you clean up. Thank you!! If there’s one true thing about kittens of any size or style, they make a mess!

One of the ginger kittens.
One of the ginger kittens.

Since then I’ve been trying to get my car inspected (late), and keeping off the road as much as possible. The kittens will be spayed and neutered any day now. They still aren’t too easy to handle and the only one I have sexed is the tux, who is a girl, which surprised all of us who thought she was a boy!

So for now, that is the next rescued litter. These kittens are not fostered through Pittsburgh CAT, though we are following the same procedure and having them completely vetted and charging an adoption fee to cover everyone’s costs. It’s really generous for Patricia, Debby and Cathy to take all the time it’s taking and spend several hundred dollars among them to pay for this little family that doesn’t even belong to them. But that’s the goodness that happens when people understand that animals are the responsibility of all of us.

Mom and Siamese mix.
Mom and Siamese mix.

Read other Essays 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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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: Trap, Neuter and Socialize, Another Litter and Mom

  • we wizh ewe all de best oh salmon herring flounder tuna bloo gill N perch in findin yur foreverz N we is buzzed happee everee onez rez cued…..we R all sew sorree we haz been veree bad viziturrz late lee… food serviz gurlz place oh employ iz crazed bee yond crazed late lee ~~~~

    ♥♥♥♥ two all

    • Don’t worry Tabbies! This place has been crazee too what with all the cat rescuing and making stuff. Thanks for the good fishes!


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