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Update on the TNR Project: Trapped in Another House, and Two Boys Left

The kitty figurine in the window of the house where Sammy was trapped.
The kitty figurine in the window of the house where Sammy was trapped.

NOTE: Things are happening quickly, so I’ve been adding updates to this post until I can write another. You’ll see UPDATE here and there.

Now let’s see, where was I when I left off…

I transported three cats to the clinic on Saturday, all girls, and the woman who was fostering the fourth kitty brought her too. The clinic served 80 cats that day, a typical number for this time of year. One person had transported 15 cats from a farm from which a person had purchased a truck, only to open one of the utility cabinets in the back of the truck to find kittens just a few weeks old, mewing and needing to be bottle fed. A rescuer went and asked the man who’d sold the truck for the mother, but he laughed. Many other cats were there belonging to him and his mother, and no one was interested in TNR. After back and forth for a few days, the rescuer won them over and went to trap as many cats as possible and brought those to the clinic. I monitored them and other cats in traps in another area of the building so there would be space in the clinic for the large number of cats that day. This is downstairs in the clinic, and the cats in line waiting for surgery.

The TNR clinic.
The TNR clinic.

Koshka had no kittens to be cared for so she was spayed, and will be going back to the original woman who would foster her until our trip to the farm. Koshka was letting us pet her and kind of leaning into it on Friday, and three days is often the starting point of a cat showing some true socialization even though she would still have a long way to go. She was not pregnant so it’s 99.9% certain she really was the mother of the kittens. She only showed a slight amount of unusual bleeding that may have been from her uterus, but with that removed when spayed it would not be an issue. I mentioned to her foster that she’d been a little more amenable to being touched and if she is friendly I’d love to socialize her, so she will observe and let me know. However, the first reports showed a very angry looking Koshka. She has a week to figure it out.

The one last thing that still makes me wonder about the kittens is their coloring: two black, two brown tabby and white, one gray and white and one black and white, the usual mix of colors from the kittens typically born to the females in this colony. But Koshka wasn’t a member of this colony. She’d shown up about a month before we began trapping, and presumably showed up pregnant, meaning her kittens would have other fathers. Possibly she showed up earlier, in heat, had her flings with the guys, but the feeders didn’t notice her until she was farther along and hungrier and came out when they were there.

Braveheart was pregnant, though she didn’t look it. The feeder said she’d been pregnant in the past but they had never seen her with kittens, nor seen extra kittens not belonging to the other two known mother cats. Possibly Braveheart didn’t bear healthy kittens, or she didn’t nurture them, or they were conceived with another male cat and Big Daddy didn’t like that; male cats will kill the kittens of other males. In any case, Braveheart didn’t need to have any more kittens. She was also older than a year, older than the feeders had thought.

I named the smaller kitty who looked like Braveheart “Betsy”. She looked like such a little kid, fluffy ears, and more fluffy all over, and I’d thought the two were actually sisters because they were often seen together. But Betsy was less than a year old, so they were not littermates but obviously related, born to the original black and white mom. Betsy was not pregnant and was simply spayed.

I named the new black and white mom Penelope as Pepe LePew’s girlfriend. She was not pregnant when spayed, but was lactating. Her four kittens were at least 10 weeks old, kind of old to be still nursing, though queens can continue lactating as long as their kittens are around even if they aren’t nursing. But one of our other conjectures was that she was the mother of the kittens in the file drawer. Cats can go into heat and conceive the day after they give birth, and when conditions are right—day length, temperature, food, safety—they will gestate a new litter while they are nursing one that’s recently born. A friend in my neighborhood recently trapped a socialized but frightened long-haired tortie and her two kittens, just eight weeks old, and she was already a few weeks into another litter while still nursing the two kittens she already had. It’s certainly not easy on them, and will often weaken or even kill them.

Weeks ago Penelope began losing big patches of fur on her sides, then down from the top of her head, all around her neck, and starting down her spine she lost all her fur and was covered with scabs. It could simply be flea bite dermatitis, but it could also have become so extreme in such a short time because she was weakened by gestating a litter while nursing a litter. None of the other cats showed any signs at all. That and the fact the kittens looked like one of her typical litters amounted to my .01% doubt that Koshka was their mom. We trapped Penelope Monday and Koshka Tuesday, and I found the kittens Wednesday.

Finally found Sammy!

Sammy in the trap.
Sammy in the trap.

The kitty figurine at the top is in the bay window of the house at the corner of the alley. I’d noticed it the first time I went over there last September. It’s a big older house with a crumbling concrete porch, all the windows similarly decorated and hung with old lace curtains. I thought an older person lived there who liked cats, but it turned out to be unoccupied.

On Sunday when the whole trapping project unexpectedly began, the homeowner showed up to work in the yard and the feeder and I had to leave with the tabby mom’s kittens despite the fact their mom was right there on the porch, so we’d be coming back later. As we left a person was working on that house on the corner, and I recognized him as someone I’d attended Catholic School with along with his sister. He came down to ask what we were doing and what was up with the house. He also told us the house on the corner had been his mother’s and was empty, and had been for a while. He would be working on rehabbing it for sale. Recently, his nephew had blocked off all entrances to the house and there was evidence that cats had been inside.

The feeder remarked that she hadn’t seen Sammy, one cat who’d gotten pretty friendly with her and who was always there right away when feeding time came. I had seem Sammy too, just about every time I’d stopped there leading up to trapping. She wasn’t showing up, and we immediately suspected she was in the house. The feeder walked around the house several times calling Sammy’s name, tapping on the windows, and just spent time at night looking in with a flashlight, but she neither saw nor heard Sammy at all, nor any other cats or animals inside. Later in the week the guy called me and left a message to tell me he hadn’t seen any cats in the house, but if we wanted to set traps we could bring them and he’d set them in the house.

On Saturday I decided to stay home after the clinic instead of going to trap. We needed the drop trap for the guys, anyway. Patty and I talked over not seeing Sammy or the original black and white mom, so I called him back and said there were two cats we hadn’t seen at all, and though we hadn’t seen any cats in the house when we looked we’d like to try the traps. She went down that night and called and tapped on the windows and looked inside again and saw no sign of cats at all.

But she went down again on Sunday morning and this time Sammy jumped right up in the bay window and meowed at her, jumped down, jumped back up. She said Sammy looked okay, not sick or dehydrated. A neighbor told her he’d seen that cat and a black and white cat and a tabby, but Sammy was a tabby and maybe he’d seen the same cat. I called the owner, and he showed up an hour earlier than he thought and we went down, set traps, and waited.

I had to pick up Betsy from Deana to go to another foster and when I got back from picking up Betsy they had Sammy in one of the traps, about three hours from when we started. A storm came along, we put Sammy in my car, sat on the porch and waited some more, hoping we’d catch the original black and white mom if she was in there. I had no foster hold for Sammy so I messaged a few people in the meantime. When the time came for me to leave to take Betsy to her foster, we decided to close it up and try again later and Monday. I dropped the feeder off at her house and met the foster with Betsy while the storms continued so there was no more trapping. A trap was set this morning, and I haven’t heard anything about a cat in it yet, but we won’t give up until we’re sure. I told the owner to listen for kittens mewing each time he went in.


I was just about to publish this post when I got a call from the feeder that the original black and white mom is in a trap in the house!

UPDATE LATER: The kitty looks just like the original mom but is probably a little less than a year old. She is female, and also has an appointment for a spay on Wednesday.

Next moves

Sammy will be spayed on Wednesday, and for now is in her trap in the back of my car getting small amounts of food with water added every few hours. As soon as I can get the drop trap we’ll go back for the guys, and continue setting traps in the house.

UPDATE: The black and white cat looked healthy and alert, but was not eating anything, strange for being trapped in the house for a week. Also, we wanted to set another trap in the house, but the only one we had free was one that reliably did not work. Sammy was in one that did work, so we set about transferring Sammy to a carrier, then from the carrier to the trap that didn’t work; she was not friendly and is much easier to handle in a trap. In the process she was jostled around, and after we covered her and put the other cat in trap next to her in the back of my car she began meowing. When I checked she was panting a bit and her tongue was bright pink, early symptoms of heat stroke. I put the other cat in trap in my back seat, uncovered her trap and left the back door of my car open, and gave her a dish of water and some food with water mixed in, and within minutes she was done panting but still looked a little desperate. I remarked when I first heard the meowing that I hoped she wasn’t going into labor from all the activity.

Later, back in my driveway, I opened the car windows and the back window so they two cats could get air. My neighborhood is quiet and my driveway is surrounded by trees with birds singing. The day had been cloudy and cool with a nice breeze, so they were about as comfortable as two feral cats in the back of a car could be…but I was concerned for the little black and white one, and keeping an eye on Sammy though she showed no recurring signs of heat stroke and had eaten well. I messaged Margo about the black and white cat, wondering if I should actually take the cat to the clinic to be sure it wasn’t suffering the aftereffects of being trapped for a week, though I’m sure they had some access to water and probably to mice or voles.

Margo asked if I wanted to take them to her house as she had space with two cats adopted. I told her it was probably the weirdness of suddenly being in the back of a car and they might actually do better overnight. They still had their spay appointments on Wednesday, and I’d give them until morning to see if the black and white ate, if not I’d bring them to her in the morning, then reconsidered and felt they’d be better off inside a house with controlled temperatures and noise and more space than inside a car. I took them out last night.

This morning Margo messaged with photos of…kittens! At first she thought Sammy just had a big tail, which she did, but then she saw two little beans. They look like a black kitten and a tortie or torbie. Surprise!

The kittens

The black kitten is getting friendlier every day, but the gray and white kitten is still solidly hating humans.

The black and the gray and white kittens hiding behind the toilet.
The black and the gray and white kittens hiding behind the toilet.

The black and white kitten is so darned cute and tiny, smaller than the rest of them, but instead of running into the carrier with the gray and white kitten he runs into a corner where he’s surrounded safely but can still potentially jump straight up to escape.

The little tux kitten in his special hiding spot.
The little tux kitten in his special hiding spot.


Updated list

The list changed from the original list of cats to be trapped again. We have three more adults to trap, and because they’ve eluded the traps over the past few days I will now borrow a drop trap.

Here is where we stand with all the cats involved in this project:

BW mom (Penelope)
Tabby mom
Braveheart look alike (Betsy)
longhaired black mom (Koshka)
younger black and white cat (trapped in the other abandoned house)

10-week white with black spots (Domino, caught by feeder before we started)
10-week black
10-week tux
10-week gray/white
2-week tabby
2-week tabby
2-week tabby
2-week tabby
newborn black (deceased)
newborn black (deceased)
newborn tabby (deceased)
newborn tabby (deceased)
newborn gray/white (deceased)
newborn tux (deceased)

Big Daddy
young adult black male
original black and white mom (she was trapped in the other abandoned house)

Help with costs for these cats and others

If you have donated, please let me know!

Homeless Cat Management Team

You can make a donation to the Homeless Cat Management Team (HCMT) and let them know it’s for these cats and send me the receipt—I will send you a gift certificate.

HCMT is a 501c3 and all donations are tax-deductible. Visit the website at


Send directly to Paypal: [email protected]

Mail your donation

Send a check to:
Homeless Cat Management Team
P. O. Box 100203
Pittsburgh, PA 15233

Pittsburgh C.A.T.

Pittsburgh C.A.T. is not a 501c3 but all donations go directly into cat care. Raising the litter of five kittens including surgeries for all and mother, vaccinations, any illnesses that come up, all adds up to hundreds of dollars. You can use Paypal: [email protected]. If you’d like to send a check, please ask and I’ll give you the address. Send me a receipt.

Donate for a Discount

To donate to me, visit this article on Portraits of Animals which explains how to donate to me for a purpose. I will send you a gift certificate in an amount as described in the article: from $5.00 for donating $25.00 to $20.00 for donating $100.00.


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