Twelve Hours Old

Sometimes you make plans and things go more or less according to what you expected. Other days, the universe has something entirely else in mind. Friday was one of those days.

We have a TNR clinic coming up Wednesday and the two cats to be trapped were supposed to be trapped sometime between Saturday night and Tuesday morning. We try not to keep the cats in traps longer than need be, but one of the caretakers trapped her cat Friday morning. We weren’t going to tell her to let the cat go, and try again in 48 hours, so in the cat came to our cat house.

She’s a pretty dilute torti, and we checked her in case she was lactating. No, but she did have clear nipples underneath, and she looked, well…round. Really round. As in, probably pregnant, though that’s difficult to determine with a cat you’ve never seen before who is crouched in a trap.

Because she was very docile with us, and since she was going to be trapped longer than we usually like, we put her in a dog crate instead of her trap. Some nice fleece, a litter box, food and water. A little easier stay than in the traps.

After my last pet sit of the day I decided to stop for a minute and just check on her. She’d used her litter box and eaten some food, so I was getting a litter scoop to do a quick clean for her when I started to hear a small chirping sound. It wasn’t coming from the female cat. Instead there was a little head popping out with a couple claws, and a constant bit of chatter from…you got it…kitten #1, who popped out of mom a minute later. Given the cold and rain outside, my irritation at the cat being caught early instantly changed to gratitude that she had a warm, dry place to deliver her kittens. Because my presence was stressing her out, I left her to the task without disturbing her.

This morning, mom and five babies were all doing well.

Mom isn’t totally friendly, but she hasn’t been mean or difficult yet either. She’s okay with us caring for her and the kittens if we do it carefully. And she’s ok with us touching the kittens, which will be a big help. These little ones are going to be socialized to the hilt over the next three months! They will stay with mom for 6-7 weeks until weaned, and then they have a foster home waiting for them where they will get introduced to the sounds of a real home until they are 12 weeks old and ready for their surgeries. Mom, if she is very nice, may go into an adoption program, but if she isn’t comfortable with people, she will be spayed in 8 weeks, and go back to her caretaker. We’ll just have to see.

In the meantime, these little ones – all of 12 hours old here – are so entertaining. They do two things…eat and sleep. Well, actually, three. They climb all over each other in order to belly up to the bar. They are just a tangle of bodies at times.

They are so used to a much smaller space that crawling all over each other out in the open is no big problem!

Eventually everyone finds a space at the bar.

And once they’ve had their fill, nap time is next.

When nap time is over…start climbing, eat, and back to sleep. Repeat. That will pretty much be their first week. Eyes won’t open for about a week, and they’re not terribly mobile either. They can’t control their own body temperature yet, so they are glued to momma for now. She takes a break here and there to pee/poop and get a snack, but she’s basically their bed and breakfast for the next while.

It is truly amazing that Derry Township Community Cats has TNR’d around 930 cats and we’ve never had this happen before. Wouldn’t want to have this occur every day, but I think we’re all going to have some fun with it while the kittens are with us. And though I don’t venture into politics here much, I have to say that the kittens are a lovely corrective to the hate and mean spirit flying around our country, and others as well, right now. I’m glad to have something positive to focus on in the midst of so much that feels negative.

Stay tuned for photo shots over the next three months! Should be fun to watch the little ones grow.


Vocation II

Vocation has long been a theme of mine. Looking back, I wrote about it three years ago here. (I’ve been doing this that long??) Then, as now, I think life is better when we are able to do the things that we love doing, and that the world needs us to do, as preacher and author Frederick Buechner wrote many years ago.

I am fortunate to be able to pursue what I think is my own vocation – caring for animals. Both as a professional pet sitter and as the head of our community cats/TNR program. But one of my great joys recently is watching some of our volunteers find their vocations within the TNR program. It’s like finding the exact puzzle piece in a jigsaw puzzle…so satisfying.

In the last year or two when the program was run out of my home (never again) I couldn’t use many volunteers. Liability issues, and just issues of having folks in my home all the time. Now that we have our very cool cat house (yes, we call it the cat house), we have lots of folks stepping up to help. They try this and that task. We watch them and see if we can discern their gift for our program. And when it all clicks, it is just magic.

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This person is wonderful at supervising the morning or evening cleaning and feeding. That one, with some medical background, can help us make decisions related to health, and help us keep an eye on health concerns. Or help us with medicating the ferals, which isn’t the easiest task in the world. One answers our cat phone and deals with people gracefully, calmly, and efficiently. Another one is a sort of cat whisperer, and she patiently calms the feral kitten, terrified first of being trapped, and then being confronted with humans. But if the little one can get over that, they can go into the adoption programs instead of back outside. It is amazing to watch them discover that we’re not as awful as we seem at first.

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Yet others have organizational gifts or financial abilities that help us build a strong infrastructure that can outlast the departure of any one individual. Another is amazing at trapping, persistent in getting her cat beyond what any of us would expect. Yet another has a huge vehicle and can transport 12 traps or more at once, which makes getting cats to and from clinic, and back to their homes later, so much simpler.

A year ago, I despaired that this amazing program – one that has spayed and neutered about 825 cats in 3 1/2 years – was going to have to close. Now that we have the resources we need, the program is flourishing, and so are the volunteers who make it all happen. There is little more glorious than watching a whole bunch of folks find a piece of their vocation. Life is good.


Farm kittens

Well, kitten season is in full swing, and we got two new ones yesterday. We are TNR’ing a group of eight cats, but these two little sweeties were dropped, by their mom, on the porch of the house, and then she disappeared. They are probably about 6-7 weeks old, and very social. Unfortunately the change of venue, the change to kitten chow, and also a deworming¬† – the perfect trifecta – led to LOTS of diarrhea overnight. Their residence got room service this morning, and the orange and white one got a bath this morning. (And we both lived to tell the tale.) They’ll get to meet the vet this week, and get started on their distemper shots as long as all is well.

They are, at least at the moment, very bonded. I don’t know if they were like that before we got them, or they are just comforting one another with all the changes in their lives, but they are absolutely adorable.

Shooting photos through the bars of dog crates is far less than ideal, but I do the best I can. Toward the end of the photo shoot they fell sound asleep and I was able to open the door for a few shots. Enjoy.

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Life Interrupted: More Kittens

Just when we were starting to see light at the end of the tunnel it dimmed. The kittens we’ve had for a few weeks will be going to foster care and on their way to finding furever homes early next week, and we thought we were going to get a little break. “Not so fast,” said Mother Nature.

We got a call about TNR for some adult cats, but there was also a mother kitty on the scene, who had just had kittens. She’d had them in a bush, a not-very-suitable environment, so the caretaker kindly got her a box in the garage for her and the kittens. But with temps climbing into the 80’s the garage (with no windows) wasn’t going to be a suitable environment for long either. So last night, I went to get the semi-feral mom and her three kittens, all about 10 days old. So much for our break period.

But that’s kinda what summer is like in the TNR biz. Kittens, kittens, and more kittens. Though after three years of doing TNR in our area, we don’t have nearly as many. Still, whenever we can, we want to get these little ones off the street and into homes where they won’t add to the free-roaming population.

Because mama cat doesn’t know us her caretaker put her into a carrier with her kittens for us, and she’s still there. The door is fastened open, tied to the side of the dog crate that houses everything. She’s got lots of food (and is eating very well) and a litter box, and she can come out of the carrier as she wishes. The kittens are too little to venture forth, so she nurses in the carrier for now. They’ll outgrow that at some point in the near future, but hopefully by then, they will all be more comfortable with us. Mama shows many signs of being friendly, and maybe even an adoption candidate.

I didn’t want to disturb her overly, though she didn’t seem too distressed with the camera. She’s in a room that has no electric light – our storage room – because she and the kittens need to be kept away from the rowdy seven in order to contain any possible diseases. So here, in some really poor lighting conditions, are a few shots of mama and a little of her babies. More to come as everyone gets more comfy.

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TNR Plus Plus?

The call came at the end of a very long day, just as I was finishing my last pet visit and looking forward to some dinner and some time watching The Voice.

“We found another litter.” The colony we have TNR’d this last week had found another group of month-old kittens in a different out-building. The problem was that we had the nursing mom, and we didn’t know of any other nursing moms there. And nursing mom had been with us for four days. Can you spell adrenaline?

Grabbed a carrier and raced up to the location, and they had three – thankfully – lively little kittens. Talking up a storm, and clearly hungry, but full of demands and wriggling around. A good start. Now, would the nursing mom we had feed them?

The mama kitty gave us the crankiest look when we gave her the three additional kittens. It probably amounted to WTF???¬† But after about 10 minutes she let them nurse. They were also checking out the canned kitten food. Long story short, mom is taking care of all seven kittens. She should get a box of gold stars or a barrel of treats. As it is, she will be spayed when they are weaned, and she won’t have to do this again.


It’s a terrible photo with my phone, but I’m not going to press my luck with mama cat. I’m taking all the kittens in for a vet check this afternoon, and I’m pretty sure mom is going to use the time to sleep. She was actually climbing the cage walls today, and we try to stop by regularly and give her time to be out of the crate and away from the kittens periodically. I’m so glad they are starting to eat food on their own. So is mama cat probably.

Still, everyone is getting along well. They’re not really clear on the concept of the litter box, but they sure are cute.



TNR Plus

Sometimes TNR work is a little more than TNR. Or perhaps it is just delayed TNR. We’ve been working with a colony that had a nursing mom, but we didn’t know where her kittens were. You don’t take a nursing mom to be spayed, no matter what. It has to wait.

Today, however, one of her little ones started wandering and meowing loudly, which set the rest of the kittens to meowing as well. We were able to get all four kittens and mama, and they will have a nice kitty condo for a bit until the kittens are done nursing. Mama can be spayed then and her caretakers have found her an indoor home, which is fabulous. The kittens will go into an adoption program with a local rescue group.

Had fun watching them today, and some of their personalities are already clear. There’s an all-black one who might as well be named Trouble. He (I’m guessing) was climbing the kitty condo, eating his mom’s wet food, and demanding to be let out. That one has some attitude! And a little mostly black one with a tiny patch of white is pretty much Jr. Trouble. The little black and white one is the quiet one in the group, very much in the background. I don’t have a take on the fourth one yet, but we will. They will all get to visit the vet next week to make sure all is well, and get them started on their health care. Given that some of them were happy to drink the KMR (kitten milk replacer) and even some wet kitten food, I think they will be weaned sooner than later.

They’ll probably be off to the rescue group in not too long a time, and I suspect we will miss the little buggers. In the meantime, however, we’ll all OD on cuteness overload, and enjoy the ride.




Humor and Heartbreak

We don’t normally get a warm welcome from the cats we are trying to trap for their spay/neuter surgeries, but every rule has an exception. This week’s group was that exception. About 3/4 of the group is either outright friendly or semi-friendly. We were able to just pick up a couple of the cats. The rest of them hung around to see what we might be selling.

The heartbreak was that these cats were so hungry that I couldn’t get the traps down fast enough. Usually we have to put the traps out a week ahead of time, get the cats used to them by leaving them open with food inside, and then actually setting the trap after the cats are comfortable with them, This group wanted food so badly that they just ran into the traps as soon as we put food in them. It was like the proverbial catching fish in a barrel. Actually a lot of fun compared to the usual plodding pace of trapping.

The people who care for this group do their best, but have limited resources, and we’ve tried to help some too. But it is truly heartbreaking to see the cats so hungry. None are so thin as to be in danger, and they live in a big wooded area, and I’m sure they all hunt. Still, I am happy to have them with us for five or six days where they can eat well and rest up. And get spayed or neutered and vaccinated.

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One of the cats has been sickly, according to the caretakers, and lost a lot of weight since he was attacked by some other creature about a month ago. I took him off to the vet today, and he has some wounds that need to be dealt with, but he’ll be okay. The vet will flush out the wounded paw on Saturday when she neuters him. It’s a procedure more easily done under anesthesia! He’s had an injection of a long-lasting antibiotic and has earned himself a couple weeks under our care until his paw heals up. He’s a sweet boy, and should make an excellent guest.

There are some real beauties in this group as well, like this lovely, who has been happily eating since her capture.

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She kindly looks up from her dish once in a while, but we’re just fine with her eating as much as she wants.


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The remaining few cats on the property are truly feral, and will be harder to catch. But I’ll work on that while these guys are getting their surgeries and recovering. There’s no way I’d be able to get the ferals with all the friendlies competing for trap space. But hey, for a free meal I might let myself get trapped too.