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.


Stay calm, grab fast, and hang on

It doesn’t happen often, thankfully, but here and there it is bound to occur. A trapped cat gets loose. We have a pretty good record on this one: only four loose cats in over four years. There have been some daring retrievals, but until yesterday, I never had to be involved in one. Yesterday, however, I earned a merit badge in TNRology.


This guy was my merit badge helper. While he was being set up with food and water he got out. Fortunately our cat house is closed up and there aren’t places he can go but still, catching a feral cat who is truly ready to be out of the trap is just a little challenging.

Others were present and helping but we only have one pair of the fabulous leather and kevlar gloves, and, perhaps foolishly, I felt like I should be the one to try to get him. If anyone was going to get hurt, I would rather it be me than one of our volunteers. Gloves on hands…


and towel handed to me by those present, this cat played cat and mouse with me for a bit. Others tried to herd him in various directions while I focused on getting near enough to catch him. I got him in a corner once and had him, and was very glad that the gloves kept his rather intense bite from actually reaching my hand. He mostly had a solid mouthful of leather. He got away, however. I didn’t have a good enough grip on the guy.

Years ago I learned a lesson from the man who is now my husband. When faced with people who were overly stressed, even hysterical, my husband gets very quiet. The calm in the storm. That was the tool needed here. Quiet, calm stalking of the cat, and a real quick, firm grab,  hold on tight, and I finally had the guy. My husband, standing by with an open trap, swooped in, and the cat was captured.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t an adrenaline rush. Even so, I’d rather not have to do this very often. Still, it is good to know that I can do it. Four years ago I had no idea how to work with feral cats, and yesterday I caught one without a trap. Not bad. I’ll wear that merit badge with pride!

Trapping 2017: Heartbreak Hotel

Trapping has started in preparation for a clinic date in  a few days. We have nine cats in our sights, and eight clinic spaces. It is pretty unusual to get every cat we’re after, but should that happen, we have a backup plan for the extra.

Though one of the cats may have solved the problem for us already – the first cat trapped. This poor kitty – so matted that we can’t even sex the cat – has a cataract or something forming in one eye, and two open wounds, once behind each ear. There’s no way this one will be ready for spay or neuter surgery this week.

He or she is a very friendly Persian, who lived with people sometime in the past. Though the picture below is from inside a trap we’ve moved the poor thing to a dog crate next to the window. A little more space and a room with a view, food, water, a bed, and a litter box.


To see this poor cat today, you have to wonder what happened. Every inch of this poor creature is matted. (S)he will have to be sedated and completed shaved. One of our folks has found a nice infant Halloween onesie for her to wear after that…she’s going to be cold! (Hopefully she will forgive us for putting a black cat in a Halloween onesie.)

The wounds are right behind her ears. We’re guessing that maybe she’s scratching a lot and broke open some skin. The wounds aren’t were cats usually get bite marks from other cats. I put some Neosporin on them for tonight, but they will have to be cleaned out, and they’re pretty wide, so they will have to air heal. Too old and too wide for stitches. And that poor eye…

It’s Sunday night as I write, and I’ll be on the phone to the vet’s office the minute they open on Monday. Hopefully we can get this poor thing some care quickly. Life can only get better from here.

Ready, Set, Go…Trapping Season 2017

We’ve gotten an early start on the trapping season this year. The winter was so warm that the female cats were in heat in January…very unusual for these parts. Kitten season will no doubt start early too. We trapped our first cats a few weeks ago, and are getting ready for another clinic this coming week.

Some people exercise to release those endorphins and get a natural high. Those of us who trap cats for TNR programs get a huge high from actually getting our cats. Cats are smart creatures, and actually managing to get them in our traps is sometimes tedious, frustrating, and ultimately, very satisfying.


Don’t get me wrong. I feel for the cats, even in the midst of my adrenaline rush. We usually have to withdraw food for a day in order to get them into the traps, so they’re hungry, and they are scared to death in this box that will be their home for up to a week. The towels that we cover them with help, and give them some sense of security, but let’s face it…this is a scary experience for the poor things.

We call trapping weeks “spa weeks” probably in part to alleviate our guilt for the kitties. But we do all of this, ultimately, for the good of the cats, and to prevent more kittens from being born outside in harsh conditions. Not to mention preventing the poor female cats from being pregnant endlessly, up to three times a year. It has to be hard on a cat’s body to be pregnant for two months, nurse for the next two months, and then get pregnant all over again. Then winter comes and the reproductive process takes a break, but only if it’s cold enough outside. You’ll rarely get a feral cat to come live indoors. The transition is more than most will ever manage. The best we can do is keep the numbers of cats who have to live outside as low as we can.



Sometimes, in the TNR process, we also encounter dumped cats…cats that folks thought they could just toss away when they moved or no longer wanted the cat. We’ve got one of those this time. The poor thing was so hungry she ate four bowls of food last night, and she’s a purring machine. She got herself a dog crate instead of a trap for being so friendly, and if it keeps up, we’ll see if she can go into an adoption program instead of back outside. You have to wonder what gets into people that they think cats are throw-away items.

You never know what you’ll capture during a TNR trap week. We’ve spayed/neutered/vaccinated over 900 cats since December 2012 at this point. Might hit 1,000 this year. But the surprising thing…maybe the good thing…is that we haven’t been getting many calls for TNR help so far this year. It’s early…I’m not counting any chickens, or any cats for that matter. But it would be fabulous if our work is resulting in fewer cats who need our services. That’s the ultimate goal.

In the meantime, it is “here kitty, kitty!” On the list this week is one cat with an injury, and we can get him vet care and his neuter all at the same time, and hopefully make his life a lot easier. We have three of the seven on the schedule for this week at this point. Hopefully tonight a few more will decide to come hang out with their buds.


While most of the work of Derry Township Community Cats is about trap/neuter/return (TNR) occasionally we get calls about stray cats who appear to be sick or, in most cases, dying or already deceased. We are not a rescue organization so we don’t take in strays in general, but if they are in distress we try out best to capture them, take them to the vet, and if need be the vet helps them out of this life as peacefully as possible.

That’s what we thought would be needed last Thursday when my trapping buddy, P., got a call about a cat who had not moved in a couple hours. Would we come get the cat? You never know what that’s actually going to entail, and P. and I have had some adventures capturing cats here and there. This one, however, turned out to be easy, and P. was able to just place her right in a trap and take her to the vet’s office.

Turns out she wasn’t a dying cat, but she was very wobbly and having trouble standing much less moving. Vestibular Syndrome is the technical term…it was new to me. Think kitty vertigo. But she was otherwise bright eyed, meowing, and very thin. Probably hadn’t been able to eat for a bit. She certainly was in no shape to catch any food. She was front declawed as well, and really had no business being outside.


(Photos courtesy of Animal Health Care Center of Hershey.)

We certainly weren’t going to euthanize her without more reason, so it was agreed that she would stay at the vet’s office for a bit, get checked out, and we would all see what was up with her.

In the meantime, I posted her picture far and wide on Facebook, hoping maybe someone had lost her. It was shared a zillion times (well…close to that) but so far no calls. That doesn’t mean no one is looking for her…not everyone is on Facebook…but the chances that someone is looking for her are certainly smaller.

She’s eating and purring, a total sweetheart according the the vet staff. She’s been tested for FIV/FELV and is negative, which is a blessing. Her blood work isn’t bad, though she has a low white blood cell count, so she’s on an antibiotic.

The litter box has been a bit of a challenge for her since she is so wobbly. The wobbles might be temporary…paws crossed…we will have to wait a week or so and see if they improve. May be related to the white blood cell count…might not. Lots of unknowns for now.


What we do know is that she’s sweet, and deserves a safe place to live out her life. She’s at the vet’s for the weekend, but Monday she’ll come to my house for a bit while we figure things out for her. I’ve got  a safe dog crate set up for her in the office where I spend a chunk of my day so she’ll have some company. Her litter box is just the base of a case of cat food…very low to the ground so her chances of using it are as good as we can make them. She can’t have a big pillow to sleep on since she’s so wobbly, but I have some nice warm soft fleece for her…easily washable if she has any accidents.


I’m going to call her Vanessa for now, and look forward to getting to know her a little next week while we watch and wait and plan for her. She’s had a rough time, at least recently. We’ll see if we can make sure the rest of her days are a bit easier.

The End of a Long Season

One of the volunteers asked me yesterday if I would miss all the kittens when they were gone from our cat house. She comes in often to pet and cuddle them, and she really misses then when they leave. Me? Easy answer: No.

I’m not heartless, really and truly. But the TNR season has been long and hard – satisfying, yes, but still a challenge – and I’m ready for all the little ones to go off to rescue groups and get great forever homes. THAT makes me very happy. We take really good care of them while they’re with us, but they still live in kitty condos or large dog crates, and they don’t get to run free, sleep in bed with someone who loves them, tear the toilet paper from the holder, and all those other things kittens and cats so love. So I’m glad to see them go and move forward into a better forever future.

Most of the cats are gone now, either back to their colonies, or for the friendlies, off to rescue. Four more go in the next couple days, and that leaves us with the mom and her two babies that we caught last weekend. For reasons that are not yet clear, they aren’t doing great. Because they were living outside we have no idea what their history is, and they stopped eating a couple days ago. They’ve been the the vet, and there is no obvious problem…except that they’re not eating, which is a big problem all by itself. So for the time being I am force-feeding the crew every three hours throughout the day…they get to sleep at night. And if they aren’t eating by Monday morning, I will see about getting them hospitalized so they can get the best supportive care. (I haven’t taken any photos of them to share with you…they are stressed enough right now. )

No, I won’t miss all of these ones when they are gone. I am tired. Many of us are very tired. And our program closes down over the winter months, so the end is near for this year. While some TNR groups go ahead and keep spaying and neutering over the winter, we’re not fond of putting a female cat with a shaved belly out into 20 degree temps. Cats don’t get pregnant during the cold months of the year, so we take a few months off to recover so we can do this all again next year.

One of the goals of a geographically targeted TNR program, like ours, is to get so many cats done that you reach a maintenance-only level. We haven’t gotten there yet, but with almost 900 cats done in the last four years, we think our numbers of intact outdoor cats should start decreasing. That would be good for the cats, and good for us too.

So keep your paws crossed for the momma and babies over the next few days…she’s a sweetie and her kittens are coming around nicely to human touch, so we want to see them perk up and thrive and get great homes, like so many others this season. And then, we are ready for a little rest…maybe even a lot of rest. And some time to catch up with the non-cat parts of our lives.

November kittens

It has been warmer longer this year, which means we are still getting kittens coming in to our program. Sigh.We have been trying to close the program down for the season, but a couple kittens and their mom had other ideas. Mom will be spayed on Wednesday and either go into one of the rescue adoption programs (she’s very sweet) or the person who did the trapping will find her a home.

Her kittens are probably between 6-8 weeks old, just young enough to be socialized, but it means they will be with us a 4-6 weeks…sigh. Not that I mind kittens, but was just hoping we were done at the end of the week. We’re all pretty tired by this time in the season and looking forward to a few months of not trapping and of tending to the rest of our lives. But it will have to wait a few more weeks.

These two came in this afternoon…lousy photo with my phone, but it was what I had at the time. They are scared as can be, no knowing yet that their lives are about to improve big time. They get to sleep in a warm building tonight, with plenty of food, to start with.


They’ll get to meet the vet this week sometime and get weighed and examined, and their first distemper shot. Probably de-fleeing and de-worming are on the list this week too. But this evening, they are resting. I did a little petting and they hissed away at me. They were introduced to our house rule: the more you hiss, the more you get pet, or even picked up. After a few moments they cowered and were quiet with the petting. It will get easier, and within the week, I bet they’ll even enjoy it. Welcome to the cat house, little ones.