Seize the Day (Warning: a long post
That's what I did a week ago Wednesday: I seized the day, an opportunity, and the bunch of semi-wild cats I've been supporting for several months.
Twiggy— the long-legged, big-eyed, thin cat who marauded our garage last spring
—hadn't left as I thought she did. She merely moved into the storage/tractor shed between the shop and the horse shed where she kept such a low profile I didn't even know she was there.
I figured Twiggy lived elsewhere in the neighborhood. She'd stop by the house every so often and beg for food. She'd come within two feet of me, but she never let me touch her.
In mid-summer, I noticed her get a little fatter, then thin again. Little did I suspect that in early July she'd had three kittens in the tractor shed. I saw the first one when it was about six weeks old. In fact, I grabbed the kitten briefly and discovered how squeezably soft it was. Thinking it was a little girl, I called it Charmin. I was relieved Twiggy only had the one kitten. In a couple of weeks, I saw another black and white kitten, Spotsy. Well, two wasn't too bad. Maybe. A week later, shy little Spookie appeared. Uh-oh, how many more Twiglets would appear? Visions of a half-dozen or more ran through my mind. Fortunately, Twiggy stopped at three.
As the kittens grew and I started feeding them twice a day—yeah, I'm a sucker for cute little critters
—I wondered how I could get them and their mama neutered. Only Charmin was touchable—and then only while when eating. Because I could get close to Charmin, I discovered that she was a he; hence the name change to Sherman. But how could I get this gang of wild kitties neutered and vaccinated?
Luckily, Dianne Novak
of Barn Cat Buddies
happened to be doing a workshop at the Westlake library last October. I attended her presentation and got some good info on how to trap the critters. While the feral cats she trapped were one at a time, I wanted to get the whole herd of Twiglets at once.
Luckily, I had a large wire cage, formerly used by Harley the Catahoula when he traveled in the truck. John and I put the cage in the tack room and I started feeding the Twiglets in it. It didn't take them long to realize where breakfast and dinner were served. Below, Sherman exits the feeding place. Spookie is still eating; Spotsy is left of the door.
If you look at the top corner of the cage door, you can see an orange piece of baling twine that goes into the cage and then to hinged side the tack room door. I figured if I could get all four cats in the cage, I'd yank the string, thus slamming the cage door. With a little luck, I could get the latch closed before the Twiglets realized what happened.
The problem was that usually they ate in shifts. Either one (usually Twiggy) would keep watch while the others ate, or else two would eat together. If they saw me approach the doorway, they took off like cats outta hell.
I'd thought about taking them—when actually captured—to Planned Pethood, but that meant traveling several miles on Route 220 which I really didn't want to do with a load of cats in the back of my old truck—plus the feral cats who were neutered at PP would have their ears "tipped." I couldn't see cutting off the tips of ears on such attractive cats.
I talked to my regular vet about my particular circumstances, so he was prepared to neuter on fairly short notice if I brought them in on Wednesdays or Thursdays. I made one appointment, then was too sick to keep it (plus I couldn't catch all the cats), so I made another. I planned to bring as many as I could in on a Wednesday and leave them overnight for a Thursday neutering. On Thursday morning, if I could get any more, I'd bring them, too.
Meanwhile, the Twiglets were learning the routine. If I were late feeding, they'd come out to meet me. That's what they did on December 2.
My regular feeding routine is put cat food in tack room, feed horses, and then feed dogs. On December 2, I went out with assorted critter feed in hand (er, hands
), was met by the Twiglets who then raced each other to the tack room, dished out the cat food, put Melody's feed in her bucket, dumped Cupcake's feed in her pan and closed her gate, then went back to get the dog food.
Through the crack in the tack room door, I could see four furry bodies around the pan. I yanked my string, and WHAMMO!—the cage door slammed. Still holding the end of the string so they couldn't push their way out, I went into the tack room and latched the cage door.
(Writing note: "Suddenly all hell broke loose" is a cliche that writers should avoid. But it really does fit here.)
Suddenly all hell broke loose
in that cage. Cats were clawing and hissing, hanging from the top bars, throwing themselves against the side, etc. Remembering that Diane said a cover over the cage would help cats calm down, I covered it. They seemed to calm down. Or maybe they died of fright. Anyhow, I went to feed the dogs who were no doubt wondering what was going on and why breakfast was late. After I fed the dogs, I checked the cats. They were alive but angry.
Then I returned to the house and told John I'd gotten all of them and I'd need help getting them to the vet. After I'd called the vet's and said we were en route, we carried the cage from the tack room, I secured the old green sheet around the cage, we loaded them into the back of the truck, and we took off. At the vet's, a couple of the techs helped us get the cage out of the truck and into the office. Since the cats hadn't eaten much, the vet decided to go ahead and neuter them on Wednesday.
Everything went well. The next day, I picked up one neutered male (Sherman) and three spayed females. The vet techs helped us load for the trip home:
Back home, the cats weren't too happy. Twiggy growled a lot and hooked me through the bars but didn't do any damage. I'd poured some newspaper-based cat litter in the back of the cage, and they crouched in it. Mostly they glared at me.
I also pushed some towels through the bars toward the front so they'd have a nesting area. I figured they'd be confined for a while and would enjoy any the amenities they could get. I slid their cat food on stryofoam meat trays through the bottom slit in the cage. I didn't give them water. Diane had said they could get enough moisture from wet cat food (which could also be smushed through the bars if need be). The following days, I added shredded paper on top of the litter, so they'd stay relatively clean.
Notice Spotsy's ear pattern—white tipped ears surrounded by dark color.
Same as Jim-Bob's. Same daddy, maybe?
I kept the Twiglets confined until Saturday afternoon. All of them looked in good shape so I figured their stitches would hold. But would they hate me for what I'd done to them. Would they take off and never come back?
Nope. They're still here and doing fine. Only Twiggy still holds a grudge (but doesn't decline the food). Most mornings, the kittens come out to meet me.
Just like old times.