And the Cats Keep Coming….

I didn’t trap anyone last week (sigh…), and I just haven’t had the time this week to set the traps out.  However, I HAVE set up the trail cam a few times.  Sometimes there’s been nothing on the camera, but on the evening of February 1st, I got a couple of good pictures:

I’m pretty sure that the cat in the foreground is the long-ish haired black kitty.  If you look closely, it appears that the top of the left ear has been tipped.

But take a look at the cat behind her with its perfectly pointy ear….  I’m wondering if this could be the orange kitten that I couldn’t trap last month (even though I trapped its sister). Could it have grown that much between the last time I saw it and now?  I’m not sure….

And this picture was also on the camera:

At first I thought it was the gray cat with white socks that I saw last week:

But nope–the gray kitty doesn’t have as much white on the side of its face.  (!)

Weather and time permitting, I’ll try to set out the traps again a few days next week.  Based on my pictures and others I’ve seen, I guess there are at least 4 untrapped cats coming to the feeding station.  (And yes, I’m probably naive by saying “4”…)

In the meantime, I’m trying to find some other boarding students who will be willing to help out with feeding on the weekend.  The girls who’ve been doing this for the last few weeks have been great, but they’re teenagers who’d really love to have a weekend “off” to sleep until noon!  As a thank you for their help, I made each of them a cat-themed coin purse. 🙂

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And Even MORE Cats…..

Last week one of my co-workers told me that his children had seen a couple of half-grown kittens on another part of our large campus.    After the kids showed me where they’d seen them (in and around a large pile of cut trees where a new road is going in), I set up the trail cam to see if anyone showed up.

The camera didn’t record any kitties, and there have been no new sightings…. 🙁

On Monday, January 16th, the only cat I personally saw was our regular–the orange and white girl.  She visits the feeding station just about every day.

  

On Tuesday, January 24th, I saw a really fat kitty approaching the feeder.  I got my camera, zoomed in, and was surprised to see that this was the second TNR white & calico girl that I hadn’t seen since I released her on January 13th!  Clearly, these cats are eating well somewhere, but I’m not sure if they’re just eating leftover food from the dining hall that they find in the dumpsters, or if they’re finding food somewhere else.  No clue…

  

The orange and white girl also showed up again on Tuesday. No surprise, there. 🙂

  

People on campus have told me they’ve seen the long-haired TNR black kitty since she was released on the afternoon of January 13th, so I know she’s doing well, too, and one of my co-workers said she saw her at the feeding station.

Early Wednesday morning (January 25th), I got a text from my co-worker about two cats “acting strange” down in the woods–cats she hadn’t seen before (oh geez….).  One was gray with white feet, and the other was white with some orange on it.  She said they were making a lot of noise.  Hmmm… Territorial dispute OR a girl and boy kitty in the early stages of “courtship”?

I wasn’t sure what to do since we weren’t aware of these cats coming to the feeding station, and I wasn’t totally prepared.  But since I still HAD traps, I set out a total of four in a couple of different locations.  I had some not-too-smelly canned food to use as bait (surprised I had it in my car–ha–imagine that….) AND I put some food in the feeding station to try to draw them closer.  Soon, one of the “new” cats–the gray one–made its way to the feeding station.  I didn’t see the other new one, though I’ll admit that I’m not ALWAYS looking out the windows of the art room! 😉

  

  

This one cautiously ate, then disappeared down into the woods.  It bypassed all the traps, but I guess I’ll set them out again tomorrow using better “bait.”

While I might “RE-catch” some, I’d sure love to trap the two we spotted today in order to add them to the Clipped Ear Club!

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Friday Free-for-All Ferals

When I got to school on Friday morning, Jan. 13th, I was relieved to see that my “captives” had made it through the night okay….

Both had eaten and used their litter boxes, and they warily looked at me (or didn’t) when I moved the blankets and boxes.

  

I was surprised to see that the black kitty hadn’t removed the tape (marked “Black Cat #3”) from her head.  I guess it had been very busy in the surgery center on Wednesday!

I gave them some more food (using a paper funnel to pour it into their bowls), and covered them up again before my first group of students came in the room.

During our mid-morning break–which was followed by my planning period–I got together with the teacher who’d found the abandoned kittens to see if we could figure out what had happened, and why two of the kittens had died.  Unfortunately, my theory of “no access” for the mom cat to get back to the kittens seemed very unlikely, as the basement of the old, old building where they’d been found has more holes in it than a chunk of Swiss cheese.  At least I discovered that this was certainly a place that a LOT of cats could use to get out of the weather and stay warm if they wanted to!

Due to a field trip, I didn’t have any students during my last class of the day. After the other kids had gotten to their classes and the campus was relatively quiet, I decided that it would be a good time to release the two cats in the crates.  As before, I had to put each crate on a blanket and then drag it the length of my classroom to the stairs.  The white & calico girl wasn’t particularly impressed with this mode of transportation, but at least she didn’t start beating herself against the bars of the crate.

Using boxes and pieces of cardboard to help guide her in the right direction, she hopped out of the crate and made her way down the stairs.

When I released the first two cats in December, both immediately went out the door and around behind the art building.  This girl, however, went across the parking lot and towards the lotus pond, so I don’t know where her “home” is.

I repeated the drag-n-barricade routine with the black kitty.  She is SUCH a beautiful cat….

  

After I’d closed the door at the bottom of the stairs, I moved the smaller crate back into the room and got it ready for the NEXT kitty–the other white and calico cat that I needed to pick up at the SPCA.

When I called to let them know that I was on my way to town, I asked what time she’d been spayed.  To my surprise, she’d had her surgery right after I’d brought her in on Thursday!  That was very good and unexpected news because I thought it would be done on Friday since I’d gotten her to the SPCA clinic late in the day.

By now I think I’ve traveled every possible route between the school and the SPCA.  Shortest route (but not necessarily the fastest) is about 18 miles, and the longest is about 22 miles….  It was a little before 4:00 pm when I arrived, and a staff member went to the back to get my girl.

While I waited, I asked about the kitten that my co-worker had brought in on Thursday. They didn’t have an update because one of their vets (who wasn’t in) had taken her home to care for her.  They DID know that she seemed to be doing better before the vet left with her, so they were hopeful.  Not totally optimistic, but hopeful….  Again they said it seemed unlikely that 8-week old kittens (their estimated age) would crash in less than 24-hours after being separated from their mother. If it had been really cold (which it wasn’t), that could have contributed to it, too, but they really just didn’t know…. 🙁

When they brought White & Calico Cat #2 out to the clinic desk–in the trap and covered with a blanket–we started talking about options.  I had fully intended to keep her in a crate overnight (especially before I knew she’d been spayed the day before).  But it was nearly 60 degrees on Friday afternoon, and I’d be back to the school before it was dark….  If I kept her in overnight, I’d have to let her go on Saturday when we’d almost certainly have rain or freezing rain and much colder temperatures, and there was no real warm up in the forecast until Tuesday.

One of the staff members added that this particular kitty really, really hated being caged, and she’d continued to damage her nose on the bars of the trap.  For that reason, too, she thought that it would be better to let her out as soon as we got back so she’d have time to get to her “safe place” (wherever that might be).

Decision made (with some reservations), I put her in my car and took this picture of her before we left.

I don’t know how much these cats understand–I’m sure it’s a totally unsettling experience for them since they’re very mistrustful of humans to start with!–but I talk to them the whole time we’re in the car.  I told this little girl that I was thinking about letting her out instead of keeping her confined, and told her, too, that I’m trying to make the best decisions that I can for them.  They may not always turn out to be the best decisions, but it’s all coming from a place of love, and that was the best that I could offer.

So one more time, I drove around to the back of the art building, and I set the trap down in almost the exact spot that it had been on Thursday morning when I’d caught her.  I continued to talk to her, telling her that I loved her, telling her that I hoped she would heal quickly, and asking her to forgive me for all of the scary and painful things I’d brought into her life.  Then I opened the door.

She quickly ran towards the back of the tractor shed, and I thought she’d zoom out of sight. Instead, she stopped, turned around, sat down, and she looked at me.  I continued to “think” good thoughts towards her–visualizing my love and healing energy flowing around her–and she continued to sit and to look at me.

In that moment, I felt that this little clipped-ear, bruised-nose, and cut-tummy girl DID understand….

I don’t know how long this mutual “looking” would have gone on, because just then some kids came running over, asking if I’d trapped another cat.  I told them that I’d just released one, and pointed towards the kitty.  They just got a glimpse of her, because she quickly turned and ran down the hill into the woods.

Two girls asked if they could help feed the cats–actually begged to be allowed to help feed the cats–and I said that would be great, as long as they understood the situation and the precautions they’d need to take.  We all reconvened in the art room, and I gave them food, extra bowls and a lot of instructions, including the part about bringing in the food bowl at night so as not to attract foxes, raccoons or other predators.

I’d left my camera in the car so I just had my cell phone camera, but when we looked out the window, we could see the orange and white cat (that I hadn’t seen since Wednesday!) and the white and calico cat that I’d released earlier in the day!  I could also see the black kitty down in the woods walking towards the feeding station! We were ALL excited!

The girls will put food out for the cats this weekend, and I’ll take over again on Monday.  When I got home I followed up by sending them an email with even more instructions (i.e. WASH YOUR HANDS!) and I smiled when I received an email in return from one of the girls with a picture of the food bowl (in the dorm) with a “DO NOT TOUCH” sign on it. 🙂

So am I done trapping ferals?  I don’t know.  I sort of thought I was done after trapping the first two adults and the four kittens!  I never really expected to be doing this (any more than I ever expected to get involved with baby bats over the years…). But at least I’ve gained some good cat-trapping skills in the last month, and there’s still an unseen/untrapped male cat somewhere on campus….

I’m still thinking of the way that Cat #10 (White & Calico #2) looked at me when I released her, and it reminds me of one of my favorite quotes that I’ve had on my website for years:

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”
~ Henry Beston, Author (1888-1968) The Outermost House

Heart image from openclipart.org

 

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You Do the Best You Can, But…..

I set out the traps again this morning, and before long the other white & calico cat started checking them out.

She rather quickly walked into a trap–ate her fill–and walked out, without ever touching the trip plate.

  

Still hungry, she confidently walked into one of the other traps, but THIS time….!

Like the other cats I’ve trapped in the last month (10 cats!  TEN!!), she panicked when she realized that she couldn’t get out. I quickly drove around, covered up the trap with an old shirt, and put her in my car.  It was a nice day, and with the car windows down, she wasn’t too hot or too cold.  I checked on her once an hour until the end of the school day.

Before I left school, I picked up the remaining traps, just to make sure that no one got stuck in one while I was gone.  However, after trapping the white & calico girl this morning, I didn’t see any other cats, not even the orange & white girl who usually shows up every day.

I’ve thought a lot about the missing orange kitten….  I thought about it even more today when I saw two Red-Shouldered hawks flying behind one of the academic buildings,  screeching out their hunting game plan to each other.  It’s a dangerous world for any cats who spend most of their time outside, domestic or feral….

At the SPCA I filled out the paperwork and paid to board the incoming kitty overnight since it was too late in the day for her to have her surgery.  The first kittens’ foster mom was there, and she helped me load the black cat and the other white & calico cat in my car. I enjoyed hearing about the kittens’ progress, and yep, “foster fail” with the first little white & orange fluffy baby; the foster mom will be keeping her. <3

On the way back to school, I stopped to buy two disposable litter boxes and a long funnel (for adding water to the bowls in the dog crates), and I also emailed to verify that a second dog crate would be there by the time I got back. (Many thanks to two of my co-workers for letting me borrow these!)

I enlisted the help of a couple of students to help carry the second dog crate to my classroom–and assemble it!–while I carried one kitty upstairs.  When I went down to get the other one, a teacher who was walking by asked if I’d heard about the kittens.

OMG, WHAT kittens?!

She said that a teacher in one of the other buildings heard faint meowing today. When she went to the basement area to check, she found 3 kittens–two dead, and one in poor condition.  Immediately I felt incredibly sad and … guilty.  Had I contributed to the death of these babies by trapping and taking away their mother?  WHICH mother? WHO was their mother?  The black cat or the white & calico cat that I’d just returned to school?

There was nothing I could do at that point since I needed to get the post-op kitties out of the traps and into the crates, so I thanked her for letting me know and said I’d check into it. 🙁

After setting the litter boxes, food and water into the crates and covering them with large blankets, I set up cardboard barriers on the sides of each trap,  opened the door and easily got first one and then the other cat into their crates.  I plan to release them on Friday afternoon before I go to the SPCA to pick up the other white & calico….

When I got home, I called the SPCA to see what I could find out about the kitten.  They didn’t have much information available at the front desk, so I also emailed the teacher who’d found the abandoned kittens, and I also emailed one of the women who works in the clinic there.

As friends have told me, it doesn’t seem likely that the kittens would have died less than 24 hours after being without their mother.  As that information has sunk in a little, I’m now wondering if the mom somehow brought her kittens into the building a few days ago–via an open door or vent or whatever–and then somehow lost access and couldn’t get back to them.  I don’t know….

Tomorrow I’ll check out the location where the kittens were found.  I’d really like to think that I didn’t cause the death of these babies by removing their mom-cat, but I don’t know that for certain at this point.   And tonight I find that I’m also stressing about the cats in the crates in my classroom for some reason, wondering if they’re okay.

I’m glad that I care so much about cats (and bats and birds–and the environment, and human rights and a whole boatload of other things, too), but sometimes it’s really stressful to care so much.  You do the best you can, but…..  🙁

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Feral Cats – Trapping Day–One Day Early

I’d originally planned to start trapping again on Thursday because the forecast was for rain on Wednesday (today).  When skies were clear, however, I quickly decided to set out the traps a day early.  As I was moving the traps out of Wayne’s car and into mine before heading to school, I saw a Catbird silhouetted in a nearby tree and heard it’s funny “meowing.”  I told Wayne I hoped that was a good omen!

I drove around to the back of the art building when I got to school.  I didn’t see any cats, so I quickly set up and baited the four Voices for Animals traps.  Within an hour, one of the white and calico kitties moved into the area.  She checked the feeding station and was disappointed that there was no food waiting for her.  So what’s a girl to do–other than sit in the sunshine and look pretty?

Her curiosity–and hunger–ultimately got the best of her, though, and she cautiously moved towards the traps.  Unfortunately, she tripped one when she jumped on top of it!

Of course that scared her (understatement), and she took off like a shot, and I thought that was probably it for her for the day.  To my surprise, she came back a few minutes later and after cautiously moseying around, she went into a trap and was caught!  YAY!  First cat of the day, just a little more than an hour after I’d set out the traps!

As fate would have it, she’d gone into one of the smaller kitten traps, and even in the tight quarters, she was absolutely frantic.  She was flinging herself against first one end of the trap and then the other, almost flipping the trap over in her panic.  (I felt sorry for her, but I also couldn’t help but think of the Tasmania Devil cartoons!)  It was hard to carry the trap with her in it due to all of her flipping and flopping and flailing, but once I got her in the back of my car and covered the trap with a towel, she quickly settled down.

Before too long, the long-haired black cat showed up.  (I thought/hoped this was a male–THE male of the colony–but the SPCA confirmed that it was yet another female!!)

She first checked out the empty feeding station, and plopped herself down, as if looking for someone to take her complaint about the horrible service at this previously nice restaurant.

Finally, she started to investigate the traps.  Immediately I got excited thinking she was IN a trap until I noticed she was BETWEEN two traps….

Then she tried to get to the food from the outside of each trap.

When that didn’t work, she got frustrated and walked over towards the dumpsters….

She meandered around, sniffing the air, stopping to bathe in the sunshine, and then she went back over to the traps.  She put her head and shoulders in one, and backed out of it.  She put her head and shoulders in the next trap, and backed out of it, too.  Ultimately she walked all the way IN the next one, so YAY!  Another cat trapped, even if she WAS a bit of  “Goldilocks” at first!

Oh, wait….!

She was eating–just scarfing down the food–but she wasn’t stepping on the freakin’ trip plate!! The trap was still wide open!

  

Finally, FINALLY, as she turned around to leave, she hit the magic lever and the door slammed shut.  TRAPPED!!

And so I put a second dreadfully unhappy and scared cat in my car!  As with the first one, once her trap was covered up (this time with old shirts and smocks from my classroom), she settled down quickly.

In and around all of this cat-wrangling and picture-taking, I should mention that it was day 3 of an intro to figure drawing with my art classes…. By the time my 11:15 class arrived (all 8th graders), I was pretty distracted.  Yes, we did some of the art activities I’d scheduled, but when I told them why I was out of “dress code” and wearing a pair of sweatpants and a hoodie, they all immediately jumped up and went over to the windows to see the cat traps. (Oh, good, with all of them out of their seats, I could walk over and look out again, too.)

One girl said, “Oh, there’s one in a trap now!”

What?!  Really?!

Sure enough, the gorgeous little white and orange kitten was in one of the larger traps.

Her mother–the orange and white cat that we’d trapped and had spayed in December–was clearly distressed by her baby’s cries, but there wasn’t much that she could do other than sit and watch.

As soon as my students left, I was out the door, in my car, and driving around to the back of the art building.  Again.  By being in a larger trap, the little kitten could build up some speed as she ran back and forth, slamming into the ends of the enclosure.  Poor baby!  It’s a wonder she didn’t knock herself out!!

I didn’t see the orange and white mama kitty, but then I looked in one of the extra traps I’d set up to the left side of the feeding station.  Yep, as I predicted, I caught her again!  At least she’d gotten some food in her, and that apparently helped to fuel the 0 to 60 acceleration she achieved when I opened the trap door to release her!

The kitten–once I had her trap covered up with more art smocks–settled down like the others, and with 3 cats in the car, I headed towards the SPCA.  The only one who made a sound during the drive in was the little “creamsicle floofster” who meowed like a baby-cat. <3

  

After getting the cats out of my car and filling out all of the paperwork at the SPCA, I zoomed back to school.  It was starting to rain, so I picked up the rest of the traps (all empty) and put them in my car.  Timing is everything; I’m thankful that I’d had a free period after lunch today (our schedule rotates), and my last class of the day arrived about 30 seconds after I’d gotten back to my classroom!  That was cutting it pretty darned close…

When the SPCA called late this afternoon (to let me know that all of the kitties were females–arghh…), they said that both adults had been spayed and were doing well, and that they were going to reach out to a foster for the kitten. They estimated this baby’s age at about 12 weeks.

I’ll set out the traps again tomorrow morning.  There’s still one white and calico adult I hope to trap, as well as another kitten belonging to the orange & white girl.  Sadly, I haven’t seen the orange kitten (the floofster’s sibling) at all this week, but as I keep telling myself, you do the best you can….

I’ll pick up the two spayed adults after school, and while some people immediately release a feral female after surgery, I just can’t do it.  I hope to get them situated in large dog crates in the back of my classroom, as I did with the first two TNR kitties.

With freezing rain in the forecast for this weekend, however, caring for these bare-belly girls for a couple of days–and feeding the others on campus–could get complicated.  Like everything else, I guess I’ll figure it out as I go….

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