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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Feral Kitties – Update

I haven’t seen the original mama cat since the day we released her.  🙁   My co-worker saw her a couple of weeks ago, but hasn’t seen her again.  Obviously I don’t have time to look out the window all the time (and I don’t have the trail cam set up), but I really hope she’s doing well….  From what I’ve heard from the foster mom, her kittens are thriving, so that’s a blessing; you do what you can….

I *have* seen the other mom–the orange and white girl who was also spayed in December.  She’s become a regular at the feeding station, and I see her every day. She definitely likes this routine!



I also saw the long-haired black cat on Monday (Jan. 9), and today (Jan. 10) I saw one of the white & calico kitties.


I haven’t seen either of the kittens (presumably the orange and white female’s babies) for a couple of days now.  Worrisome, given the bitterly cold weather and snow that we’ve had recently….

I’m sure these cats know a lot of places to go to get warm and to stay dry on this large campus.  Many of the buildings are heated with steam, so there are probably areas along the pipes that they can access.  But since I don’t know where they’re going,  I decided to put together two more feral shelters, at least for my piece of mind.

Simple shelters can be constructed from a plastic storage tub with a Styrofoam cooler inside, but it seems that large coolers are seasonal items!  I’ve found a few in local stores, but what they’ve got on the shelves now are small–far more appropriate for a 6-pack of beer than an adult cat or two!

Given that I had some leftover Reflectix insulation–as well as some Styrofoam sheet insulation–from various projects associated with our travel trailer renovations, I decided to use those materials in lieu of the elusive coolers.  Using hot glue and duct tape, it was fairly easy to insulate the storage containers.  The hardest part was cutting the hole through the plastic, so I finally used an electric drill to make small holes around the circle, and then used an old serrated steak knife to cut it out. (Kind of like a connect-the-dots game that involved a lot more elbow grease than the paper and pencil version….)


After both were finished, I moved these and the first one to the back (east side) of the tractor shed.  (I’d originally put the first shelter on the south side of the tractor shed.)  It’s not an ideal location since I can’t see them from my classroom to know if the cats are using them, but since they’re a little more secluded, that might make them more attractive to feral cats.

In the meantime, Wayne picked up four Voices for Animals traps today (thanks for coordinating this, Betsy!), and I hope to start trapping again on Thursday.  In a perfect world, I’d set out a total of 5 traps (the four from VFA, plus the one that the school owns), and in a matter of minutes I’d find the long-haired black kitty, both of the white and calico cats, and the two kittens in the traps.

I’m betting, however, that the orange and white kitty (the TNR veteran and daily visitor) will be the first one in…  We’ll see!

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WWOWW 2017!

Each January when the kids come back to school after the break, the first week is devoted to our Winter Week of Wisdom and Wonder: WWOWW!

Special classes and activities are offered, so it’s a time for the students to learn new skills, to try something new, and to have a lot of fun while earning enrichment credits.  It also allows the teachers to do something different and interesting with a fresh group of students.  Here are some highlights from WWOWW 2017 (video by Kim Kelley-Wagner):

I offered a beginning sewing class last year, co-taught with the wife of one of our teachers. It was so much fun that I–and one of our new teachers–decided to offer it again this year!

Due to the schedule, we only had 4 days instead of 5, so before the class started, I went to Jo-Ann’s to buy some colorful flannel fabrics so the kids could make “burrito” pillowcases. I also bought a variety of “fat quarters” for other projects, and my co-teacher and I got everything washed and ready to go before the first class.

We had seven students enrolled in “Sew Cozy,” so we had to scramble to find extra sewing machines. While we didn’t have a machine for each student, it worked out fine and we’re so appreciative of the faculty/staff who let us borrow their personal machines!

On the first day, I taught two kids at a time the basics of machine sewing using my classroom machine and my own (same model) that I’d brought in.  Really can’t say enough good things about this inexpensive Brother sewing machine–super for newbies and experienced sewists, too!

While I was teaching the students how to use the machines (they each did at least one practice session by sewing through lines on paper), my co-teacher showed the rest of the kids how to press, measure, and cut the fabric for their pillowcases. They chose a solid color for the main body of the pillowcase and then a colorful print for the cuff.


Once they had the large pillowcase piece rolled up inside of the cuff fabric (that’s the “burrito” part), they sewed it together into a long tube.


The next step involved pulling the solid fabric out of the tube.  At the beginning it seems impossible to do!

Finally, it works! Yay!!


After pressing the fabric again, they sewed together the side and bottom seams.


For their next project, I told them they could use one of the cotton “fat quarters” to make either a small pillow or a drawstring bag.  To my complete surprise and delight, these kids had other ideas!

With the addition of paint, one student created a stylized soft sculpture of a cat:


Minions, anyone?

Strawberry pillow:

Fiberfill-stuffed mobile of a cloud, lightning bolt, and raindrops, along with a Minion pillow:

What a fun and productive week!  These kids (from the U.S., China, Guatemala, and Saudi Arabia) learned so much, so quickly, and were an absolute joy to work with!  I’m so proud of them!  WWOWW!!




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MORE Cats!!

I was able to photograph some of the usual suspects again today, but when I looked through my pictures, I realized that yet another adult was near the feeding station!!

While many of these pictures are somewhat blurry (I’m shooting through a 3rd-floor window, with my telephoto lens maxed out), this is certainly not the same white and calico cat I photographed yesterday, sigh…

This now makes 3 adults (and counting…?) to try to trap.

This is the first time I’ve seen the long-haired black cat at the feeding station.  I REALLY hope this is the male (and the ONLY male).  At this point, who knows?

I also got some “family” shots of the orange and white mama cat (who’s already been spayed) and her two absolutely adorable kittens.



As to “good” news, I was able to get some straw today, so we’ll put the first feral shelter out tomorrow. 🙂


We got the first feral shelter put out on Friday morning.  We were somewhat limited as to where we could put it, and ultimately opted to set it on the south side of a tractor shed within about 50 feet of the feeding station.  I really hope the kitties use it.  We hope to add at least one or two more.

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