Feral Cats & Kittens

In early December 2016, I discovered that a beautiful calico mama cat and her four kittens were living behind the art building at my school.  When I saw one of my co-workers setting out a can of food for them, I got in touch with her and we began planning a way to safely trap them.

We started feeding the kitties regularly, and this allowed me to photograph them from my classroom using the telephoto lens on my camera.  From what I could tell from my pictures–and by watching them–the kittens looked very healthy.  They all were active, playful, and beautiful!

 

My friend, Kim, has experience with feral cats, and she arranged for me to borrow a number of safe traps from the local chapter of “Voices for Animals.” My co-worker and I continued to feed the kitties as we prepared for “trapping day.”

Early on Wednesday, December 14th, I placed a small amount of canned cat food in the far end of each of 5 traps,  and set them out near the feeding area.  Within an hour, I could see that two of the traps had closed!  I drove my car around to the back of the building and saw that the mama cat was in one of the traps, and an orange and white cat that I hadn’t seen before was in the other trap!  Was this unknown cat the father of the kittens?!

   

I put both of the trapped adults in my car, and after waiting about an hour (hoping to catch some of the kittens), I drove to our local SPCA.  A “no kill” shelter, CASPCA offers free spaying and neutering of feral cats, with the understanding that these kitties will be part of the “TNR” program: Trap, Neuter, Return.  TNR cats are “fixed,” receive vaccinations, have their left ear “tipped” (to indicate that they’ve been sterilized), and then returned to the area where they were trapped.

Unfortunately, most truly feral adults are simply not adoptable–and there are thousands of wonderful, adoptable cats languishing in shelters because there are not enough adopters….  At least through the TNR program, cats are returned to the area where they were trapped, no longer capable of producing kittens.  With regular feeding and simple shelters, TNR ferals usually do well.  I got the mama cat and the orange and white kitty to the SPCA early enough on Wednesday for them to have their surgeries that day.

I drove back to school, relieved to have trapped the two adults, and by early afternoon I could see that two more of the traps were closed!  YAY!  I’d trapped two of the four kittens!  I made another trip to the SPCA (after removing the remaining traps from the area to avoid catching a kitty–or something else!–that night), and these beautiful babies were accepted into a foster program.  As foster kittens, they’ll be given lots of TLC, spayed/neutered, vaccinated, socialized, and ultimately available for adoption.

 

At this point I should note that if situations were different, I would have gladly brought all four of the kittens home with me instead of taking them to the SPCA.   Yes, I’m a “crazy cat lady.”  I got my first kitten, Missy, when I was five years old, and there have been few times in my life when I haven’t had at least one cat….

In 1964 (when the picture below was taken), Missy was primarily inside, though she went outside some during the day.  Now, however, all of my cats are inside, exclusively, and I’ve had as many as eight under roof at one time when my sons lived here with their cats!

And a bit more of the back story: On November 14th, exactly one month before trapping these kitties, I lost Kai, one of my four elderly cats.  I’d adopted him and two of his siblings from a shelter in 2002, and his death was completely unexpected.  It still hurts, but I like to think that my love for ALL cats–including ferals and shelter cats–is part of my beautiful Kai’s legacy….

  

Sadly, all of my remaining old ones have health issues.  It wouldn’t have been good for them to deal with 4 rambunctious, mostly-wild kittens, and it also wouldn’t have been fair to expose the kittens to some of the illnesses that my elderly cats have.  I knew this (and still know it), but I have to admit that I had an especially hard time surrendering the little calico baby I’d trapped.  I hope she finds a wonderful–truly WONDERFUL–loving home!  <3

On Thursday, December 15th, I set out the traps again, feeling somewhat desperate about catching the remaining two kittens.  With their mama cat and their siblings gone–and with temperatures forecast to plummet into the low teens that night–I REALLY wanted to trap them!

Just before my second exam period of the day (all of this was happening during exam week at school, by the way!)–I could see that two of the traps were closed.  I asked my students to watch from the windows while I drove around to the back of the building.  YAY!!!  Two kittens!!

I put them in my car, drove around to the front of the building, and my students helped me carry them upstairs to the classroom.  (It was already really cold outside, and I didn’t want to leave them in their traps in my car since they couldn’t move around much to keep warm.) We placed them on a table and covered the traps with blankets while the kids took their semester tests.  It was a very quiet room, interrupted by the occasional “meow.” 🙂

 

As soon as the students were done, we carried the traps back to my car and I headed–again–to the SPCA.  These two kittens would join their siblings at the foster mom’s house, and I needed to pick up the two adults who’d had their surgeries the day before. I’d paid to board them at the SPCA on Wednesday night, but there was no space available for them to be kept another night.  I REALLY didn’t want to release the female that evening since it was supposed to be so cold–but to my surprise, the orange and white cat that I’d assumed was the “baby daddy” was a female, too!

With both cats in the car and no good plan, I called Kim again.  She had previously let me borrow a large dog crate (which I’d put in my basement, in case I needed it for the kittens), and she said she had another crate I could borrow.  I stopped by and picked that one up (and returned some of the empty V.F.A. traps to her), stopped by the store to buy a couple of disposable litter boxes, and went back to school.

My co-worker came over to my classroom and we put the smaller crate in the far back corner of the room and added a litter box plus bowls with food and water in them. We set the trap with the orange kitty up close to the open crate, used large pieces of cardboard on either side of the trap to make a barricade, put on gloves, and then carefully opened the trap.  Success!  The orange kitty ran into the crate!

We had to leave the mama cat in the trap while we drove to my house to get the large crate, then we went back to school and used the same method to get her out of the trap and into a crate.  Both cats were very, very scared, but I told them (repeatedly) that they were better off hanging out in the crates for a day or two while they healed than being outside in the cold temperatures–especially with their bare, shaved bellies….

This was the first time I’d dealt with feral cats on an up close and personal level, and these girls were so different from my cats and other “domestic” cats that I know….  They were silent, and I don’t think they slept at ALL on Friday when I was in my classroom.  They didn’t pace around, they didn’t meow–they just sat there, frozen in place.  Only their eyes moved as they warily watched and waited…

   

My co-worker fed them on Saturday morning. Because we didn’t feel comfortable opening the crates, we devised a way to use a long wooden spoon and a spouted watering can to reach through the bars of the crates to add food and water to their bowls.

When I went to school Saturday afternoon to release them (the weather had gotten much warmer), I discovered that the orange girl had pulled the whole sheet that had covered her crate into her litter box! (Both of these feral cats had used the litter boxes…. Smart kitties!)

I mentioned that I had the crates in the far back corner of my classroom.  It is a HUGE room (70 feet from end to end; this picture was taken just after the space was renovated), and I had to figure out how to safely get the kitties from one end to the other and then outside….

I started with the smaller crate that the orange cat was in.  I gently put the crate on a blanket and slowly dragged it to the other end of the room, into the hall, and then to the top of the stairs.  (I’d already propped open the doors at the bottom of the stairs.)  Again using cardboard boxes and large pieces of cardboard as a barricade, I angled the opening of the crate towards the stairs, and (wearing gloves) carefully opened it.  She hesitated just for a moment, then quickly made her way down the stairs, out the door, and around to the back of the building. (Oh, see all the trash down in the woods?  A bear–yikes!–raided the dumpsters earlier in the week….)

I repeated this drag-and-barricade method with the mama cat’s crate, and she also made a beeline for the back of the building.

As I cleaned up the crates–dumping and washing out the food bowls, throwing away the litter boxes, etc.–I looked out the window again.  The mama cat was sitting in the area that we’d been feeding them!  Too funny!

After I finished cleaning up, I drove to the back of the building, and the mama cat was still there, waiting to be fed.

She was MUCH closer than she’d been in the days before she was trapped, and her whole demeanor was just … different.  Instead of the wary, frozen cat in the crate in the back of my classroom, she was relaxed, confident, and clearly in her element.

At that point, I realized that this little warrior princess mama cat–raider of dumpsters and protector of kittens–was home….

Unlike my cats who are never outside, never cold, never hungry, and usually curled up on a bed or on my lap, these feral cats live in a dangerous world filled with weather extremes and a variety of predators (including foxes, raccoons, hawks–and BEARS!)  It’s not always a safe or a comfortable place–and survival is NOT guaranteed–but it is their place, their world, and where they feel at home.

Unfortunately, I’ve become aware of at least two more cats living on our 1600-acre campus, and we’ll continue to try to trap these ferals for TNR.  In the meantime, we’ll make sure that they are fed regularly, and while there are *many* places they can go to get out of the weather, I’d like to make at least a couple of feral shelters for them.

As my friend Tonya said, trying to reduce the number of homeless cats and kittens is kind of like trying to bail out a sinking ship with a thimble.  True.  And our “ship” is obviously still leaking; this is one of the new-to-me ferals I’ve now seen on campus….

So while there’s still much work to be done, I offer my sincere thanks to Kim, Jaime (my co-worker), Voices for Animals, and the wonderful people at CASPCA.  Their assistance, advice, and support allowed me to trap a total of 6 cats in two days, have two adult females spayed, and give 4 beautiful kittens a chance to be socialized and adopted into loving homes.  It’s a good start. <3

 

 

Posted in Animals & Wildlife, Feral Cats | Comments Off on Feral Cats & Kittens

The James & Maury Rivers & The Blue Ridge Parkway – October 9, 2016

Our latest adventure led us to one of our favorite destinations: the confluence of the James and Maury Rivers near Glasgow, VA.   There is something rather awe-inspiring and soul-touching to see one body of water merging into another, and each time we’ve visited this particular confluence, we’ve been impressed with how each river continues to hold its identify until far downstream.

We headed south on Rt. 29 towards Lynchburg and then we turned north on Rt. 501.  This scenic byway allows us to follow the James River upstream towards the town of Glasgow.

002-road

003-road

005-james-mountains-bigisland

The Blue Ridge Parkway–the scenic 469-mile roadway through the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina–intersects Rt. 501 at the James River, and we detoured briefly to go to the visitor center and to walk on the trail down to the river.

006-sign-jamesriver-brp  008-brp-wayne

The James was muddy due to recent rains, but we love this view of one of our favorite rivers with the mountains in the background.  A pedestrian bridge is built directly under the main bridge that crosses the James.

009-jamesriver-brp  06-jamesriver-bridge

Near the center of the river, we held up a tiny shard of quartz crystal and paused for a moment to “bless the waters.”  This is something we’ve done at numerous bodies of waters and in many different states over the years. We silently thank each river (or lake or ocean), offer our prayers for the health of its waters, and express our love for it.   Once a crystal has been charged with our love and prayers, we drop it into the water and visualize our blessings being used for the best benefit of all.

011-crystal-jamesriver

As we returned to Rt. 501, we were soon rewarded with a beautiful view of the James River Gorge. Wayne and I both took pictures here.  🙂

015-road  017-wayne-jamesriver-rt501

Descending from this elevated overlook, we crossed over the Maury River and arrived in the small town of Glasgow.  We turned on Jarvis Trail which leads to the confluence where the Maury meets the James.

020-maury-james-road

The Maury River, which is about 43 miles long, is formed by the Calfpasture and Little Calfpasture Rivers near Goshen, Virginia.  It flows south-southeast through Goshen Pass (another one of our favorite places) and historic Lexington, Virginia before joining the James River at Glasgow.  It always amazes us to see the fast-moving, green Maury River rushing into the James.

024-maury-james-confluence  022-maury-james-confluence

You can tell which river is which well downstream of the confluence.  So beautiful! 🙂

The park and trail that they’ve created at the confluence and along the James River are very nice, too.

15-sharon-confluencepark  23-sharon-james

But as we’ve seen on the banks of virtually every Virginia river we’ve visited, there are signs posted that warn of the dangers of eating fish caught in these waters.  In this case, certain fish contain chemicals called PCBs.

025-healthadvisory-sign

PCBs are man-made chemicals that were widely used in hundreds of applications from the late 1920s until the 1970s when their production was banned.  As PCBs do not easily break down, these chemicals remain in the environment and they are found throughout the world.  You can learn more about PCBs and the health risks they pose by clicking on this link: http://www.greenfacts.org/en/pcbs/

Blessing the Maury River….

026-crystal-maury  027-wayne-maury-james

Driving from the confluence on Jarvis Trail towards Glasgow, we could see a Kestrel riding the wind. After it swooped down into the field, it came up with something in its talons.  I was able to get a clear shot of this gorgeous little hawk once it landed.

029-kestrel  032-kestrel

From Glasgow, we drove through the town of Buena Vista and got on the Blue Ridge Parkway to head towards home.

034-buenavista-valley  039-brp  040-brp  042-brp-20mincliff

What a beautiful day! We love our rivers and mountains!

043-brp-sunlight  044-brp-shenandoah-valley

Trip map:

00-tripmap

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1xwcaTbqQWWsKyep5jN9wP1PQz7o&usp=sharing

 

Posted in Adventures & Travels | Comments Off on The James & Maury Rivers & The Blue Ridge Parkway – October 9, 2016

Free Shipping through October 31st!

Enter coupon code SPOOKY2016 to qualify for free shipping on all items at  ArtRageous Spirit! now through October 31st!  You’ll find some frightfully good deals! 🙂

Artrageous-Spirit-ETSY-banner

While the school year doesn’t give me a whole lot of free time, I’m now accepting a limited number of custom orders!  Recently I made two mini doubled-zippered cross-body bags (measuring 4″ wide x 7″ tall with a 59″ strap) for a client who wanted a hands-free way to carry essentials for quick shopping trips.  She chose the fabrics, and I sewed the two bags to her specifications.

batik-small-cross-body-1-090916   kkw-crossbody1-090616

Another custom order was for a dachshund-themed purse.  I love to combine fun fabrics with bright pops of color. 🙂

dachshundpurse-080916-1  dachshundpurse-080916-3

I made an over-sized “place mat” for the table in our travel trailer…

placemat-092416

And that led to some reversible cat-themed place mats for a soon-to-be-married cat-loving couple!

placemat-postcardcats-04

If you have something in mind–a purse, pillow case set, cross-body bag, etc.–let me know and I’ll see if I can make it for you! 🙂

Posted in Artwork, Etsy, Sewing & Crocheting | Comments Off on Free Shipping through October 31st!

A Visit to First Landing State Park: August 2-3, 2016

One of our very favorite places is First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach. The park has 2,888 acres, 20 miles of hiking trails, three separate entrances, and amazing ecological diversity! (Click on the pictures for a larger view–just be sure to click the “back” button!)

064-FirstLanding-Map

066-FirstLanding-TrailMap

On this trip, we first went to the section off Route 60.  A large campground is in this part of the park, and while we haven’t camped there yet, we love to look at the different campsites, trailers, and RVs.  There’s also a clean, beautiful 1.5-mile long beach on the Chesapeake Bay!

005-1stLanding-BayBeach  006-1stLanding-BayBeach

012-Sharon-Wayne-1stLanding-BayBeach  011-1stLanding-BayBeach

Across the road from the beach and campground is another section of the park where the Bald Cypress Trail loops through a magical and mysterious swamp-like area.  We visited this part of the park in 2014:

022-Wayne-Swamp  026-FirstLanding-Swamp

029-FirstLanding-Frog  023-Wayne-Sharon-Swamp

The third entrance to First Landing State Park is on 64th Street off of Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach. After passing through a small neighborhood, you quickly find yourself in a beautiful forest that opens up into marshlands.  We always make sure to scan the treetops as well as the grassy marshes while driving in–this Osprey looked right at me as I was taking its picture!

013-1stLanding-Entrance-64th  014-Osprey-1stLanding

At the end of 64th Street, there’s a large, open parking area on Broad Bay with docks and a boat ramp. During the summer months you can rent kayaks and jet skis from a company that sets up in the parking lot. I took these twilight pictures during a visit in December 2015:

059-FirstLanding-Dock-Waves   058-FirstLanding-Dock

Most of the time we park in a shady area near the end of the Cape Henry Trail along Wolfsnare Creek. We kayaked here in July 2015.

001-Sharon-Wayne-Kayak-073015   009-FirstLanding-Shore

010-Wayne-Kayak-073015  013-Sharon-FirstLanding

We didn’t have a lot of time to explore the park during this trip, so our main focus was the last half mile or so of the Cape Henry Trail.  This popular six-mile hiking and biking trail goes through both salt marshes and wooded areas.  When we visited First Landing State Park for the first time in 2013, I was so surprised to see Spanish moss hanging from the trees!  There are also small, sandy beaches along the trail.

029-Wayne-1stLanding   030-Wayne-1stLanding

032-Wayne-1stLanding   15-Sharon-1stLanding

We love photographing the birds in the park, and this was the first time we’d seen a Green Heron:

017-GreenHeron   021-GreenHeron

019-GreenHeron  018-GreenHeron

Just a little further up the trail we saw a juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron:

025-Heron-Egret  026-Heron-Egret

We also saw another Green Heron, Purple Martins, a couple of Great Blue Herons, and Great Egrets in the park. (We saw crabs, small fish, and small jellyfish in some of the tidal rivers bordering the trail.)

033-GreenHeron  036-PurpleMartins

039-GreatBlueHeron  041-GreatEgret

While we DO enjoy the boardwalk and all the happenings on the oceanfront at Virginia Beach–at least for a little while!–we try to visit First Landing State Park at least a couple of times a year. 🙂

016-Sharon-Wayne-1stLanding

On our way out of the park, we stopped at Lake Susan Constant and walked a short distance along the Cape Henry Trail there.  We paused for a moment to bless, pray for, and thank the water in the Virginia Beach area….

045-Lake-1stLanding  046-Crystal-Lake-1stLanding

042-Water  049-Water

While it’s hard to leave such a special place, our (slow) route home avoids the traffic and congestion of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and instead takes us across the James River on the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry.  Sometimes we have to wait a while before boarding the ferry, but that gives us a few minutes to take pictures of the birds near the dock!  And once the 15-20 minute trip across the water gets started, huge (seriously HUGE!) flocks of seagulls follow the ferry to grab fish that are churned up in the wake!

050-Osprey-JamestownFerry  051-Osprey-JamestownFerry

058-Gulls-JamestownFerry  057-Gulls-JamestownFerry

Interactive trip map: August 2-3, 2016:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1i4v4b3g-RiDedU58L3dQRCP_a4g&usp=sharing

063-VABeach-TripMap

We hope to visit again sometime in the fall or winter!

Posted in Adventures & Travels, Animals & Wildlife | Comments Off on A Visit to First Landing State Park: August 2-3, 2016

New Venture: ArtRageous Spirit on Etsy!

As wonderful as June was — I’m still smiling when I think of our road trip to and through Florida! — July brought unexpected challenges.  After a super performance with his Peace, Love & Harmony band at a local restaurant on July 2nd, Wayne became ill and was ultimately hospitalized with pneumonia.  Pneumonia in the middle of the summer?!  He’s home now and recovering well, but this literally seemed to come out of the blue.  I’m so very glad he’s on the mend!

Out of necessity, some of our summer plans had to be scrapped and others had to be modified, but now that we’re starting to re-group, I’m pleased to announce that our new Etsy shop is finally up and running!  Here’s the link:

https://www. etsy.com/shop/ArtRageousSpirit

Artrageous-Spirit-ETSY-banner

What will you find there?

Our sewn items, such as cosmetic bags & small purses….

Panda-2-072216-1  PreciousPuppies-072216-1

photographic prints….

Water-WhiteOakCanyon-Etsy

cross-stitch patterns….

Hatteras-Front-LowRes    Portland-Front-LowRes

and fine art prints!

Miller'sMill-SignedPrint

We haven’t even started to photograph and list our vintage collectibles, but all in good time. 🙂

Again, the url is https://www.etsy.com/shop/ArtRageousSpirit .  Thanks, in advance, for your visit, and please “favorite” our shop!

Posted in Artwork, Sewing & Crocheting | Comments Off on New Venture: ArtRageous Spirit on Etsy!