Sunday, September 30, 2018

At Long Last, Beulah

The cat who started Operation Slim Pickens has at last been trapped.

I wasn’t going to set the traps this Sunday. No one was working at my job-site today, so no one would be present to check the traps. I would have had to ride out several times in the evening myself. It is true that, by bicycle, my work-place is only six or seven minutes away. But it was not something I wanted to do on a gloomy, cold, last day of September.

Time, however, was ebbing. The cold that made me reluctant to venture forth actually spurred me on. Fewer cats come out less often from whatever warmth they have found as the dark months succeed the light, so being able to trap them becomes more difficult. As well, trapping on chilly nights brings more discomfort to captured cats waiting for recovery. So I set the traps.

I used a new weapon tonight. Reinforced by the Colonel himself, I placed small pieces of Kentucky Fried Chicken as bait; I had just heated them in the micro-wave oven before placing them in the cages. The scene set, I retreated.

I was not hopeful, though: as I departed, I saw that the only two cats present were a long-haired white cat with a floofy black tail – who had been spayed in a previous operation – and Bijou, neutered last week. I assumed that I would be releasing one or both of these hungry creatures when I returned.

Not fifteen minutes later, I received a call from a colleague, the man who feeds the feral colony. Not having been apprised of my operation this evening, he had come to disburse his food. I figured he was about to tell me that I had caught a cat who already had been fixed. Instead, he delighted me by announcing that the little mother-cat we had initially tried to capture was finally in our grasp.

Beulah is currently in my apartment, very quiet in her cage, covered with a blanket. She is uninterested in food, unsurprisingly, and, due to her impending surgery, has run out of time to eat. I will give her water through the night and, in the morning, take her to her rendezvous with sterility.

We were very fortunate to find homes for all of Beulah’s kittens. I don’t know if she had had any previous litters, but I doubt we would have been so fortunate in placing any more she may have birthed. That eventuality is no longer. She was a wonderful mother, attentive, loving, patient and careful. Her reward, whether she knows it or not, is that all of her kittens have homes, and she will never have to worry about any more.

At long last, Beulah has been captured.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

No Kittens for Bijou

One more cat in the world will be childless from this day on. Meet Bijou.

This adorable little fellow was trapped last night. He was such a pretty cat, I was sure he was female. Alas, no, that gender continues to elude me. But this boy decided to enjoy a taste of sardines and ended up going to the veterinary hospital.

All is good news: Bijou is only about a year old, so the chances are slim that he has fathered many, if any, kittens. He tested negative for FIV and feline leukaemia, and is in good shape, otherwise. He will be returned to the colony later today.

My plans for trapping continue to evolve. I set traps out very early this morning, to take advantage of the cats’ convergence for what they hoped was their breakfast. I had intended to deny them that meal today to entice them into the traps where food awaited, but none was having it. I watched those I hadn’t caught revolve about the traps, wary and suspicious. Even with the use of catnip, I have been able to capture lately just one. I determined that all those who would be tempted by something different than what they usually eat have already been captured.

So now the bait will switch to what they normally receive as meals. They were waiting for that, and were uninterested in the sardines and catnip. I think that if they smell their usual fare, one at least may be lured into the trap to have a bite. Time - and the craftiness of the local cats - will tell.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

My Feral Cat So Far

Raleigh continues to settle in at the cosy apartment. He seems to have found a favourite spot in one of the cat-beds. It provides a view of much of his new home and, though most of the other cats have to pass by it to get somewhere, there is plenty of space so no one has to come too near the new boy. This does not prevent hissing and growling, just to be on the safe side. For the most part, the other beasts are ignoring the Raleigh, though Renn did sniff noses with him.

He doesn’t play, which is not surprising, but I am demonstrating to him how cats can have fun by letting him see how I play with the others. I think he is curious about it; he is certainly watching.

The little peachy-boy had his ears cleaned again on Saturday, which set his trust back a bit. He now thinks that half the time I am going to grab him and perform some sort of very uncomfortable hygienic process on him. But if I approach him with some warning, he isn’t startled and enjoys a human’s touch. One of his ears is much cleaner than the other, and the debris in it is not the usual left-overs from ear-mites. I wonder if he has an infection.

His weight was registered at 4.7 kilograms (10.34 pounds) at his neutering. I think that’s a good weight, though he looks a bit too slender. He is currently on just soft-food, and that may not be providing enough bulk. It does seem, however, to be giving him all the moisture he needs, as I have not yet seen him drink water. Nonetheless, his use of the litter-box shows that he is getting the fluids his body requires, and some it does not.

His right eye continues to run goopily, though this is probably a chronic condition. I am more concerned with his mouth. He drools when at rest, and, after eating, his mouth is messy with food. I suspect his teeth are not in good shape, and he may be experiencing some discomfort because of it.

Raleigh will be going to the veterinary in the next few weeks. With the drooling and the ears, I want him to have a fuller examination than he received at his neutering. I expect that he will need some dental surgery, and antibiotics for his ears, but I don’t think he will face serious problems. He’s a good little fellow, and he deserves a good life now.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

A Minor-Miracle Food

I experienced an unnerving yet interesting incident with Cammie this week. If you have read previous entries about the princess’s digestive issues, you know that by now pretty much any soft-food will cause her to vomit, and continue to vomit even after her stomach has nothing left to give. I have found that the only solution to this dire problem is an injection of Cerenia.

For several months, I have had Cammie on a hard-food diet of Z/D, a product designed to cause no allergic reaction. She does eat Orijen, though not a great deal, and that has not given her any bad effects. I am sure she finds her diet monotonous, and know that she misses soft-food. Z/D must taste good because several other cats will eat it if they can get to it, so there is that consolation. Even so, I must be vigilant regarding Cammie, and make sure that she doesn’t get into any soft-food, any and all of which seems to trigger her problem. This is easier written than done, with a population of six cats, all of which will eat only if they are apart from the others.

On Tuesday, Cammie must have consumed some soft-food. She threw up her breakfast, the results including both hard- and soft-food, so I knew she had gotten into what she shouldn’t. This usually spells disaster, and a trip to the veterinary hospital. I hoped that this time would be different and she would not continue to vomit. When I came home at noon to check on her, I saw that someone had thrown up their food. The number of times they had done it, and where, suggested that it had been Cammie.

But something was different. Cammie was hungry a few hours later, and wanted some food for dinner. Usually, during such episodes, she doesn’t like to eat, thinking it would only cause her to upchuck. I fed her a small amount, and waited. Normally, when she can’t keep anything down, she can’t keep it down at all - it comes back up immediately. But this time, her small Z/D dinner remained in place. She ate a little more at snack-time, about eight o’clock. This suggested to me that her stomach felt differently to her this time.

She had not thrown up again by the time I went to bed. I am attuned to hearing my cats wretch, as sad as that is, and I wake immediately when I hear the tell-tale sound, or anything like it. Cammie did not wake me.

The Z/D seemed not to be rejected by the stomach even when it was denying all other food. Normally, what Cammie takes in after she begins her episodes wouldn’t matter; it would still be thrown out. It’s true that Z/D is designed to give no reaction, but in such a case as Cammie’s, that usually would be immaterial: the initial cause of her illness (the soft-food) should still have been exercising its malign influence and making her wretch. In other words, once her stomach becomes violent, even the Z/D should be thrown up. But it stayed its course and, in fact, seemed to act as oil on stormy waters. I wonder if the Z/D’s hydrolysed composition fooled the stomach into letting it through.

Whatever the reason, Cammie has been fine since that day, and I am very grateful for Z/D. It has given her a safe food that she continues to like, and has even, it appears, lessened the problems caused by lapses in my security. Now, if it would only help me cut her claws…

Friday, September 21, 2018

Finding Their Places

Raleigh’s integration is progressing adequately, though of course it is early days yet. While he seems passive and accepting of things, this could just be an initial phase, and he could become assertive and even aggressive. When it comes to food, he certainly adopts a ‘forward policy’. But I don’t think violence or force is a part of his character.

Even so, he has his detractors among the resident beasts. Tucker hisses from a distance, because he won’t allow Raleigh to come close; Parker gives warning pings and whines when he sees the newcomer; Cammie is vociferous in her denunciations, and is having the most trouble with Raleigh. The atmosphere in the cosy apartment has become a little more growly and quick-tempered.

But this won’t last. I have received some good advice from readers of the blog and from other knowledgeable cat-people. And my own experiences have shown me that time and patience are excellent tools in calming a situation. For my own part, I have adopted a conciliatory response to complaints, trying to be understanding with the plaintiff, but urging accommodation. I doubt that I would make a good civil lawyer - my clients don’t really listen to my advice all that much - but, hopefully, staying calm and unruffled will influence them, and in the end peace will prevail.

After all, if these two can learn to lie near each other like this, there is hope for all.

Thursday, September 20, 2018


I want to thank everyone who has commented on the trapping efforts of which I am part. Everything you have written is very complimentary. I am just a part of this effort, of course. There is the colleague from my own rescue-group whose driving provides invaluable transport and whose advice is equally inestimable; another rescue-group which is paying for the cats’ surgeries; the staff of the charity next door who adopted Beulah’s kittens; the rescue-group up north who accepted other kittens; the veterinaries and technicians who operate on the cats; my co-worker on the late shift who keeps me apprised of cats trapped late at night; another co-worker who feeds the feral colony and keeps watch on the cats.

Knowing that if I can’t trap all the cats there will simply be more can be discouraging. But even one adult captured is an uncountable number of felines not born, and one kitten rescued is one that will have a chance at a decent home. Your words give tremendous support to such efforts everywhere; there are many who are involved or have been involved in similar operations, all over the world.

And I know that each of us realises the worth of what we do and support when we see something like this.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

How Many Kittens Does It Take to Change a Light-bulb?

Answer: it doesn’t matter; they keep coming regardless.

Apparently, there are more kittens in the feral colony behind my work-place. I am told that there were three, a black and white or grey, and two grey tabbies. Now, there is one. I caught two last night.

They are from different litters. The black and white kitten, whom I’ve named Doodle, appears to be five weeks old; the tabby, now called Sketch, seven or eight weeks. The contrasting ages is not encouraging to me, since it may mean there are still more. However, after some investigation, I’ve learned that three new ones are all that has been sighted. In any case, we faced a bit of a dilemma of what to do about the new pair, since the two groups who took the last batches - the staff of the charity next door took the first, and a rescue organisation took the second - are unable to help this time.

But good people are often found when needed. My colleague, who feeds the feral colony, and is my chief source of intelligence on it, volunteered to take in the newly-trapped kittens. He had four for whom he was caring, but I was able to arrange their transport to an adoption centre up north. Really, rescue work is a cross between complicated business deals and medieval alliances.

One more kitten - of whom I know - remains to be captured. But what of their mothers, neither of which is Beulah, Adah’s elusive parent? There are still numerous cats to trap and sterilise, so the operation continues. Your good wishes would be appreciated and, if you have influence with those who create favourable conditions, another couple nights of double-captures would not be scorned. Just a word in your ear.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Crowded House

Raleigh’s adaptation to indoor living has been, on his part, simple and easy. He was clearly an inside cat at some point, and knows the purpose of furniture, and cat-furniture. He spent the weekend checking out all the various spots in which to snooze. The small cat-beds seem to appeal to him most.

But the addition of another cat to the household has not sit well with some of those already here. Tucker has taken exception to Raleigh, and hisses whenever he sees him. He has become quite growly, too, growling at what seems to be nothing from time to time.

Parker, as well, is out of sorts because of the newcomer. He reacted similarly when Echo the kitten came to stay for a couple of weeks last September. I don’t know if it arises from a concern over possible displacement - the orange boy was the newest cat - or just a dislike of Raleigh. He growls even at me, though they are complaints, rather than threats.

Cammie, perhaps not unexpectedly, is grumpy over the arrival of the peachy boy. She will growl, quite fiercely, at Raleigh, even if the latter is simply lying in a cat-bed a couple of feet away. This is not unusual behaviour in the princess, though the degree of its harshness gives me some concern. But she has also expressed a bit more of a need for attention lately, wanting onto my lap as I sit on the couch and, especially, lying on my neck during the night.

I have been trying to give each of these beasts extra cuddles and pets, and not neglecting Renn and Josie, who are much less affected, at least superficially, by Raleigh’s advent. The truth is that the apartment is too small for six cats, and my time, limited as it was for four or five, is even more so for half a dozen. Taking Raleigh in was the right decision. Seeing him curled up in a cat-bed on a chilly autumn night shows that he was not a feral feline and obviously missed the warmth and security of an inside home. But a bigger home would serve him and his roommates better.

They will not get that soon, however, so Josie, Tucker, Renn, Cammie, Parker - and now Raleigh - and I, will adjust our habits, settle down to new routines and grow accustomed to our crowded house. We ‘don’t dream it’s over.’

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Cat Who Came Early for Dinner

I suspected that after what I hoped was the last of the kittens were trapped in Operation Slim Pickens capturing the remaining adults would be difficult. Incredibly, three times we were able to trap a couple of cats on the same day. This rather spoiled me, I think, though I nevertheless was anticipating more hapless cats looking at me through a wire mesh. For most of this week, however, the results were nil.

Monday night saw a dish of sardines used as bait emptied, but the trap not sprung. I thought it odd that a cat could be so light in weight as not to trigger the trap. After all, kittens had set it off. The next evening, though, a colleague of mine, working late, and who volunteered to check on the traps for me through the evening, solved this mystery. He saw a cat, evidently wary of the trap itself, reach through bars and picked out the pieces of fish. I wasn’t sure who this cat was, but it was small and slender – possibly the elusive Beulah.

Thursday, I prepared the cages differently. Before leaving work at about four o’clock in the afternoon, I wrapped the rear of each in a blanket, rendering theft of the food from without impossible (I hoped). Whether the original cat-burglar re-considered a direct approach, or it was a different animal all together, I received a telephone call even before I had ridden home. This fellow was in one of the traps. He couldn’t wait for the evening, and thought the sardines in the cage an easy and early dinner.

Meet Auvergne.

The moustache made me think he may be part French, and Auvergne could equally, in theory, be applied to a feline of either gender. In any case, he spent the night very quietly at my apartment before going to the veterinary hospital the next morning.

Auvergne is a youngster, only about a year old. I was melancholy at the thought of such a youthful cat spending his life in a feral colony – though seeing an old one do it is no easier. But Auvergne likely knew no indoor life, and so, unlike Raleigh, did not long for a lost paradise. More positively, he had no trace of FIV or leukemia. Nor had he any ear-mites. He was vaccinated by the doctor and neutered.

When we collected him for his release, he had burrowed under the blanket placed in his carrier, but was sitting up.

When he smelled the fresh air, and probably the familiar scents of his stamping grounds, he peered out. Food placed for his delectation untouched, he ran out of the carrier a moment after it was opened. Neutered, he may stay out of fights and live a reasonably long time as an outsider-cat, making no more outsider-cats in his turn.

I know of at least three more adult cats I would like to see inside a trap, so the operation will continue next week, hopefully with similar results.