Monday, March 29, 2010

SIR THOMAS MOORE (TNR: March 2009; Died: March 29, 2010)

I found Thomas Moore lying by the side of the road, less than a quarter mile from the colony, presumably killed by a car. What a terrible feeling to see him that way. It was purely coincidental that I happened to be driving near the colony, having already fed the group two hours earlier. I am so grateful that I discovered him when I did; rather than hours or a day later, after the crows had gotten to him. He was lying along the edge of the curb, on a strip of grass, as if he had simply stopped to take a nap in the middle of his busy day. Only a tiny bit of blood dotted one side of his head. I took him home to Stone Ledge and buried him under a budding forsythia bush, overlooking the colony. I only wish that he had been able to have one more precious summer. It seems especially cruel that, after such a long and bitter winter, he should miss out on “his” season.

Thomas was the first cat I trapped and neutered on my own. He acted like a tough guy, but he was so terrified when I tried to release him after his neutering that he refused to leave the cage. (We were both terrified!) Even when I turned the trap upside down, Thomas clung on for dear life. He loved to sun himself on a boulder near the edge of the parking lot while he waited to be fed each morning. Thomas could be "turfy" with the other cats, and there were days when I would chase him away from the feeding station, so the others could eat. I don’t think I will ever do that to a cat again. Thomas taught me that it is better to let cats work out a pecking order amongst themselves: they always do. Bless you, sweet boy. I will always feel your sweet spirit romping in the woods and field when I am at Stone Ledge. And I know that you will continue to greet me each and every morning.

Monday, March 22, 2010

GREAT CAT READS FOR A RAINY DAY

What better way to spend a rainy day than to curl up--cat style--with a good book? One of my all-time favorites is  Samantha Mooney's A Snowflake in my Hand. Samantha writes about her work at the Animal Medical Center in NYC and about the cats that have made a difference in her life. One small black cat, "Fledermaus," leads Samantha to a a very special kind of breakthrough in dealing with a tragedy in her personal life. This book received rave reviews when it was published in 1983. It is a real gem and not to be missed by anyone who loves animals. (And, yes, you'll definitely need a box of tissue to get through this one!)

Another special cat book is The Stony Point Whiskers Club by Don Loprieno.
Don was manager of the Stony Point Battlefield, a state historic site in New York, overlooking the Hudson River, when a small, blue eyed, orange tabby was discovered abandoned in the park. Don had never been very interested in cats until "Cato" captured his heart. Well, you know how that goes... Again, a box of tissue is recommended with this reading!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

THE KITTENS ARE COMING, THE KITTENS ARE COMING!

Happy first day of spring: a.k.a. happy vernal equinox; or, if you happen to do cat rescue and TNR: welcome to kitten season!


ZEN AND THE ART OF TRAPPING

Let me begin by saying that I have NOT mastered this art. When it comes to trapping, I am a total klutz and I have made nearly every mistake in the book. I have inadvertently let a cat escape when I forgot to secure the back end of a "Have a Heart." I have missed opportunities when I did not set the tension plate correctly, and the cat ate and ran. Worst of all, I once let a cat go because I thought she had been ear tipped. Needless to say, I have not been able to re-catch this "Mama Cat." Three of her kittens--from two different litters--now reside in my house. Talk about guilt! This brings me to my ruminations for the day: How to catch Mama Cat.

Here's the problem: Mama is smart. In fact, she is the smartest cat I have ever dealt with. She lives in a busy residential/commercial area in large town near my home. Mama lives with her neutered soul mate, "Big Boy," and one neutered offspring, "Spicey," that was too feral to be adopted out. All reside in a crawl space underneath a psychiatrist's office and are fed by an elderly Italian lady who lives nearby. "Uncle Victor," a fourth cat and clan relative lives across the street. In spite of the fact that more than fifty cars utilize the parking lot that abuts the cat's eating and living vicinity, as soon as Mama spots my car, she runs for safety. For this reason, I have to alternate between my husband and daughter's car when attempting to trap Mama. I have also enlisted the help of an experienced trapper with a "drop trap." Mama can smell danger as fast as you can set the bait, and she will disappear for days at a time. The other exhausting feature of trying to trap Mama is that the lady who feeds them does so at 6AM. I am NOT a morning person. I have to be up and out the door by 5:30 to get to the feeding site ahead of the cats to set the trap, and no amount of my pleading has been able to alter the feeding schedule.

Three days ago, I placed a dummy trap (one without a door) near the psychiatrist's office. I am hoping and praying that I can get Mama used to eating from the blank trap, and then I will switch for the real thing. I suspect that Mama may be pregnant again, so fingers crossed that my scheme works soon!

If this does not work, then I will enlist the assistance of master trapper and cat whisperer "P." "P" runs a cat rescue and sanctuary in my county. She also operates a successful business, is model pretty, and has an Ivy League degree. She is married to a NY area cardiologist. I only mention the latter because "P" could spend her days and nights indulging in trips to the theater, parties, and other social gatherings. Instead, at least four nights a week, armed with various traps and wire clippers, she  heads out in her well-worn van to do rescue and TNR work. "P" likes to trap alone and late at night--under cover of darkness. When the cats go on the prowl, she's out there with them. Sometimes this cat rescue involves clandestine work like crawling under barbed wire in restricted areas--hence, the wire clippers. Sometimes it involves digging kittens out of abandoned cars or buildings. It is not uncommon for "P" to trap three or four cats a night. "P" has mastered the "Zen" of trapping.

PALLETS MAKE GOOD SHELTER DECKS

After nearly losing two houses and quite possibly several cats to run-off waters after recent flooding, I am now a believer in placing wooden shipping pallets under feral houses.* (Of course, dummy me placed the houses where there was run-off water in the first place!) Not only do pallets keep the shelters a few inches off the ground, so they are not as dank and damp, but the cats can hang-out on the ground level without getting their paws wet. Feral Samson LOVES using his pallet as a sunning deck in the nice weather. If I could, I'd install a hammock too! 



*Companies that receive inventory on pallets are usually happy to have a few taken off their hands and recycled for the cats.

DEAR PRUDENCE: STILL MISSING...

It has been three weeks since the big snow storm, and "Dear Prudence" has still not been seen. Granted, she does disappear for months at a time, but I wish that I had seen her at least once since the big snow--just to know that she made it. After "Crystal" turned up sick, with the vet suspecting that she may have been trapped near contaminated water (i.e. antifreeze), I now fear that something similar could have happened to Prudence. If she was trapped without food or water for several days her system might have shut down. I checked the area around her favorite shed where she likes to hang-out. One side was open with easy egress, but no paw prints to be found. Then again, I have to keep in mind what my friend "D" always says, "We can TNR, feed, and shelter, but we can't always keep them safe." I think that caring for ferals is like having kids: once you take responsibility for them, the worrying never ends.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Port's last wharf cat dies - NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Port's last wharf cat dies - NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

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I am posting this story about Zorro, Newburyport's last warf cat, as a reminder to myself that managing feral cat colonies is really worth all of the time, trouble, and heartache. Afterall, Zorro's story and his colony's is a tremendous success story. I need to be reminded of this today because, sadly, Crystal did not make it.
The best that modern veterinary medicine has to offer could not correct the damage done by the toxins that ravaged her little body.

Monday, March 8, 2010

MEDICAL EMERGENCY

Horrible news!  Saturday evening I received a voice message from my friend, Pat, who feeds the "gray cat colony" every Sunday. The shopkeeper who feeds the cats Monday through Saturday (he owns the property where the cats live) called to report that one of the young females, "Crystal," was not eating or drinking and appeared to be sick. Pat responded and got Crystal into a carrier and took her to a local vet. (I was visiting relatives about 50 miles away.) According to the vet, Crystal seems to have gotten into a highly toxic substance. Her mouth and tongue are blistered and she probably has not eaten for days. Her bilirubin count is off the charts and she may not make it. The vet put in a port for IV fluids and administered vitamin K shots and antibiotics. All we can do now is wait and pray.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

STORM LEAVES TWO CATS MISSING

Worry and wait; worry and wait. Thomas Moore and Prudence are still MIA. I have walked the neighboring parking lots that have been ploughed, listening for meows in case someone is snowed in.