One Year Later
It's been about a year since I first started working with the feral cat colony in my neighborhood, and it's nearly time for me to return. In the next few weeks I will set my camera back up and get back to work! I'll start posting regularly again when that happens.
In the meantime, I thought I would give a few updates on my TNR and fostering adventures. Sunflower's kittens all went to wonderful homes and I will hopefully be posting recent photos of them on their first birthday, March 8. I'll give some more details about them then in a special birthday post.
My Nine-Cat Summer
Last June, I got a call from a client and friend about some kittens she found in her backyard. I went to trap them and their mom but had no luck. Mama was way too smart for our trap. So I left them for the night, planning to return the next day. Overnight, Mama moved the kittens. It was devastating! We felt so close but now we had no idea where these tiny babies were. We made some fliers and delivered them to neighbors and again I returned home. The next day I got a message from another neighborhood that a lady had trapped two kittens and now didn't know what to do with them. They were pretty feral so rescues wouldn't take them. Because I had already made up a kitten area for the now lost babies, I went to pick these little ferals up. My goal was to socialize and adopt them out, thinking they were maybe 6 weeks old.
We called the black one Darjeeling (DJ) and the other Chai. They were both boys and both had big tummies full of worms. We got them settled in and to the vet and quickly realized they were not 6 weeks old, but closer to 10 weeks old. Uh oh. Eight weeks is the magic age to socialize ferals. After that it can be very difficult. What had I gotten myself into...
Well I'm writing this 9 months later so I can tell you. Trouble. These were not adoptable cats. They hid quietly all day in their room. They ate fine and we could hear them playing with each other but they wanted nothing to do with us. After MONTHS of hard work, they're just about social enough to want to be with us. They won't come sit on your lap, but both enjoy petting and Chai will come sleep on the bed with us sometimes. Because yes, we still have them. They are our cats now. We have four cats now. We decided to keep them because they still would not make normal pet cats, but mostly because they have fallen head over heels in love with our Mowgli. Chai especially.
I mean, come on.
They still love each other too.
Now to go back to when I first brought them home, I would have never imagined they would still be here. But there was another complicating factor at that time. The missing kittens were found in a lady's garage. I went back immediately and my friend and I spent hours and hours searching and trapping. We found all four kittens but it took basically all night to finally catch Mama. I even had to run to the Emergency Animal Hospital on 114 at midnight to get some kitten formula in case we couldn't get her. (They gave me all the supplies I needed for free, thanks guys!) These kittens did not look very healthy, and they all had obvious eye infections, so I wasn't just going to put them back outside. Our persistence did pay off eventually though and I headed back home with a crate of 5 more cats. I don't have a big house, so now basically every spare bit of space had some combination of cats or kittens in it. But it was fun! And we'd saved some lives.
The fun was just beginning, though. Because these kittens had...
Ringworm is a fungal infection fairly common in the soil. Older animals or ones with better immune systems will escape contact with it uninfected, but these 2-3 week old kittens had unfortunately got it. It is EXTREMELY contagious and difficult to get rid of. You do not want ringworm in your house. Especially if you now have 9 cats in your house. Oh, and it's contagious to everything. Cats, dogs, humans. Nightmare.
The next 10 weeks (the amount of time the medicine needs!!!!!!) I spent all summer cleaning their room, washing kittens, and syringing medicine. It was ridiculous and a little bit soul-destroying. Everything had to be cleaned with bleach at least once a week. EVERYTHING. Toys that couldn't be cleaned had to be thrown out. I ruined lots of blankets, clothes, mops, and brooms. I had to change into booties and basically a hazmat suit every time I went in or out of their room. And all this time I was also supposed to be socializing Chai and DJ. Precious weeks of kittenhood went by with no progress, even though I had enlisted friends and family members to spend time with them in my stead. Every spare moment was taken up with some cat related chore, or cleaning or laundry.
It was almost a nightmare. Except... Kittens. I mean, kittens are so cute.
These four were precious. I did love them. Mama was pretty feral but she let me mess with the kittens so I let her hide away in a box (that I had to throw out every week). This little face above is a girl named Finch. She had two solid black sisters named Magpie and Chickadee, and one brother, grey/blue in color, called Wren. Check out my facebook page for more pictures. They all recovered very nicely in time and found wonderful homes. No one else caught ringworm.
And Chai and DJ found their home too.
*I need to include a thank you section here for the people that helped me during all of this. My mom, Jennifer Cyr, helped me clean every week. She had to don the hazmat suit and breathe the bleach fumes with me. My dad, Rick Cyr, helped regularly with Chai and Darjeeling. He would come over and just sit with them and try to pet them. That might sound like fun, but it wasn't. Laurie Lukanich of Animal Nanny helped a ton with supplies and looking after everyone when I split town for a weekend for my sanity. She even took Mama cat to her house after babies were weaned because Mama went into heat SO FAST and was so obnoxious I literally couldn't handle it. My husband, James Owen, helped with load after load of laundry and trash and is generally wonderful and patient and was understanding of how we ended up drowning in cats. My lovely neighbors contributed blankets, throw away toys, spare cat food, and litter, all free. I even had a neighbor make homemade cat toys with her daughters for the kittens! I had so much help with costs from Robin Yonis, Laurie, Brita, my parents, and neighbors. These guys were EXPENSIVE and very little of it came out of my own funds thanks to the very caring cat-loving community I have around me.
*DISCLAIMER: If you read all this and thought, great now I know what to do with the kittens I found in my backyard, STOP. I will never do this again. Find a rescue. Without the help I got from everyone above, this might not have had a happy ending. These kittens cost over $2,000 in vet bills alone and when you do this without a rescue behind you, you carry the sole responsibility for these lives. And you have to find them homes! It's so hard and so risky and I can't do it again. I will perhaps foster through a shelter, but never on my own again.
Here are some DFW rescues that I personally have or a friend has had good experiences with: Operation Kindness
There are many in this area, so look around if you don't like these. I'm not affiliated with any of them and I cannot promise they will have the capacity at the time to help you. But they're good places to start.