I have been planning this since I first saw the email from the Michigan Humane Society at the end of March. And really, it's been on my mind since we first noticed the feral cats at our rental property back in October and once I saw that two of the kitties were pregnant this spring, it was really nagging at me.
The email didn't have anything to do with feral cats; it was about a program for sterilizing pit bulls in Detroit. This is a free service provided by the MHS. I figured if they do this for pit bulls, perhaps they would do it for feral cats as well. After calling them up, I was directed to the person who runs the program and yes indeed, they do sterilize feral cats for free; they have funds to sterilize up to 1000 this year.
My husband and I went to the workshop, got the materials which included some forms for our neighbor lady (whom we will refer to as "R") to fill out, since she is the real "caregiver" of the colony - we are just considered "surrogates". The form R had to sign explained what was going to happen; that she would need to stop feeding them the day before the trapping, that we would be allowed to bring humane traps onto her property and trap the live animals. Bring whatever amount of cats that were trapped to the MHS for sterilization and then after a 24 hour period of observation at our home, bring the kitties back to her house and set them free.
I had been in touch with R several times to go over when it would happen, what would happen and what she needed to do. I had dropped off the traps prior to the day of trapping so that the cats would get used to them being around.
Why am I telling you all of this? Well, because Murphy's Law...If anything can go wrong, it will. Not to say we were not successful, we were! At least semi-successful. Is there a Murphy's Law about trying to work with senior citizens? If there isn't, there should be. Something like You agree to a total plan and the day of execution, the senior changes her mind about nearly everything....I'm sure there is something catchier than that, but you get the gist.
Alright, here's the story...
Dropped off the last two traps that I had purchased from MHS on Thursday evening after I picked up the large dog kennel from my friend Joan.
R and I again talked about when to stop feeding the cats. She was hoping it wouldn't be Friday because that was her 89th birthday and it would make her feel badly. I told her it would need to be Friday night and she seemed disappointed.
I had told R a few times prior to that I would call her the day that she needed to stop feeding them...but since we already talked about it just the day before, I figured that was good enough. Not that I didn't think about her and that the plan from before was to call her, I didn't do it because I didn't want to question her intelligence...we had just the day before talked about this whole thing, so I figured she "got it". My bad.
Saturday morning I got a wake up call pretty darn early. It was R. She was asking why we weren't there yet. I explained to her that it was that evening that we would set the traps and the next day we would pick them up to bring to MHS. She was concerned because she had already stopped feeding them. And in a tiny old lady voice she said "and the kittens!". I thought quickly and told her to give them a little something but then that's it. I told her that I should have called and she said "yes you should have". Yipes!
We arrived around 7:30~8pm to set the traps. R nearly met us at the car and said that she didn't think she wanted us to use the traps, she had brought two of the traps into her house so that we wouldn't use them. She thought that she could coax the mama cats into her house and pick them up and put them in the traps herself. She told us that the cats occasionally come into her house and will sit on her lap and she felt confident that they would allow her to place them gently into the traps.
I knew this wouldn't work, especially since our tame cats will have nothing to do with the pet carrier, let alone, I would think, a live trap, but after looking at Jerome's expression, I begrudgingly changed course and said OK, we'll just concentrate on trying to gathering up the kittens.
This proved to be much more of a task than any of us had expected. Once the kittens suspected that we were after them, they scattered in all directions. It was ridiculous, even our tenant who was getting his motorcycle ready for a nice drive was cracking up listening to our attempts.
It took an hour or more...and I had to call in for backup; my son Justin. He had some experience with trying to capture a wild raccoon a while back that was on our property and unfortunately had a tin can stuck over his head, so I called him. Jerome and Justin ended up catching 3 of the 8 wild kittens, Jerome caught 2 of them on his own and then with Justin's help, the third.
In the meantime, back at the ranch...R was coaxing the adults into her house to try and get them into the traps. There was chaos everywhere. At one point I looked over at the house and Beta was climbing the height of the front door, screaming to get out of the house.
Once it started getting dark, we knew that we could do no more as far as kitten capture...I looked over at R and said, "we really need to use the traps". And with a swoosh of her hand, she halfheartedly agreed. So, we quickly set up three traps; two in the backyard and one at the side of the house. We put a dash of wet stinky cat food at the end of it then we put long beach-type towels over the traps. It is said to calm the animal once it is trapped and I think that it would be intriguing to a cat to go into something that is like a cave.
Then we left...knowing that we'd be back there at 7am. We needed to bring the kittens to their new temporary "socializing" home.
Next day; up and at 'em...at the neighbors by 7am-ish. As soon as we pull up I notice that the towel is no longer on top of the trap. I say to Jerome "she's just going to do whatever she wants"...
R meets us outside and says in a quiet voice "the kittens are in the shelter sleeping, you can probably catch them all easily". The shelter is made up of one of those storage tubs in which R cut a hole into the side and placed a warming lamp so that they would be warm during the cooler months. We brought in the large cat carrier and lined up the carrier door with the entrance of the homemade shelter. There were four kittens sleeping in the shelter. We opened the top of the tub and pushed the kitties inside the carrier. Out of four kittens that were sleeping inside, one escaped but we were happy to have the three.
We put the carrier in the car and go investigate our traps. We walk over to look at the first trap, the one that is missing the towel and quickly learn that we're wrong...the towel isn't missing, it is just torn to shreds and pulled into the trap. There were scraping marks in the dirt. Closer examination of the empty trap showed traces of blood and the trip totally bent all to hell. There is a bloody footprint on the top of the trap that looks like a raccoon or similar...what ever it was, it was able to get out of this trap!
The 2nd trap was tripped without successfully capturing anything...however, the third trap; our original trap had a nice little surprise in it: Delta! Thank God we got one! + the three additional kittens, which means that there are still two more.
We took off to get to our scheduled appointment at the Detroit Michigan Humane Society on Chrysler Drive in the D. We got there a few minutes before the doors opened (at 8:15am). We met up with the MHS Sterilization Programs Coordinator, filled out the paperwork and admitted Delta to get sterilized! Happy! Need to be back by 11am to pick her up.
Now to take these three kittens home and put them with their siblings in the kennel for intensive socialization.
I drove back to the D and picked up Delta, got her paperwork for sterilization and 1 year rabies shot, took her home and placed her (still in the trap) into the storage area above the garage that I had previously set up with newspaper and pieces of wood to set the trap on in order to keep her above the newspaper, just in case of bathroom incidents. This is where she stayed until the next day, when I would drive her back to R's house and release her. We fed her in the evening and put a water bowl in the trap so she could drink a little.
Monday was a particularly busy day. Now that I have the kittens, we have to have them come out of the cage and play with them, feed them, etc. a couple of times a day. Time consuming and not the easiest since they are not happy to be there and they are all teeth and claws when you try to get them back into the cage...a nearly impossible task. I started the laundry and did some quick cleaning, I went to my 15 minute massage and did my Meals on Wheels route, back home to pick up Delta, drive 45 minutes to her home to release her...at that time R came out to check to see how Delta was doing and watch the release. I told her that the next TNR event is at the end of June but we would like to capture the kittens before that. She told me that she actually would like to keep these kittens with her; she doesn't have anything to do if they are gone - that's fine, only now we have two more to trap. She also mentioned the orange kitty and that "Genie" really wants it. I told her that kitty still needs to be socialized and once it is, then Genie can have him.
Afterward, I headed to my parents to help with my dad and dialysis. Still hadn't eaten anything so while dad watched a movie, I went to Olga's Kitchen and tried to contact Genie to see if she was interested in the kitty. She is and told me that she is fine if it is still "wild", because she and her son can train him. She also wasn't sure if she wanted the orange one or whichever. We made the date for Saturday for her to come by the house and pick out the kitty - so I hope she does.
From dialysis I had a doctor appointment for my foot. Turns out I have a spur on my heel bone and that's what's been giving me the trouble. Finally back at the house to do some more socializing and also I had decided that I wanted the kennel in the living room rather than the basement since there is way more noise and activity in the living room. So we moved the cage, only having to get the kitties out and into cat carriers was drama in itself. Some of the kitties just are not having an easy time of it.