The first time

So here is where it all started.  I walk my three dogs around the neighborhood twice a day at minimum and in the process I meet a lot of my neighbors.  We talk about the dogs, then we talk about the weather, and finally we talk about the neighborhood.  A very nice woman a few blocks from me, lets call her J., was going through this process with me when a cat jumped onto her porch behind us.  J. told me all about the cat, Sassy, and Sassy’s many kittens who had been lovely, but for one reason or another were no longer with us.  J. said Sassy was pregnant yet again and she didn’t know what to do.  Apparently the neighbor across the street who also fed cats had told J. she would help her get Sassy fixed, but it just hadn’t happened and here we were.  I didn’t say anything, but I though in my head, I am sure it can’t be that hard, I’ll go home and make some phone calls and this should be easy.  I got home and trolled the internet for resources to get cats fixed for free.  I found the Mayors Alliance, called and left a message as well as sending an email explaining the situation.

Days later no response.  I thought, there has to be a way to fix this so I went deeper and found the TNR (Trap Neuter Return) courses offered by the Mayors Alliance.  I signed up for the next class held in a library in Queens and said nothing to J.  The whole thing seemed way too big for me and I didn’t want to get J’s hopes up if I wasn’t sure I could do it.

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The day of the workshop I arrived early with a notebook and pen ready to take notes.  It was a bit intense to say the least and I felt completely overwhelmed afterwards.

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Looking over the material when I got home I couldn’t even figure out how to make an appointment let alone trap a cat.

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Luckily they had given us the email address to the woman who runs the Mayors Alliance, Kathleen O’Malley.  With her help, I soon had the annual agreement signed and login credentials for the appointment portal via the ASPCA.

. . . I still felt overwhelmed

Pushing the panic down I spoke with J. to let her know what I had done and asked if she would be okay with me getting her Sassy fixed, she said yes.  I went onto the ASPCA rescue appointment system and didn’t see anything available for a month.

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At the time I didn’t know appointment opened up all of the time when others canceled and I just had to keep checking back as if I were buying concert tickets or an ebay item.  Another thing I did not understand were the dog appointments.  I thought if the portal said there were a certain number of dog appointments I was unable to to book a cat appointment.  Later I figured out they only limit the number of dog appointments and if there are any appointments at all, dog or cat, one can always book a cat appointment.

Example of open appointments

By the time I had completed all of this training Sassy had already had her kittens.  I spoke with  to go over what I had done so far and she agreed to let me help her get Sassy fixed once the kittens were eight weeks old.  That being said I could tell J. was nervous about the process.  Appointments open up at midnight on the second Tuesday of every month, so when it was time I stayed up late, clicked the refresh button and booked one appointment for a Saturday that Vlad could drive me to the Glendale stationary clinic.  I also booked an appointment to check out a box trap for the week before and the week after my vet appointment.

Finally the time had come and I took the train to Glendale to pick up my trap.  Vlad was busy and wasn’t able to drive, plus I thought it wouldn’t be that bad to take the train, I like reading.  By the time I got to the end of the train line and to the bus stop and hour and a half later I was a bit worn out.  I waited for the bus for forty minutes and nothing.  The construction works waiting with me were irritated, they had just finished their shift and wanted to go home.  At a certain point I realized I desperately needed to go to the bathroom and none of the stores nearby would allow that.  I gave in, hailed a taxi, and squirmed all of the way to the ASPCA trap bank.  Arriving nearly an hour after my appointment time I frantically knocked on the door and was allowed in by a very nice ASPCA person who allowed me to first use the restroom and then check out my trap.  I’m sure this is a normal day for them, but for me I was quite embarrassed.  In the office they had a teenage cat in a crate, she was rescued from an intersection and had tested positive for FeLV.  The staff was working to find her a home.

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I had my trap in hand and walked to the bus station just a block away near the mall.  The trap was light without anything in it and now that I was no longer stressed about getting there on time I felt I didn’t care how long it took me to get home.  From the bus to the train I went and on the train I got many funny looks.  Someone asked me if it was a crab trap, I answered politely with a “no”.  I guess the box trap does rather look like a crab trap, but I don’t think I would eat any crabs I caught in it.

Once I got home I took the trap over to J’s house to show her how we were going to feed Sassy in the trap each day until the day of the trapping.  I took the back door off and showed her how to inch the food a bit further in each day and she agreed to do so.  On the morning of the real trapping day I got a call from J.  She was nervous and didn’t want to do it any more.  She was worried about the kittens, she was worried about Sassy, she was worried.  I was able to talk her through it and told her “let’s just give it a try.  I’m sure I can catch the kittens and if not Sassy will be back before you know it.”  J. relented, but I was now nervous if anything happened to Sassy I would never be forgiven.  That morning J. met me at the door where I set the trap with some food.  J. went off to church so she didn’t have to see it happen and I walked a bit further down the block trying to act normal.

The neighbor upstairs had laughed at our trap saying if she were a cat she would never go in that trap. . . I was inclined to agree with her, but I though about the trapper that had run the workshop and I thought it can’t be made up that cats go into these traps.  Sassy walked up the steps to the apartment, sniffed around a bit, and walked right into the trap leaving a sharp satisfying snap of metal hitting metal on her way.  I quickly covered the trap with a sheet and carried Sassy and her cage back home to my bathroom.  I can’t express the feeling of joy I felt when that trap snapped!  I did it, and I did it all on my own, for the most part.  I felt like I could do anything, help anyone, and it was an amazing feeling.  The whole walk home I had a huge grin on my face and probably looked quite funny to people passing by.

Now that I had Sassy, it was time to catch her kittens.  They had been living under the steeply pitched roof of a neighbors shop next to the church.  I couldn’t figure out how int he world a trap could go up there safely and I had no idea how I was going to do it.  Armed with a can of tuna, a carrier, and immense patience I climbed up the wall of the garage abutting the outbuilding with the roof and waited.  Growing up in Southeastern Oregon I had hunted, but never trapped.  I had dug kittens out of wood piles and from under houses, but I was eight or nine at the time and fearless.  I willed myself to go back to that age mentally and get these kittens.  Soon a small head popped out from under the roof.  It saw me, hissed and ducked back into the shed.  I got my can of tuna out and made a small trail into the hole I had just seen the head come out of.  Looking into the dark I could tell the shed was packed with stuff.  The family was living in the rafters and would not be easy to catch.

After a while, hours, a face returned to the hole for a taste of tuna.  The face liked the tuna and wanted more.  Soon the face could only get tuna if it ate it out of my hand.  Slowly the face became braver and more brazen as I began to touch it’s scruff as it ate the tuna.  Nothing bad happened so the face became even more brave.  In a quick moment I scruffed the kitten, pulled it from the hole, got it into the carrier and slammed the door shut.  I absolutely could not believe it!  I had caught one kitten!!!  With shaking hands I called my mom, my sister, and Vlad practically screaming with joy.  I must have been running home with the carrier in my hand.  We didn’t have a great set up yet for kittens so I put it in with its mom for the time being until we had the right equipment.

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With two in the bathroom I had two more to go.  I took a break and returned to the roof, but for the rest of the day I could not catch the other two kittens.  I thought long and hard about how to do it and at the end of the day asked Vlad to take me to the sporting goods store.  There we purchased a fishing net that I hoped would be helpful.

The next day I returned to my perch knowing J would want Sassy to be released if I couldn’t catch the remaining kittens.  I had company now from the local fixit man and at times J.  I thought it would be better to be alone during the process, but at the same time I knew they were trying to be friendly and just wanted to be part of this.

When everyone had left out of lack of activity I remained hunched over on the wall.  The two kittens had come out to eat the bait I had left for them, but every time they saw the net they would run back under the roof.  I made a trail of tuna leading them far enough away from the hole I thought I would have time to net them before they could get back and I waited.  Sure enough they wiggled out onto the roof and followed the trail of tuna.  In an instant I swooped the net over the two kittens and pulled them and the net to me.  They were furious and hissing, without thinking I scruffed one, almost lost the other and somehow managed to get them both into the carrier locking the door safely behind them.  My hands were shaking and blood dripped onto my pants.  They had bitten and clawed me in all of the activity and I hadn’t felt a thing.  Again I called my sister with shaking hand and told her the good news.  My sister, a veterinarian, made sure I knew how important it was for me to wash the scratches carefully and throughly to prevent infection.  She recommended I scrub and scrub long after it seemed necessary.  Vlad came to meet me and I had J come out to see her kittens.  Again I felt so proud of myself for making this happen!

We set the kittens up in a playpen we purchased online through Amazon (Prevue Pet Products Premium/Premium Cat Home, Black) and set the kittens up to get them nice enough so we could find them homes.

Meanwhile we took Sassy to the Glendale ASPCA at 7am, met all of the staff and procedures for the first time, and picked her up without a problem at 5pm that evening.  The ASPCA Glendale staff were so kind, the walked me through the entire process, helped me fill out the paperwork, and told me everything I needed to know.  When I got Sassy home that evening she had a little less of an ear and was happy to eat.

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Changing her papers wasn’t something I was prepared to do smell wise.  It was intense and when she finally did defecate I was happy my cats use a litter box.  I did it though and made it through the two day recovery period without any problems.  Cage in hand I brought Sassy back to J’s and let her go with J watching.  That evening I got a call from a worried J that Sassy hadn’t come back for dinner yet.  I said that was fine, it was normal, everything was okay, but in my head I was freaking out.  I didn’t know if it was normal, I didn’t know if it was okay and I worried about Sassy until J texted me not long after to let me know she had some for her dinner.

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Throughout this Vlad and I worked with the kittens to get them nice and to find them homes.  We had no idea what we were doing.  My coming from Southern Oregon didn’t help, they don’t have fleas there and I didn’t know kittens in Brooklyn had them.  We really should have given them flea medication the moment the came in our house, but again we didn’t know.  A week or so later the kittens were tame and ready to find homes, but I noticed a bald spot on one of their feet, and then another on a different leg.  The dreaded ringworm!

I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know how to handle this.  None of the people we had talked to about adopting the kittens wanted them now, not with ringworm as a possibility.  I reread all of the handouts from the workshop, went over everything, searched online, called the ASPCA hotline, and finally was somehow connected to an admissions office.  I say somehow, because this office is not advertised, there is no number to call, in fact I am unsure if it is real or not, but the man on the other line is kind and helpful and understood I was in a corner with ringworm.  I had read online the place treats ringworm in the cats and kittens they take care of and the woman who connected me to the office confirmed this.  I was somehow able to set up an appointment to have the kittens tested and evaluated to possibly get into the adoption program and they passed!  They were be treated for ringworm, if that is what they had, and when they were ready they found homes where the adopters were properly screened and there would be a safety net of the ASPCA to fall back on.