Recently I have become addicted to Community Cats Podcast and have begun to really learn how to better conduct myself throughout the TNR process. In a previous blog entry I complained about not being able to get caregivers to withhold food and the “lose my number” technique suggested to me by another trapper. After listening to the podcast I think it is more important to be kind and to try to understand where the other person is coming from rather than being right all of the time. I feel the podcast is sucking me further and further into the TNR and Cat Welfare community, a very addictive rabbit hole to be sure.
Taking a cue from the podcast I decided to go back to the original colony I began this whole TNR project with and try my best to get it to 100%. I left the colony in September with a heavy heart after two kittens had passed away from panleukopenia and I had been unable to catch the final Queen before she had another litter. This time I went back to the very kind caregiver who lets me into her backyard whenever works best for me. I set up a few days before, leaving the traps in the yard and having her put food in them when she fed them. On the first day of trapping Rusty, the cat I had previously fixed, supervised and tried to eat the bait any chance she got. I finally let her go into the trap and released her right away so she would leave the bait alone. It worked, but I still couldn’t get the other cat, whom I decided to call Herman, to go in. I thought Herman was the boyfriend of the Sassy J. across the street and wanted him as one more toward the goal of 100%.
Herman was perched on a small ledge near the cat entrance to the back yard and didn’t seem bothered by my traps. That being said he didn’t seem bothered to go in them either. Finally in an act of desperation that evening I set the trap and whet off to set my drop trap two blocks over where I had spotted a member of the second colony I have been working on.
In recent weeks I have begun to feed the cats on the block near my apartment. They are the cats I have already TNRed, but appear to have no caretaker. Our Kitty’s brother is part of this colony as well as her mother. In fact, Buttons and Betsy (see TNR Graduates) have taken to following me around the blocks as I place the tins of food and water down each night around 10pm along the curb and in the dark grassy areas near trees, and pick them back up the next morning before anyone notices.
In preparation for this trapping I stopped feeding the cats two days prior. That evening when I went to the site where I had often seen a cat white with black spots there he was waiting for me.
I set a box trap with some tuna for bait and crossed to the street to wait. Moments later Penbrook had been caught and I was covering his trap with the cloth and loading him onto my cart.
We wheeled over to the other trapping site to check on how things were going. It had been less than an hour since setting the trap, but when I returned there was Herman sitting pretty waiting for me. I know they wait until the moment I leave before they relax and start exploring/eating.
The next evening I set up my trap again in the caretakers back yard and left to go get a cup of tea. An hour or so later I check the trap, nothing so I set up a drop trap a few blocks away where I had seen a smaller black kitty lurking in a driveway, using rotisserie chicken (another tip from the podcast) and some leftover steak from my dinner I reeled out my line and prepared to wait. Minutes later a large furry black cat came from the driveway and sat down to eat, at first carefully and then with more confidence. Waiting until he was hunkered down eating with his back to me I pulled the string and caught Jasper!
Several hours later I came back to check the box trap in the backyard again and to my surprise there was a brown cat waiting for me. I didn’t dare to hope it could be the elusive Sassy T., she rarely came over to this yard according to the caregiver, but there was a very similar cat in my trap. Sure enough the next day I heard from another caretaker asking if I had caught Sassy T. as she hadn’t made it to breakfast that morning. I couldn’t believe it! After all the hours I had spent with the drop trap trying to tease her into it and I catch her in a box trap in a matter of hours without my sitting there in the cold the entire time. I caught my white whale!!!
The whole thing makes me wonder how important is withholding food really? I know it is helpful, but is it as important as all the literature makes it sound? This Sassy T. has food in front of her all day every day and I was still able to catch her with some good bait. Maybe I have no idea what a luxury trapping hungry cats is like since I have never been able to properly achieve that goal? In the dense urban setting of Brooklyn it seems nearly impossible to get everyone on board with the no food policy prior to trapping. Asking caretakers to withhold food nearly breaks their hearts every time and often there are people feeding that no one else is even aware of. I have tried knocking on doors to try to build communication before a trapping, but often the person on the other side doesn’t answer, or I am not clear enough about how important not feeing is. I guess that is something I still very much need to work on.
The surgeries went well and were uneventful and soon the little kitties were let back to their homes. I filled my bathtub with bleach and water and began to prepare for the next trapping.