Walking my dogs over the weekend while picking up the empty cat food tins I had left the night before I noticed a cat eating her meal in the front area of a building near my second colony site. While I stood there mouth open thinking about my next step, most likely picture taking, a man exited the building. I quickly asked if he was feeding the cat and it luckily turned out he was. As it turned out he was yet another super of a building who was also a caretaker of Community Cats. He and his wife told me the history of the colony and the devastating losses they had endured in the past with the many hazards of cats living in a dense urban environment. Without knowing I was going to meet them I had already scheduled five appointments for the following weekend and let them know I would be ready to trap as soon as the next day. I explained to them about not feeding the cats, how they would be vaccinated and ear-tipped, and other elements of the trapping process. I gave them my card and went home to start planning.
The next day I was out early in the morning with my box traps and drop trap. They caretakers originally thought there were about five cats currently in their colony, down from the 11 they had started with in the summer. When I arrived there were three little kittens running around as well. I set up my box traps where they normally feed the cats and a drop trap near where the kittens were coming in and out of the courtyard.
Soon the caretakers came out to talk with me and it wasn’t long before the cats followed. They know the people they trust and were ready for breakfast. It had rained hard the night before and they were sure to be hungry. I was worried because the caretaker had snuck some food to the cats knowing how hungry they would be, I wasn’t sure if this would result in my not catching any, but it didn’t seem to be the end of the world in the long run. I was able to catch two kittens quickly snacking under the drop trap. We didn’t know where the third one had gone. We were also able to catch a black cat and a brown tabby cat. I am sad to say I can’t really remember the order of whom was caught when. I think I caught the black cat using the drop trap before I caught the kittens and then a brown tabby cat later that afternoon using a box trap.
That being said I was so tired after this trapping week I wasn’t thinking well. Usually I am tired, but not to this level. I think the difference may have been the feeding schedule for the cats. They normally eat breakfast at 5am, lunch at 12pm, and dinner at 5pm. This is very different from what I normally encounter which is either no caretaker or a 10am and 7pm feeing schedule. I was starting to feel a bit stressed and worried that I wouldn’t be able to pull this one off physically. Just at that moment the caretaker offered to keep an eye on the traps while I was at work, or at home. They have cameras set up all around the building and can watch the cats and the traps all day. It was a huge burden lifted off my shoulders and it felt great to be able to get her involved in the process as well.
The next day the caretaker took over testing different baits and I went to work. She actually caught a big beautiful brown tabby that had already been TNRed by another trapper. That’s how good she was with the bait. By the end of that day we still hadn’t caught the final kitten and I was beginning to worry. The other two we had caught were not well and I took them to the ASPCA the following evening after work. My colleagues are getting used to me showing up to work with a carrier full of kittens and the accompanying diaper bag of items. The kittens had “triangle faces” which according to Hannah Shaw, the Kitten Lady, is a very bad sign. I was thankful when admissions allowed them into the Kitten Hospital. I never realize how much stress kittens give me until I am able to give them on to a proper doctor.
The next day the caretaker was able to catch a brown tabby female and Penbrook, who is a recent TNR graduate who apparently didn’t get the message.
Finally on Wednesday the caretaker caught the third kitten. I was so relieved as I know it was stressing her out a great deal and would have left a bad taste in her mouth over trapping.
This kitten was a little black female that seemed a bit healthier than her two siblings. We emailed the ASPCA to get on the waitlist and took her home to de-flea and fill her belly with some Babycat loaf.
On Wednesday night I did everything I could to try to catch another cat. I kept feeling like I wasn’t doing well enough even though we had been catching at least one cat a day, never mind that some of them had already been caught. I stayed out far too late and left without a cat to show for it. I had been lucky enough to score three appointment via the Dyker Heights two day transport and took the cats there the next morning. The nice part about this location is I can do it with or without the use of a car, a cab can easily transport me the 15 minutes it takes to get too and from the parking lot. The bad thing about the Dyker Heights location is I don’t get to see all of the people I adore at the Glendale clinic.
I tried trapping again on Thursday this time abandoning my box traps at the feeding site and opting for the drop trap on the sidewalk near the colony site. Recently I have been finding, in my neighborhood at least, every time I ask someone to withhold food and they actually do it is somewhat of a disaster. After all of the times I have felt upset about seeing food everywhere on a trapping day it is funny that it often works better when the caretaker isn’t able to help themselves and sneaks dry food to the cats behind my back. It is only when the caretaker withholds wet food and keeps the dry food around that it seems to work for me, otherwise the cats simply disappear to another caretaker blocks away until I leave their territory. It doesn’t seem possible to get all of the other people to stop feeding in such a dense area so I have to think there is another way to do this even though all of the literature really hits home the need to withhold food prior to trapping. This colony had rather confirmed this idea for me and I am thinking I will go with this the next time I am working with a caregiver. It hurts them to withhold food so maybe allowing dry food would help us both?
Back to me setting up the drop trap on Thursday night: I fried up some burger and brought it over hot and pungent. Not long after I caught a little black male cat whom I named Oscar the Grouch. I set up the trap again and almost caught a second black cat, but I had stepped too far away and the time between when the string was pulled and when the trap was tripped as too slow, the cat got away. I don’t think it was scary for the cat so I thin he/she will be back again when I have another trapping session. I took Oscar home, he growled the whole way, and I soon realized I may have caught a Friendly. The next day I decided it would be best to evaluate Oscar before making any decisions about what should happen to his ear.
A few days later I am still thinking. He is ever so sweet when I am in the room, but when I leave he hides in a dark corner and seems rather miserable. He tries to get out the window each night, even though the glass easily prevents this. My decision to find Roo a home was easy, she would have died had I put her back on the street. With Oscar I feel he would be okay without a home, he was in fine condition when I caught him. I am just not sure what to do and will have to think a bit more and ask for more advice.
This Thursday I am attending a workshop put on by the ASPCA to help build community relations. I am very much looking forward to gaining some tools on how to better communicate with others about the TNR process. The best part is a fellow trapper I met at another ASPCA workshop, how to spot abuse and the legal system surrounding companion animals, is going to meet be prior to the workshop for coffee. This trapper lives geographically close to me, but their territory is a completely different world of fields and a lesser density of people, but possibly a higher density of Community Cats. I am excited to learn more about their experiences and thrilled to have possibly made my first TNR friend beyond the older women I frequently accost while waiting to check out at spay/neuter appointments.