Fateful Encounters

So much has happened since I last wrote, it seems almost impossible to fit it all into one page.  A wonderfully nice couple were trapping for their first time and I was asked if I had time to help them.  The project was overseen by Neighborhood Cats, Lois and Meredith, who were incredibly kind and helpful throughout the process.  The colony was one that had existed for a few years, but had rapidly spun out of control without any birth control.  We had some specific targets on the first day we trapped, two pregnant females.

We set up a box trap in the back yard with the bottle string apparatus and a drop trap in the driveway.  Before too long we had several cats eating under the drop trap.  The trapper pulled the string for his first catch of two cats we funneled them into the box traps.  We only had three appointments and the new trappers had yet to learn the art of trolling for appointments on the ASPCA scheduling page.  Not long after the first catch the other trapper, with the bottle propping open the door, pulled her string for the first time to catch a third cat of the evening.*

*forgive me if I have the order a bit off on this trapping or if I have forgotten any key elements, it seems like ages ago since it happened and I may have blurred some of the details

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It was pretty exciting watching people catch cats for the first time and they did such a great job at it.  It was hard to leave that evening knowing we probably could have caught more, but this was their first trapping and it was probably better to have it start a bit slower so they could get used to the experience.  After dropping me off they whisked the cats off to a caretaker Neighborhood Cats had arranged for pre and post operation.

Meanwhile in the garage there had been a litter of very young kittens and their mother.  The trappers had closed the mom in the garage and planned to catch her and the kittens the following day.  They would transport her and the kittens to a foster home until the kittens were old enough for adoption and the mother for TNR.  Unfortunately the mother was let out of the garage the next morning and the kittens had been moved.  I haven’t had any experience finding small kittens so I was worried it might be a lost cause.  However, I was wrong.  A strong rain came the next few days and the mother moved the kittens back into the garage.  The trappers were able to get her and the kittens to their foster home.

When the trappers brought their cats to their appointments they found one of the cats was too ill to be fixed.  Through the amazing Lois and Meredith they were able to find a place for the cat to be cared for and administered its medication until it could be fixed the following week.

The first leg of helping the new trappers done, I focused back on my current colonies trying to clean them up and finish them off as best I could.  I went back to the colony where I caught Soda Pop and was still trying to catch the elusive calico female.  Setting up my drop trap I sat in my car with a string in hand  and a good view of the cats through my rear view mirror.  It wasn’t long before they were eating under the drop trap.  Two I had already caught pigged out an then left for other adventures.

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Not long after a little tuxedo lady showed up, we had never seen her before.  I was glad to see her.  I pulled the string and trapped her!  For some reason every time I get ready to pull that string I get rather stressed out.  Every mistake I could make flashes before my eyes and I worry I wont get it right.  This time the trap fell safely over the cat and I had a little tuxedo female.

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Once I had transferred her into a cage and reset the trap I waited, but the calico never came.  The caretaker said she hadn’t been around as much after a fire hit the apartment building her other caretaker had lived in.  I felt badly as it was the final cat I had promised to catch and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to.

Days later I decided to stop by and check my courtyard colony, just in case there was another heavily pregnant female sneaking around again.  Low and behold there was a very large marbled tabby!  I was very upset and rather manic at the thought of yet another pregnant female in the colony that would not end.  I wasn’t able to make an appointment that weekend and I was sick with worry about if the cat would have a litter before I could catch her.  A few days past and I was able to try to trap the pregnant female.  I set up my traps in their usual hot spots and waited.  The cats came and went, thought about going in the traps, but didn’t.  At one point I caught Phi again, but that was it.  The pregnant cat would not come.

Sitting on the steps waiting for the traps to click shut I noticed out of the corner of my eye the very skinny cat I had seen the last time I trapped at the site.  The cat was filthy and so skinny she looked near death, that being said she looked a bit better than the last time I saw her.  She sat in the space between the glass and the screen of a basement window, a small hole scratched into the mesh.  I watched as tenants of the building walked past her, not seeing her, or making kissing noises to say hello to her.  They didn’t seem to realize how ill the cat looked, that she was just skin and bones.  I set up a trap near her spot in the window, but she was too smart for me.  I went home empty handed, no pregnant cat and no sick cat.  When I packed up my traps there was some bait still remaining on the ground.  The sick cat quickly cleaned it up as if she had been waiting for me to leave the whole time.

IMG_8816IMG_8817The next morning before work I went to check on the colony and realized the cat I had thought pregnant was actually Hippo, one of the previously TNRed cats by an “Unknown To Me” trapper!

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I was so relieved Hippo was not pregnant, but a little angry at him if I am to be honest.  This meant I had only one target left, the sick cat.  There was still a tuxedo cat I had never been able to catch, but I had not seen him in some time during my checks and I thought he could wait.

The next evening I returned this time with my drop trap and remote trigger and the goal of catching the sick cat not quite knowing what I would do once I had her.  I just knew at the very least she needed to be fixed and vaccinated, but I wasn’t sure why she was sick and was worried it might not be safe to have her TNRed.  I figured I would figure it out if I was able to catch her.

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I set up the trap with the remote trigger for the first time ever, put down the bait, and stepped back to my roost far enough away that I wasn’t obvious, but could still see.  The cat hopped out of the window, looked at where I was sitting and carefully crawled under the drop trap to the food.  I couldn’t believe it had happened so quickly.  I pulled the trigger and had her!  Carefully I lined the box trap up to the drop trap and transferred her safely in.

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She was so thin, and so confused.  My heart broke a little.
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When I got her home is was very apparent that this lady was relieved to be inside.  We set up up in a kitty “playpen” with a bed, litter box, and unlimited food/water.  Handling her was painful, like picking up a baby bird.  I could feel every bone in her body and each bone felt hollow and easily broken.  I named her Lyla and went to bed that evening hoping she would be okay.

IMG_8856The next day we made an appointment with our veterinarian’s office, Bensonhurst Veterinary Care, to get her checked out and see what could be done to help her.  It was crazy to think about how the stars had aligned for us to have taken Lyla in.  So many things could have happened to keep her from coming into our home a waypoint to a real forever home.  It is wild and overwhelming to think of it all.