Cats are Life’s Teachers – Lessons I Learned from Penny

Me and my “Teacher” – April, 2017

 

We are coming up on one year since Penny crossed the Bridge. Has it really been a whole year? It feels like yesterday, yet it feels like a lifetime ago.

I’ve been “meaning to” write this post for a long time. Since before Penny passed. I felt now was the best time to finally get this out to the world.

Who Was the Mommy Kitten?

We once used an animal communicator to help us figure out what to do with Mischief’s behavioral issues (more on that in another post). There was a little time left after we covered everything I wanted to cover, so I asked the communicator to check in on Penny to see how she was feeling with her kidney disease. I wanted to make sure everything we were doing was helping her.
I was still on the fence about this whole animal communicator thing. And either this lady was REALLY in tune with cat breeds and behavior, or she really could communicate with them.

What she said at the end of our talk blew my mind.

“Penny feels that you are her pet and she is your master.”

Yeah, no shit?

She described Penny as strong (physically and mentally), extremely intelligent, patient, and very charismatic.

That she was. All of the above.

The animal communicator even told me that Penny felt she was VERY patient with The Kits since I rescued them and she wanted to make sure I acknowledged that!

In Tune with Penny

I often describe Penny not just as my “soul cat”, but my “soul mate” in general.

We finished each other’s sentences (if she could speak “human”) from the get-go. I understood her and she clearly understood me.

When she was still at Petsmart with the rescue and I brought the folks up to meet her and Weeny, I knew before I left that we understood each other. She used the communal litter box the volunteers set up in the cat room while they cleaned their cages. It was a hooded litter box and one of the male cats was on top of the box bullying her while she was trying to poop.

When she jumped out, she had blood and diarrhea all over her bum. I told the volunteer and helped her clean Penny up.

Before I left, Penny looked up at me. I read her eyes. “I blew it, didn’t I?”

And I told her, “No, Penny, not at all! You’re still coming home with me on Adoption Night! We will get you all fixed up!”

I knew it was stress related. She didn’t want to be there. She just arrived at Petsmart for her “big chance” a couple of weeks before I met her. Linda, the director, told me that Penny strongly protested being there every chance she got!

That day, I KNEW she was something really special.

Penny the day after we adopted her - May, 2012
Penny the day after we adopted her – May, 2012. Her eyes look sad in her early pictures. We often felt she was bonded with another cat at the rescue and was missing her friend.

Her first night home, she came out into the kitchen to talk to us. My dad looked in her eyes and said, “There’s SOMEBODY in there.”

Boy, was he was right.

I think our bond had something to do with the fact that Penny and I are both Leos. My birthday is August 7th and Penny’s was August 8th.

lesson #1 – nothing is impossible

Penny taught me, my family, her vets and the world this lesson over and over and over again.

Many of you know Penny was a diabetic cat. She was in remission, meaning she was diet controlled, when she passed away. But the road to get her there was long and difficult.

After she lost her first remission, she spent ten LONG months in insulin resistance and I couldn’t even get her “regulated”, much less back into remission.

I posted this post on Facebook just about three years ago when Penny and I were having a “pajama party”. Basically, that means that I got up in the middle of the night to test her blood glucose since her numbers were suddenly running lower than usual. What I didn’t know then was that Penny was starting to head back into remission at full speed.

At this point, she was on a high dose of Levemir because of the insulin resistance. When a diabetic cat’s numbers go into the “danger zone”, you have to feed high carb wet food, re-test in 15 minutes, and keep repeating until their numbers are in the “safe zone” and steadily rising.

We had PLENTY of these parties at 2am!! I was convinced Penny was doing it on purpose so she could enjoy her beloved Fancy Feast Gravy Lovers food, which was the high-carb wet food I used to get her blood glucose to rise.

As you can see, when my friend asked me if there was a chance at a second remission, the tone of my reply was HIGHLY doubtful. That’s because I was always told by seasoned lay people that once we lost that first remission, a second one was unlikely.

But they didn’t know my Penny.

And, apparently, neither did I!

She broke ALL of the rules. Even when she made them herself!

lesson #2 – WHEN it’s important enough, we find a way

“I CANNOT pill a cat to save my life!”

“I can’t torture my cat by poking her ears for blood multiple times per day!”

“If my cat gets kidney disease, I’ll just humanely euthanize so they don’t suffer.”

I have said ALL OF THE ABOVE before meeting Penny.

When she was diagnosed with Feline Diabetes, I was saying AND thinking that we could NEVER do all of this. The insulin injections, changing her diet, home testing…

I couldn’t even brush this cat without her biting me!

The morning after she was diagnosed and already having been unsuccessful with giving her the first insulin injection the night before, I woke up feeling hopeless. Physically sick with heartbreak, I just wanted the nightmare to end.

I really thought I was going to have to euthanize her.

i just had to figure out a way!

Then I looked into her big, green, trusting eyes.

She waited so long for this forever home with her “very own” humans.

She was only 5 years old.

When my back was to the wall, and it was either treat her diabetes or put her to sleep, I realized that it literally was DO or DIE.

So I DID.

When Penny was diagnosed with feline chronic kidney disease, I had yet another wave of self-doubt.

“I can stick a cat with needles like a pin cushion but I still can’t pill them!”

“Penny will NEVER sit through daily sub q fluids!”

Yeah?

Watch me!

She was only 7 when the vet diagnosed her with end-stage CKD and she almost died. I had to TRY. I had to give her a chance at a quality life and give us a chance at more time together.

It’s funny how what we THINK we will do changes when we are actually IN that situation, isn’t it?

Penny taught me that there is ALWAYS a solution, ALWAYS a way around what seems impossible…WHEN IT’S IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO YOU.

lesson #3 – take nothing for granted

I didn’t have enough time with both Penny AND Weeny. Weeny was only with us for 3 1/2 years when she succumbed to mast cell cancer, and Penny was only with us for 5 1/2 years.

I really thought I would grow old with Penny and Weeny!

Yet, it’s funny…I remember looking at Weeny one night, shortly before she was diagnosed with cancer, and could not picture her as a senior cat. It’s like I KNEW…

Weeny the Wacko being Weeny - 2013
Weeny the Wacko being Weeny – 2013

slow down…

We get so busy sometimes that we forget to stop and enjoy those little moments that make Life so great. ESPECIALLY with our pets!

Not the big moments… The LITTLE moments. Those little day to day things that help us get through even the toughest times.

Like Weeny running through the house like a little maniac, squeaking at the top of her lungs, while playing.

Like Penny and her never-ending tail wag. Her tail wagged every waking hour. And didn’t stop until she was in a DEEP sleep.

Mom bringing miller moths inside for Weeny so she could hunt. And when the miller got away, Mom and me climbing all over the furniture to bring it back down into the “little hunter’s” reach.

While testing my dying father’s blood glucose, Penny came running into the bedroom and onto the bed, trampling my poor father, because she heard the meter “beep”. She associated eating raw chicken with that “beep” because that’s how I trained her to test HER blood glucose! We ALL laughed so hard. We NEEDED that laughter! It’s one of my favorite Penny Memories!

Penny, Dad and Mom in 2013
Penny sucking up Grandpoppy Kitten’s attention while mooching turkey off of her Grandmommy Kitten – 2013

Tabby sitting half in and half out of the house to enjoy the warmth outside while still enjoying the central air conditioning inside.

Tabby sitting outside - 2011
You thought I was kidding? Tabby enjoying the heat and AC at the same time on the back step – 2011

These little moments make rough days bearable.

Which is why I share them each day on social media.

lesson #4 – live in the moment

This is quite possibly the most life-changing and important lesson I’ve learned IN MY LIFE.

This is one I’ve always struggled to put into practice.

how humans live

In 12-Step recovery, we learn “One Day at a Time” or “ODAT”.

And I suffer from the disease of “projection”.

Projecting the outcome of a situation before it even happens. And, of course, it’s NEVER a happy outcome! Example: The phone rings and before even looking at the caller ID, I think it’s a bill collector or work calling me in.

My mom is very guilty of this one, which is where I probably got it from. EVERY SINGLE YEAR, in August, she starts talking about how Winter is here and the days are getting shorter. Yet, sunset in NJ in August is STILL close to 8pm and it’s usually 90+ degrees when Mom starts her “Winter Talk”!

Dreading Monday when I wake up on Sunday morning.

A LOT of us do this!!

how cats live

Cats don’t don’t live in the past or future like we do! They only know the moment! Penny didn’t anticipate her death, even though it was imminent for almost two years!

The Yard Cats don’t care if the forecast is calling for rain the next seven days. They are just enjoying the nice sunny and warm weather they are experiencing RIGHT NOW.

Trouble, Oreo and Rascal
(Outside) L-R: Trouble and Oreo
(Inside) Rascal. Trouble and Oreo enjoying a rare warm Winter day in 2018, just a few weeks before Oreo crossed The Bridge.

There’s one thing to plan for the future. Of course we should! It’s necessary for a successful and happy life!

But so is LIVING IN THE MOMENT.

Since Penny came into my life, I make a conscious effort to stay in the moment more often!!

lesson #5 – the strong don’t give up – ever!

Penny is one of THE strongest souls that ever came in to my life. No understatement!

As many times as Penny’s health knocked her down…with the diabetes, spinal arthritis, dental problems, digestive issues and then kidney disease, she ALWAYS got back up swinging.

As if to say, “Is that all you got?”

She was a force to be reckoned with in every way. Ask any of the vets and vet techs that ever worked with her. Ask Linda, the director of Jersey State Animal Rescue, the rescue I adopted her from!

In her final weeks, when she really started to decline, she didn’t give up. Whenever she felt well enough, she tried to eat, tried to participate with the family, and even hunted.

Penny taught The Kits to hunt black crickets by the basement door where they got in. She taught them to catch their prey and bring it upstairs. (Penny would bring them up, howling with the live bug in her mouth, with its little legs dangling out of her mouth!) One night, about a week before she passed, Mischief caught one and proudly brought it up to the kitchen.

Penny was really sick at this point. But once she heard Mischief bring the cricket upstairs, she came out from her hiding spot and snatched the cricket right out from under Mischief’s nose and ate it alive.

The night before she passed, she hunted a flying bug in the kitchen. She was so sick and at that point, she wasn’t eating anymore. But she STILL had the desire and ability to do what cats are born to do, which is to HUNT.

she just didn’t give up!

In her final moments, in so much pain and so sick, she still managed to jump up on the windowsill to watch the squirrels outside.

She watched those squirrels during her last conscious moments.

To the very end, Penny NEVER gave up.

When Life gets gnarly, as it often does, I will remember that.

It will give me the strength to KEEP pushing forward, even when I want to give up!

A Lifetime

I only touched on a few of the MAJOR lessons. I could, and really should, write a book on this topic. At some point, I’m sure, I WILL.

“People are put into our life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.”

So are our pets. And most of the time, it’s only a “season”.

But the “reason” is evident.

And the lessons are a “lifetime”!

Penny sitting in the window bird watching in 2013
Penny sitting in the window bird watching in 2013

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All treatments, foods and supplements mentioned in this blog are based on my own research, experience and done with my vet’s knowledge and consent. Consult with your vet as necessary.

 

 

LOST CAT! Some Tips to Help You Bring Kitty Home!

But First! A Couple of Stories…

Before I get into tips to help you find your missing kitty, I wanted to share a couple of stories.

Blue

Blue went missing in my neighborhood December, 2017, just as an early deep freeze set in. This deep freeze lasted about a month. Blue was an indoor/outdoor cat who was outside when their neighbor’s shed caught on fire. Blue’s owner corralled his cats inside before he called 911, but Blue never came in. By the time the fire department came and left, Blue was nowhere to be found.

His owner just about knocked himself out to find Blue over the next couple of months. He rode around on his bicycle with a flashlight during sub-zero weather the first two weeks and got in touch with every feral cat caregiver in the area. He followed up with sightings by setting humane traps baited with stinky food and put up flyers. His daughter posted all over social media. Our entire block was on high alert.

At one point they believed Blue was living outside at another house about a half mile away. But they never did trap him. I was on high alert because I have my own colony just a half mile from Blue’s home in the other direction and was in constant communication with Blue’s owner.

But, Blue never was found.

His owner stopped here about six months after Blue went missing to ask me a question on another issue.

I inquired, “Did you ever find Blue?” He replied that they did, in fact, find Blue when they opened their pool a few weeks before. His body was found under the pool cover. Blue must have hid under the pool cover when he was frightened by the fire. They never thought to check under there. The heartbreaking part was knowing he likely froze to death.

Sometimes we get so busy looking far and wide that we don’t think to look right under our noses.

Blue's social media post when his owners were looking for him.
Blue’s social media post when his owners were looking for him.

Blacky

Blacky is my neighbor’s indoor/outdoor cat. He hangs out here the better part of the day when it’s nice outside and he eats here regularly.

One day I was outside mowing the lawn when my neighbor, Rose, stopped over in a panic because Blacky never came home the previous night. Most nights he will come home when she calls him and he stays inside overnight.

The last time I saw him was the previous day in the afternoon when he came here to mooch food. She feared him dead because he has his routine and sticks with it. But I knew differently. I had a feeling he was alive somewhere. I feared he was sick and was hiding. Blacky is a true survivor who has lived in several towns in South Jersey and survived Superstorm Sandy while living at the Jersey Shore.

So, I sprang into action. I searched EVERYWHERE with my Mag Lite. Day and night. Called him during every feral feeding since he often came over during their feeding time. I posted on social media and alerted all of the neighbors on our block since Blacky was known to be the Man About Town. His mama went next door to my other across-the-street neighbor and asked them to check their barn since they often have it open during the day while doing yard work. I even crawled under my next-door neighbor’s barn, where Fluffy once had The Kits tucked away, and shined a flashlight to see if he was under there. Nothing.

By Day Three, I Was Starting to Panic

The third morning, I was REALLY getting worried. My hopes of finding Blacky alive were fading and fading fast.

While I was out during the morning Yard Cat feeding, I started calling him. I kept picturing Blacky’s face in my mind and willing him to let me know where he was. I told him I couldn’t help him if I didn’t know where he was. It occurred to me to look UP. I spent so much time checking under things and in bushes that it didn’t occur to me to look up in the trees. Maybe something chased him up the tree and he couldn’t get down? He’s so quiet-spoken, I’m not sure I would hear him if he was stuck up in a tree.

Just as I was saying out loud to myself while looking for him, “I bet he got his dumb ass stuck up in a tree!”, I heard it. A loud “MEOW!” from across the street. It sounded like a cat in heat but any cat on this block is neutered, unless there was a new one I didn’t know about!

I started making my way across the street to the house next door to Rose’s. And I saw his dumb little face in the window of the barn door, crying his little heart for me to come save him!

I got the neighbor to let me into the barn. Blacky knows them since he hangs out on their property all the time. But he wouldn’t make himself known to them while they were in there looking for him. He cried for me when I called his name. But wouldn’t come out until I asked them to leave us alone for a bit and I brought back a can of his favorite food to crack open, knowing he would come out once he heard the can open.

And he did.

But he was skittish. Starving. And I’m sure mildly dehydrated because it was hot that week and he was stuck in that hot barn for three full days.

He wasn’t himself

When his mama Rose came to collect him, I asked her to bring back a carrier because I thought he should be inside for a while so she could thoroughly check him out and make sure he’s eating, holding down food, etc.

Blacky when I found him in the neighbor's barn - May 2018
Blacky when I found him trapped in the neighbor’s barn – May 2018

He was SCARED. So scared that he hid when his beloved mama came in to get him. I had to feed him more food to coax him out. Then she went in for the grab to get him in the carrier so he could go inside for the day.

Blacky, safe and sound and heading home for a while to rest up and recover after his ordeal.
Blacky, safe and sound and heading home for a while to rest up and recover after his ordeal.

What Do Blacky and Blue Both Have in Common?

They are both allowed to go outside. Blacky is one thing. His mama, Rose, found him as a feral cat when she lived down the Jersey Shore. He was already neutered and ear tipped when she found him. He never forgot his feral roots. Although I strongly suggest people keep their cats as indoor-only cats unless they are caring for a feral cat colony, I know Blacky and know how impossible that is for him.

However, Blue’s owner adopted him from a shelter and his owner likely entered a contract to keep him indoors-only. They let all of their cats outside. In the US, in our town, on our street, in this day and age, there is no way I would let my cats outside. I don’t even like my ferals living out there! Blue’s owners have since adopted another kitty and are doing the same thing…letting new kitty out with all of their others. It’s frustrating because I feel it will only be a matter of time before he puts our entire street on “high alert” once again to help him find a cat that he LETS outside to begin with!

That being said, indoor-only cats get out by accident, too. Here are some tips to help you find your kitty! I’ll also talk about tips to keep them safely indoors, as well!

Let’s Find Your Lost Cat!

  1. Scent is EVERYTHING to your cat! The FIRST thing you want to do is put their soiled litter box outside, as well as something that smells like him AND his favorite human in the house. A shirt that hasn’t been laundered yet, his favorite bed..and catnip can’t hurt, either. They say that a cat can smell their own litter box from miles away!
  2. USE SOCIAL MEDIA! I’ve seen SO many pets reunited with their owners using Facebook and the Next Door app! Share, with a GOOD picture of your kitty, in all local pages as well as any lost and found pet pages for your area. Do a post from your personal profile and make it “PUBLIC” so other local friends can share! Make SURE you include location, town and state so local people can share your “Lost Cat” post. And include a phone number. Make it EASY for your cat’s finder to actually get in touch with you! Also, if you report your lost pet to Pawboost, your lost pet will be added to a nationwide database and they will do a Facebook post in your local state’s lost pet Facebook page. While on social media, check all local pages and lost and found pages for “found pet” posts!
  3. PUT OUT FLYERS!! Don’t skip this step! Not everybody in your neighborhood is on social media, especially elderly neighbors. You can use any one of the preprinted flyers on Google or make one yourself on a word processing program. Be sure to use a CLEAR picture in good lighting and include anything that’s unique to your kitty, such as a rare marking, scar, stumpy tail, ear tip, etc. Again, include your phone number on the flyer. You want to make it as EASY as possible for someone to get in touch with you if they find your kitty! Use a staple gun to place the flyers on every other telephone pole for a one-mile radius in each direction of where kitty went missing.
  4. For indoor kitties, search close to your house FIRST. Likely, they won’t be far from the house. My aunt’s indoor-only cat (and my former feral), Junior, got out twice. Both times, she set off her smoke alarm while cooking and, without thinking, she opened her slider door a crack to air out the house. The piercing wail of the smoke alarm scared Junior and he and BOOKED out that door. Both times I found him in the alley behind her townhouse, hiding in the brush. I should note that when I called him, he came crying to me, he ran from me when I tried to grab him. My aunt noticed her sensor porch light lit up a couple of times, so we thought he was trying to make his way back to the house. I sat quietly in the yard and we put wet food by the door. Both times he came back home when we quieted down and she was able to coax him inside.

    Junior's "Missing Cat" post on Facebook
    Junior’s “Missing Cat” post on Facebook
  5. USE A FLASHLIGHT, even if it’s during the day! A flashlight will help you to see their eyes if they are hiding under a deck or in bushes. If your cat is particularly timid to begin with, it may help to wait until dusk or nighttime when everything quiets down and try looking then. Often, when it gets quiet outside, they will work up the nerve to come out of their hiding spot.
  6. LOOK UP! I forgot this when Blacky was missing and almost forgot to mention it in this blog post!! Cats climb trees and forget how they get down all the time. They get up there and then forget how they got up there. Use a flashlight, even if it’s during the day, so you can see the reflection of their eyes.
  7. KEEP CALM! I’m guilty of this one. Cats mimic our energy. I made this mistake with Junior and also when I found Blacky. I couldn’t contain my excitement when I found Blacky alive and well and my nervous energy frightened him.
  8. Use a humane trap. This one works particularly well if your indoor cat has never been trapped in a humane trap before. Here are some tips for trapping cats. Using tuna or sardines works particularly well. If you see your kitty near the trap but just won’t go inside no matter how hungry they are, try using a dog cage to trap them. Here’s a Facebook Live video I did showing how to do that. **PLEASE NEVER LEAVE SET TRAPS UNATTENDED!!**
  9. VISIT your local shelters to check for new intakes! Calling them isn’t enough. You want to visit them every day or every other day and ask to see the new intakes. Find out which shelter does “open intake” for your town or municipality. Check that shelter first because if someone calls Animal Control when they find your kitty, Animal Control will take kitty to that shelter. Also, check with local rescues, as they often take stray pets and adopt them out if the pet doesn’t have a microchip. They see so many dumped off pets, they may assume that’s what happened with YOUR beloved pet.
  10. If you live in an area with commercial establishments like restaurants or fast food joints, check with them. Your kitty may go after the food in their dumpster or the rodents who frequent their dumpster.
  11. Bring cat food and treats with you when you search! If your kitty is anything like ALL of mine, they react to the can of cat food cracking open or the shake of the Temptations treat bag! That’s exactly how Blacky came out of hiding!
  12. PICTURE THEM home safe and sound. Get a mental picture of their face in your mind and talk to them. Tell them you can help them if they will just let you know where they are hiding. I swear this worked with Blacky. Telepathy is not as freaky as it sounds and is much more common than you think, especially if you and your kitty have a tight bond!
  13. DON’T LOSE HOPE! In May 2016, an emaciated gray/blue cat showed up on my property late one Saturday night screaming for my help, despite the fact that my resident ferals were trying to chase him off. We held him in Mom’s bedroom until Monday morning so I could take him to the vet. Luckly, he had a microchip. While I had the vet examine him and treat him for worms, etc, the owner called the vet back. We delivered him home later that day. Smokey was missing for 3 1/2 months from a house 1.5 miles from my house. He was an indoor-only cat. The kicker of the story is that his mama owns an animal rescue!
Me in my PJs coaxing Smokey the Missing Cat into a carrier.
Me in my PJs coaxing Smokey the Missing Cat into a carrier.

Prevention is KEY

The best way to find your lost cat is to prevent him from getting out in the first place!

I looked up articles to link to for this post and I cannot believe how many missed this first and MOST IMPORTANT tip:

  1. SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR CATS! This alone will greatly reduce the likelihood of your kitty ever getting outside to begin with!
  2. DOORS CLOSED! When I moved back home, I noticed how Mom likes to start talking to visitors AS they are leaving. Like, when they open the front door to walk out of the house! They stand there with the door open to continue their visit or just to be polite. I now walk our visitors out when they leave for two reasons…first, it’s the polite thing to do. Second, it prevents our visitor from standing there with the door wide open while I’m silently having a heart attack and stifling the urge to scream, “UH, CLOSE THE DOOR!!”
  3. LOCK THEM UP FOR DELIVERIES OR RENOVATIONS/CONSTRUCTION. I cannot even tell you HOW many times I hear, “My cat escaped while during the furniture delivery!” or any variation thereof. Renovations stress cats out. The noise that comes with large deliveries or renovations scares cats. They may be looking to escape the noise.  Your frightened cat may grab that opportunity to dart out that open door. Just recently, we had to replace our entire HVAC system. And the cats were NOT happy because I locked them in their “safe rooms” for the job. I provided food, water, litter boxes and hiding places in the closets of all three rooms (for five cats). There was a lot of scratching at doors, meowing, and dirty looks from my cats. But, now the job is over and they are SAFE.
  4. When cats are scared, they go into “fight or flight” mode. Try to minimize opening doors during loud thunderstorms, fireworks in your neighborhood, or loud windy storms (nor’easters, hurricanes, blizzards etc). I bring this up as we had the remnants of Hurricane Michael slide just to our South last night. The wind and thunderstorms scared my indoor cats most of the night. If someone opens the door while they are in “flight mode”, anything can happen, even if your cats usually aren’t interested in the door in the first place.
  5. FEAR THE DOOR. This happened by accident with my cats. Our door jamb swells in the humidity and sometimes it’s impossible to close the storm door quietly. As a result, our indoor cats are afraid to approach the door when someone is going in or out. If they are lurking by the front door on a summer night because of the bugs flying around our porch light, I will knock on the door to get them away from the door before coming inside. If I am going outside and Rascal decides to walk me out, I completely ignore him by the door, walk to the other side of the room, then give him love. I don’t ever want my cats associating that front door with positive things. We never open the door when our cats are right near it.
  6. Have a plan for emergencies. My biggest fear is fire. If we have a fire, I have to get five indoor cats safely outside as well as Mom, who is a stroke survivor. She is mobile, but takes her a while. I always remind her if we have an emergency like that to just quietly go outside. She tends to get very anxious and yells a lot when she’s anxious, which will work against me if I’m trying to calmly get five cats into five carriers. I try to make sure I have at least one carrier per cat in accessible locations throughout the house. I also have a lidded hamper with a roll of packing tape near it just in case I have to put a couple of cats in there to get them safely outside.
  7. For more tips on helping to prevent your cat from getting out, Click Here.
  8. If you have a “door dasher”, here are tips for your particular kitty!
Picture I took of Smokey to post on Facebook and make "Found Cat" flyers
Picture I took of Smokey to post on Facebook and make “Found Cat” flyers

Suggestions are Welcome!

I wanted to do this post so I could share on Social Media every time I see a “missing cat” post.

This is by no means a complete list and we are always open to hearing suggestions, tips, and things that have worked for YOU!

Please, if there is something I missed, or something that helped you to bring your kitty home, comment with your suggestion or connect with us on Facebook and share your idea!

Our hope is that our post helps to bring more lost kitties home!

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We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in! Your support is crucial to us as it helps us to continue to advocate for special needs and community cats!**

Any treatments, food and supplements I mention in this post are the result of my own research and experience. Please consult with your vet as necessary.

 

“Help! I Found Kittens in my Backyard!” – How You Can Help

 

 

Oreo and Trouble - November 2017
Two of my TNR’ed Yard Cats, Oreo (right) and Trouble (left) – November 2017
Introduction

Me, along with many other feral cat caregivers, cat enthusiasts, rescues, and shelters, get messages all day, every day that sound just like the title of this post.

I’m a caregiver to my backyard feral cat colony and a cat blogger/advocate.

I am not a rescue, a TNR group, a shelter, or God. I try to help as many people as I can but because of all of the other hats I wear, I cannot guide each and every person through the process of TNR and I certainly cannot go out there and do all of the legwork for somebody else.

Unless I don’t want to sleep!

Which is why I decided to do a comprehensive guide to Trap-Neuter-Return.

What is Trap Neuter Return (TNR)?

Trap Neuter Return (TNR) is a humane method of controlling the feral cat population and minimizing community exposure to rabies. It also helps your area shelters and rescues, because the fewer number of kittens that are coming in off the streets, the more shelter cats are finding good forever homes.

At least in my neck of the woods, my county has taken an official “pro-TNR” stance and my state (New Jersey) is on its way, because it has been proven to be a MUCH more effective method of reducing the feral cat population than antiquated “trap and kill” programs. Not only that, but our area shelters are starting to report higher “live release rates” since my county took this official stance in 2017. And it’s cheaper on local and county government since TNR is often funded by grants and/or caregivers and volunteers.

Like I always say, these cats did not ask to be dumped off. They didn’t ask to be born, much less on the streets and homeless. They have a right to live, as well.

And until the government can find a way to pass and enforce laws requiring pet owners to spay and neuter their pets and stop dumping unwanted kittens off in the woods, etc, this is as close to a viable and humane solution we will get.

Charlie April 2018
Charlie, deep in thought – April 2018
Decide the Cats’ Fate

Only YOU can decide if you want the commitment of caring for feral cats.

Because I was originally feeding the feral Tom cats who knocked Fluffy up and I failed to neuter them, I felt it was MY responsibility to make this “right”.

The Kits didn’t ask to be born to feral parents.

I want to mention that it’s a little-known fact that most shelters euthanize feral cats because they are “unadoptable” since they are not socialized to humans. And they need to make room for “adoptable” cats.

Sad, but true.

There are some shelters out there who are developing Barn Cat programs, but they are few and far between at this point in time (2018).

Please really consider their welfare when making your decision.

And know that the “vacuum effect” phenomenon is very real. When feral cats are removed from a location for whatever reason, if conditions are favorable (ie shelter, a food source, water), new feral cats CAN and WILL move in once the current cats are removed since there is nobody there to defend their “territory”.

It happened here when I rescued the Kits. It happened again when I adopted my former feral Junior to my aunt. And again when I rescued Fluffy and Oreo.

Teddy Ruxpin trapping day-May 2018
Teddy Ruxpin the morning I trapped him – May 2018

As soon as one leaves for whatever reason, another shows up. Every. Single. Time.

Kittens are ALWAYS Better Off with Mama!

I see people so anxious to TNR the mama cats that they make decisions in haste, which are not always in the best interest in the kittens’ survival.

Recently, a friend got a call about a feral mama and her kittens. She’s determined to TNR every female she can. She went out there to trap mama and removed her from the area immediately and figured she would go back the next week for the kittens.

She did this without knowing if the kittens were even weaned and old enough to survive on their own.

As far as I know, the kittens were never seen again.

What would I do differently?

I would ask the person who found the kittens if they knew if the kittens were eating solid food on their own yet. Most people cannot tell a feral kitten’s age just by looking at the kitten, so I ask, but I take their guestimate with a grain of salt unless they are REALLY experienced.

If in doubt, use mama to trap the kittens. If the kittens are weaned, mama still needs to be fixed! And, of course, the kittens need to be fixed when they are old enough, regardless if you decide to adopt them out or TNR them and let them live as outdoor feral cats.

This video by Kitten Lady shows her using a feral mama’s kittens to catch mama. BE CAREFUL taking kittens away from mama! As you see in this video, Hannah is VERY lucky she didn’t get her face ripped off by the feral mama.

Like Kitten Lady mentions in her video, kittens are ALWAYS better off with their mama! Mama can raise them better than even the most seasoned fosters and rescues, which is why The Kits ALL came inside with clean bills of health besides having round worm.

Fluffy napping with her 3 month old kittens - August 2015
Fluffy (center), napping with Spunky (left) and Rascal (right) – August 2015. The Kits were 3 months old.

Since my backyard is relatively safe, Fluffy had The Kits tucked safely away, and had help from Charlie and then Oreo, I opted to leave them with Fluffy until I figured out what to do with them. I already understood that Fluffy knew a whole lot more about raising kittens than I did!

Orphaned Kittens

Have you seen kittens and not mama? Do the kittens look clean and cared for? If so, they are likely under mama’s care but you just don’t see mama yet. Mama could be out looking for food. Or napping elsewhere. When Fluffy had her kittens tucked safely under the barn next door, she used to come over to my picnic table in the backyard to nap. She also left The Kits under the barn while she came over to eat in my shed until they were roughly 4 weeks old. Then they started coming over with her.

That’s how I knew she was weaning them off. They started to eat solid food over here and Fluffy’s food intake slowed down.

If the kittens look well cared for, wait for a while to see if mama shows up. She will usually show up after a few hours to feed and care for them. If mama doesn’t show up after a few hours, assume they are orphaned. They need intervention immediately!

This Infographic from Alley Cat Allies explains what your next steps should be.

Orphaned kittens are better left in the hands of experienced fosters or caregivers. However, if it’s a Saturday night and you can’t get them to a shelter or rescue IMMEDIATELY, Kitten Lady has some great tutorials and information on how to care for orphaned kittens!

A Note on Socializing Feral Cats

I plan on doing an entire blog post just on this subject, but here’s a quick thought.

If the location where you found the cats is “feral cat friendly” and somewhat safe and the cat is TRULY feral (ie: runs from you, hisses and spits when corners with its ears flattened, etc) it’s best to return them where you trapped them. But, please, if you do, make sure you feed it at least once per day, provide it clean, fresh water, and shelter, if at all possible.

Kittens under eight weeks of age are much easier to socialize than adult feral cats or older kittens. The Kits were 16 weeks old when I rescued them, but bear in mind they knew me since before they were born. If you’re committed to helping them socialize so you can adopt them out or even keep them as your own cats, here is a great article by Alley Cat Allies to help get you started.

Patchy and Spunky the day after they were rescued
Patchy (calico) and Spunky (tabby) – the morning after they were trapped and I announced to them that they were now indoor cats and not going back outside. September 29, 2015

Another option is to find a no-kill shelter or cat rescue in your area who has fosters experienced with socializing feral kittens. If you decide to go this route, PLEASE do your homework to make sure they are a “no kill” facility before surrendering the kittens.

Feel free to Contact Us if you need any tips, as well!

Anybody Can Do Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)

This is what one of my Facebook friends commented when someone was asking me to take care of a feral cat problem in their back yard.

“Anybody can be a trapper!”

Everything I’m sharing with you I learned myself only three years ago when Charlie brought a pregnant Fluffy here to enjoy all the amenities the Penny & The Kits Estates had to offer!

I couldn’t find a rescue to take The Kits.

My neighbors were going to take them to the shelter, thinking they were helping them. We were contracted with a high-kill shelter at that time and none of these cats would make it out alive.

I could NOT allow that to happen to these babies.

Since I had no clue what I was doing, I LEARNED! A local friend who TNR’ed a few cats gave me a some tips and lent me a trap. I learned everything else from the internet and then got moving!

Is Your Area “Safe” for Community Cats?

First, you want to find out if you’re even allowed to feed feral cats on your property. It really all depends on where you are located and how enlightened your state/county/town are.

I also STRONGLY SUGGEST building a rapport with your neighbors to let them know what you are doing and why. It’s been my experience that open lines of communication with neighbors and a good rapport with them helps the CATS…and that is our goal.

Feral cats tend to wander A LOT LESS once they are fixed. However, you do have the really, truly feral cats who just will NOT hang out close to your property no matter how hard you try to befriend them. Those are the cats who only come to eat at night, spend the majority of their time elsewhere, and RUN whenever they see you or another human.

Tiggy, August 2018
Tiggy, my one TRUE feral who is finally letting me get close and make eye contact with her! August, 2018

Explain to your neighbors that you have feral cats you are caring for and that you want to neuter them so the population doesn’t get out of hand. Tell them the cats will be vaccinated for rabies (and distemper depending on what you have available locally). Let them know that having feral cats around will reduce mouse, rat, and ground mole populations. (Unless they are MY feral cats and Gus the Ground Mole is living in your yard. If you follow our Facebook page, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, why not? Go follow us!!)

Having this talk with your neighbors will reduce the chances that they will complain about the cats in the future. Keeping a good rapport and a respectful relationship with them is one of the best things you can do for the fate of your feral cat colony.

The Next Steps

You want to get the cat(s) on a feeding schedule because that will make it MUCH easier to trap them. Same time, same place, EVERY day. Pick an area that is sheltered from the elements and an area that you can fit a humane trap when the time comes to trap.

At this point you want to look into getting a humane trap. You can contact local shelters or rescues, or even friends you have that you know care for feral cats or rescue cats and see if you can borrow a trap. Many shelters offer them on loan with a refundable deposit once you return the trap to them.

If you have more than one or two feral cats you want to TNR, you may want to look into purchasing one. Here are a couple I recommend. I personally have a Havahart at the moment but want to upgrade to the Tru Catch because I feel it is a little safer.

Havahart Humane Feral Cat Trap

Tru Catch with Rear Door

Trap Divider for Tru Catch humane trap

They also sell Havahart traps at Home Depot.

The Clinic Appointment

Next, find a low-cost spay/neuter clinic in your area. You can Google “low cost spay and neuter for cats” and your zip code to find programs and clinics in your area.

If you’re in the South Jersey/Philly area, Animal Welfare Association – Voorhees, NJ has a low cost “feral fix it” program. For $35, you can get the cat spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies, and ear tipped. Ear tipping is a universal sign that a feral cat has been fixed and vaccinated for rabies. For $10 more, they will also administer a distemper vaccine.

Other programs in South Jersey/Philly area include CSTAR – Spay our Strays clinic and Camden County Animal Shelter in Blackwood, NJ.

You want to look into getting appointments FIRST because availability for these appointments can be tough, especially during “kitten season”. I know with AWA, it sometimes takes a few days to get a callback. I usually reserve week-long “blocks” of appointments because I don’t always catch my target cat in the first attempt and neither will you. Especially the shyer cats. CSTAR-SOS Clinic only operates spay/neuter clinics monthly.

If all else fails, ask your vet or other vet offices in your area if they offer any low cost fixing options for feral cats. Often, they will set you up with a similar deal.

You want to plan ahead because once you trap a feral cat, it’s VERY difficult and may be IMPOSSIBLE to re-trap them so make sure you have an appointment for them on or around trapping day. If you trap the cat and release them without getting them fixed, good luck trying to trap that cat a second time!

Trap Training and Trapping

I cover this pretty well in a video I filmed in 2016. Please pardon the hair. And if you have the mindset of “this is a comedy” before viewing the video, you’ll appreciate our horrible videography skills. Or at least they won’t get on your nerves as much.

How to Train and Trap a Feral Cat for TNR

I cannot stress this enough…PLEASE DO NOT EVER LEAVE A SET TRAP OR A TRAPPED CAT UNATTENDED. As SOON as you trap the cat, cover it and get it to a SECURE location that is not too hot or too cold and is safe from predators, other pets, or anybody who will do it harm.

It is also VERY important to COVER the trap as soon as Kitty is trapped. Feral cats calm WAY down after being covered. If you have a kitty chatting it up and still trying to get out once the trap is covered, chances are, it’s not really feral. The more “social” cats act more like your pet cat going to the vet…you know, clawing at the door and singing the song of their people!

If you have to hold them overnight or for any length of time before their appointment, you can line puppy potty training pads underneath the trap to catch their “business”. If their appointment day is the same as trapping day, DO NOT FEED them any more food than what you used to trap them and only give water if their appointment is longer than eight hours after the time you trapped them.

Kitty will be getting anesthesia, so the risk of aspirating fluid or throwing up undigested food, both of which can kill Kitty while they are under, is very real.

Kitty’s Spay/Neuter Appointment

Every place is different so I’ll just share my experience with AWA to give you a general idea.

Check in time is 7:30am for the clinic I use. They will NOT accept any cats after about 8am, so if I don’t get there in time, I’ll have to hold that poor cat until the next day…IF I have an appointment. So I do everything in my power to get Kitty there on time.

Once I sign in, I have to fill out a paper for Kitty. At AWA, the only way to get “feral” pricing is if Kitty shows up in a trap and Kitty gets an ear tip during her surgery.

Some people get hung up on that ear tip, hoping maybe they can adopt Kitty out if it’s not so “feral”. They often fight with the AWA workers about allowing them to tip the ear, thinking they will not be able to adopt Kitty out at a future time if it’s ear tipped. Here’s my thoughts on this…I have three ear-tipped beauties as indoor-only cats right now. And I adopted out two of my former feral ear-tipped cats. An ear tip did not stop their new parents from adopting them and loving them wholeheartedly. And if someone doesn’t want a cat just because of a little ear tip, do you really want them to adopt Kitty, anyway?

Fluffy, in all her ear-tipped splendor before I rescued her. January 2018

Back to clinic. When it’s our turn, they take Kitty and keep the trap. They will put Kitty back into the trap after surgery before she wakes up. **(In the recovery section, I’ll talk about instances when you may want to bring a carrier for Kitty’s trip home.)

After Surgery

Pickup time at AWA varies but it’s usually about 3:30. Before I leave with Kitty, I always check to make sure Kitty is awake and alert. I check for excessive bleeding and I make sure they are ear tipped. I double check the paper work they hand me to make sure I have their rabies certificate for my records. AND I make sure they give me back the RIGHT kitty! Yes. They have accidentally switched kitties and the caretakers didn’t realize it until after they left!

Chatty on his way home from surgery September 2015
Chatty (now Cosmo) after I picked him up from his neuter surgery – September, 2015

Again, NEVER LEAVE KITTY UNATTENDED IN A TRAP. And NEVER leave Kitty in a hot car. When I pick up Kitty from AWA, I head straight home. Especially if it is too hot or too cold outside. Often, Kitty is just starting to come out of anesthesia at pick-up time and this is a very vulnerable time for them. When a cat is coming out of anesthesia, they cannot regulate their own body temperature, so make sure the temp inside your car and their recovery area is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. You want to try and control the temperature the entire first night of recovery while they are clearing the anesthesia.

And PLEASE, never attempt to transfer them out of the trap into a carrier or a cage unless you are indoors in a secure location. I hear TOO many stories of people who transferred Kitty into a carrier from a trap outside or at the clinic. Kitty got out and took off. When that happens, there is a disoriented kitty who is still under some degree of sedation and may not be able to defend itself. And a feral cat will DIE trying to find their way back to where they know to be “home”. Wait until you’re in Kitty’s recovery room before trying to transfer him to his recovery cage or pen.

Also, Kitty may still be very groggy and it’s tempting to try and pet Kitty, but unless you knew her to be friendly BEFORE trapping, do not touch Kitty. Feral cats are scared to death of humans and will attack when they feel threatened. Even while drugged up to their eyeballs. An untreated cat bite can lead to a severe infection that may even require IV antibiotics, a tetanus shot, the rabies series, and hospitalization. Please be smart and don’t take that chance.

The Recovery Period

Opinions vary on how long you should hold Kitty after surgery. And, of course, every cat and every situation is different. Here is a general guideline from Alley Cat Allies.

I’ve only TNR’ed one female (Fluffy). She was pregnant, and, unbeknownst to me until after the fact, was pretty far along in her pregnancy. She had complications that led to internal bleeding requiring a second surgery, and she was mildly anemic as a result. We ended up holding her a total of six days and five nights, which is twice as long as I would normally hold a female who is an “uncomplicated spay”.

Other than that, I’ve had all boys. And I have severe space constraints in my house, especially now that I have Fluffy and The Kits inside. I have a small bathroom that has just enough room for the trap I caught them in. Since they were boys and their neuter is MUCH less invasive than a female spay, I let them recover in the trap overnight and if all looks well the next morning, I release them. Basically, I make sure they are eating well, not bleeding anywhere, and they are alert. It’s great if they are acting hostile. Since they are feral, they SHOULD BE once the anesthesia wears off!

Setting Up the Recovery Area

Trooper recovering from surgery, June 2018
Trooper in his feral cat den in his recovery cage – June, 2018. Trooper had an extended recovery because he also had his tail amputated after a nasty tail injury almost cost him his life!

ONE IMPORTANT NOTE! I said this before but it’s THAT IMPORTANT that I will say it again… when you pick the cat up from surgery, they cannot regulate their own body temperature because they are still under the influence of anesthesia. It’s CRUCIAL that you recover them in a climate-controlled area where the temperature is between 68-74 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid the risk of hyper- or hypothermia.

CHOOSE A SECURE LOCATION INDOORS! This one I absolutely cannot stress ENOUGH. Since Kitty often smells like blood, you don’t want them to recover in a cage or a trap outside or even in a barn/shed or other non-secure outbuilding. The smell of blood can attract predators from MILES and Kitty will have no way of getting free when confined to a trap or a cage. Also, since they are groggy from anesthesia and/or pain medicine, they are not as sharp. Their defenses aren’t as sharp. I have heard nightmare stories of recovering cats in cages inside barns or sheds who were attacked and/or killed by predators during the recovery period. PLEASE TAKE THIS ADVICE SERIOUSLY! 

Setting Up for an Overnight Stay

To set up the trap in the recovery area for MALE cats, I flatten a large box (usually from Chewy.com) in the shower stall and line it with a thick lining of puppy training pads. I learned this little trick with Charlie. If you place the trap OVER the pads instead of putting the pads or newspaper inside the trap, it’s easier to lift up the trap to removed any soiled pads and “business” and put fresh pads down so they don’t have to sit on their “business”. I recovered at least ten cats this way and they seemed much more comfortable using this method!

If you do not have a trap divider, you can slowly open the front of the trap an inch or so to slip food in. I use small Dixie bowls for this purpose. If you stick the bowl in first, you can push it with your finger behind the bowl so Kitty won’t see your hand going toward him. If he attacks, he will attack the bowl. You can also use tongs to push the bowl in.

I usually feed wet food only and I add extra water to the food. I put the wet food in the center and do a “moat” of water outside of the food. That’s enough to keep them well hydrated during their overnight stay, and then you won’t have to worry about Kitty spilling the water all over his recovery area. Live and learn!

I also cover the trap halfway or three-quarters of the way. That gives them an area to feel covered and secure, yet allows air flow into the recovery area.

Setting up for an Extended Stay

I personally prefer to recover female cats for a minimum of two nights/three days. If Kitty was pregnant, you may want to hold her longer. A sick or injured kitty will have a longer recovery time. Ask the clinic or vet for their recommendation. We recently TNR’ed a male cat with an injured tail. Since the vet amputated his tail, we held him for two weeks before releasing. Every cat and situation is different!

If you need to hold Kitty longer than overnight, set up a dog cage or large plastic dog kennel. You want enough room for a “feral cat den”, a small litter box, and room for food and water bowls opposite the litter box because most cats will not eat where they do their “business”.

A feral cat den is a cat carrier that creates a little place where kitty can hide in and sleep if they so choose. Likely, Kitty will hide in there when you go in to clean the cage and feed, etc. Actually, I count on that because if Kitty hides in the den, you can use a long stick to close the door of the carrier. Once you have the door closed, hold the stick up against it to keep it closed while you reach in and secure the door by hand. Once Kitty is secure in the carrier, you can pluck the carrier out of the cage to clean it. It’s so much quicker, easier, and safer to clean the cage this way!

**This is a situation when you may want to bring a carrier to the clinic when you drop Kitty off for surgery. When Kitty’s surgery is complete, they will put Kitty into the carrier instead of the trap. When you get to the Recovery Area, you can just place the carrier that’s holding Kitty into the cage. Unlock the carrier door just before you secure the larger cage but DO NOT OPEN IT YET. Once you securely lock the cage, you can open the carrier door with a stick or broom handle and secure the carrier door to the side of the cage in the “open” position using zip ties.

If you’re recovering kittens, use a large plastic dog kennel instead of a dog cage because kittens can easily slip through the bars or slip out of the bottom of a large dog cage.

 

Feral Cat recovery cage
Example of a feral cat recovery page.

You can purchase inexpensive zip ties from Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Amazon. If you use plastic dishes and a litter box, cut a small hole into the side of the bowls and the litter box, just enough to slip the zip tie through. Then you can secure them to the side of the cage. Securing them ensures Kitty won’t spill anything. You can also use zip ties to secure the “feral cat den” door to the side of the cage so the door doesn’t accidentally shut. (I learned this one the hard way with some kittens I recovered.)

Feral cat recovery cage #2
Another example of a feral cat recovery cage. We zip-tied everything to the cage bars.

It’s wise to check on Kitty twice per day as well as twice daily feedings. Sometimes, true ferals will not use a litter box. It’s always good to line the bottom of the cage with newspaper. Just do the best you can to clean up the cage while remaining safe.

Fluffy didn’t go into the feral cat den when I went to visit her. I took some chances cleaning Fluffy’s cage that I probably shouldn’t have. It helped that she knew me and reacted with a friendly squeak whenever she saw me. Therefore, I felt safe taking those chances with her. Know Thy Cat.

Again, cover the trap halfway or three-quarters of the way. That gives them an area to feel covered and secure, yet allows air flow into the recovery area.

The “Return”

Or like I call it, their “Freedom Run”!

This is bittersweet. If they are truly feral, they are happier outside where they consider “home”. I’m happy for them because I know their ordeal is over and I’m about to make their day by releasing them. But it’s sad because just for a short while, they were SAFE and in my care. But, if they are TRULY feral, trust me, you’re doing the right thing by releasing. More on that to come in another blog post.

Like I said above, I only release if Kitty is awake, alert, eating well, and not bleeding. If in doubt, the clinic where Kitty had their surgery should have an emergency line for post-surgical questions and problems. Please contact the clinic or vet if Kitty isn’t looking well at ANY time during the recovery process.

I ALWAYS feed a couple of hours before releasing, especially since they don’t always come back right away.

You want to make sure you release Kitty at the same location you trapped him! Kitty can become disoriented if you release him anywhere else. He will likely become lost trying to find his way home. Feral cats can and will die trying to find their way “home”. More on that here.

Be sure to cover the trap or carrier before taking Kitty to the release spot. She will be nervous because she doesn’t understand what is going to happen to her next.

Once you get Kitty to the release spot, pull back the cover just a bit and see how they react. If they start thrashing around, cover the trap back up. If they are calm, you can pull the cover halfway back so they can see their surroundings.

THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. DO NOT JUST RELEASE RIGHT AWAY. Please give Kitty some time to re-acclimate himself to his whereabouts. Especially if he had an extended recovery. You can see with some cats the exact point they realize where they are. If you watch Kitty, you may see his demeanor change from fear to excitement. He knows he’s “home”. When you see that change in them, it’s okay to release. It can take anywhere from 5 – 20 minutes.

I always make sure my other ferals aren’t around when I release. As you see, they often shoot off like a cat out of Hell. Make sure the area is quiet with no loud machinery, construction or people around, if you can help it.

Awaiting Their Return

This is the absolute hardest part. More often than not, they don’t return to the scene of the crime right away. My cats have taken anywhere from one hour (Trouble) to eight days (Fluffy) to return.

I always make sure the trap is NOWHERE near the “scene of the crime” after release. If I am trapping other cats at the same site, I try to set the traps in a different area. The last thing I want is to scare Kitty when he returns.

They ALWAYS return. I’ve TNR’ed around 30 cats, and eventually they all came back. This was my BIGGEST fear and what stopped me from starting TNR sooner. Charlie and Oreo were coming around for a year before I TNR’ed them because of that fear.

I didn’t act until AFTER I saw kittens. That kinda defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

You’re Not in “This” Alone!

This is by no means a complete guide. I wanted to go as in detail as possible (for a blog post) to help those who are brand new to TNR. The whole process intimidated me because I didn’t know a lot of the “small details” involved.

Community Cats United website provides great information and resources for those just starting out. Their sister Facebook page, Trap-Neuter-Return Community, is full of experienced lay people who will also help you out! This is an awesome community to join to really learn the ins and outs and tricks from feral cat caregivers!

Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions or need guidance for your particular situation.

Follow our Facebook page for tips and tricks on feral cat care. You can also meet our cats and see the daily ‘goings on’ around here! And don’t hesitate to shoot us a direct message on FB!

If you’re not on Facebook, join us on Instagram. 

THANK YOU!

THANK YOU for deciding to be part of the solution by spaying and neutering your community cats!

Together, we can HALT the over-population of feral cats and enable more homeless shelter cats find a FOREVER home!

Orange enjoying the sunshine - August 2018
This is what a neutered, well cared for community cat looks like! Big Orange – August, 2018

 

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Any treatments, food and supplements I mention in this post are the result of my own research and experience. Please consult with your vet as necessary.

 

 

Meet Weeny the Wacko – Nee Irene

Weeny in 2013
My favorite pic of Weeny in 2013
Her Beginning

“On the day I was born
The nurses all gathered round
And they gazed in wide wonder
At the joy that had found.

The head nurse spoke up
And said leave this one alone
She could tell right away
That I was BAD TO THE BONE” – George Thorogood & The Delaware Destroyers

She Couldn’t Find Her Forever Home

I first saw Weeny at my local Pet Smart when I was there buying food for Tabby.

Every week, I would visit the adoptable cats when I went cat food shopping. And week after week, Weeny was passed over even though the other cats were being adopted and new cats were coming in. I felt so bad for her. But at Tabby’s age and the fact that Tabby was an “only cat” for the past five years, I didn’t know how she would react if I brought a kitten home.

One week, shortly before Tabby crossed The Bridge, I asked a volunteer what will happen if Weeny doesn’t find a home. Will she be put to sleep? That’s when I learned that Jersey State Animal Rescue, a no-kill rescue, houses their adoptable cats there. I felt SO much better because, at that point, Weeny was up there for MONTHS and couldn’t find her forever home. The volunteer I spoke with said that she was shy and, therefore, had problems connecting with potential adopters.

When Tabby crossed The Bridge in April, 2012, I was devastated. I never took a pet loss SO hard. Tabby and I moved back to my folks’ house four years prior and after Tabby passed, it didn’t feel like “home”. I realized that Tabby made this place “home” for me.

It occurred to me that there was this cat who desperately needed a home and we had an “opening”, so why not give her a chance? I knew she could never replace Tabby and I wasn’t looking to. I just wanted to help this beautiful baby who deserved a good home.

Meeting Weeny for the First Time

That next weekend, I went to Pet Smart to “meet” her. She was a little shy, but very sweet. I was already “sold” before I even officially met her!

There was another cat there who was SO beautiful and was trying to get my attention SO badly that I studiously avoided eye contact with her because I didn’t know how the folks would react to having TWO cats in the house!

The next day I brought them to meet Weeny. My dad became VERY attached to Tabby and was just as heartbroken as I was when she passed, so I really wanted him to be okay with adopting Weeny, even though she was going to be my cat.

Weeny in Dad's Cooler
As SOON as Dad put his cooler on the table…

That day a volunteer was there cleaning out the cages and all of the cats were in the cat room playing. We watched Weeny play for a few minutes. She was a TOTAL PUNK with the other cats. She would ambush, then hiss and hide! That’s when I saw her little personality sparkling through! She LIVED to play.

And, boy, was she BAD!!

She won my heart!

I tried to hold Weeny and get her to bond with my parents, but she wasn’t very interested in us. That’s probably why she kept getting passed over. She was more interested in playing than she was in us. But I didn’t care. She was already coming home if my application was approved.

In the meantime, Penny attached herself to me and practically BEGGED me to get her out of there. By the end of that visit, I put in applications to adopt BOTH of them!

I Met Weeny’s Angel…

On May 2, 2012, we went to Pet Smart to bring Penny and Weeny HOME!

I was lucky enough that night to meet Weeny’s rescuer. She was a tiny girl, a vet, and had balls of steel. She used to go around Camden, NJ, the most dangerous city in the US at that time, and demand that gang members and drug dealers hand over their pit bulls that were being used in dog fighting rings. This lady was crazy and she was fearless…and absolutely wonderful!

She often tried to help this Hispanic gentleman who kept hoarding cats. Every time the authorities were called, she would broker a deal with them to let her take the cats to rescue so they wouldn’t be sent to a shelter. She rescued Weeny from this house on one of her trips. That’s how Jersey State got involved. They were often the recipients of these cats. This particular rescue took MANY a Camden cat off the streets over the years because they know just how awful conditions are for them in that city.

Weeny was just about a month old when she was rescued. They named her after Hurricane Irene since she they rescued her around the time that Irene hit New Jersey in August, 2011.

How appropriate.

Weeny TOTALLY lived up to her name!

Weeny napping in her favorite place, Grandmommy’s desk chair
Coming HOME

On the ride home, Penny was serenading us the WHOLE WAY, while poor Weeny sat in the back of her carrier, scared and shaking. She had NO IDEA her life was about to change for the better!

We had a plan to put them in an isolation room together since they already knew each other from the rescue. However, Weeny was so shaken and SCARED TO DEATH she kept hissing at Penny every time Penny went anywhere near her. Since Penny was so relaxed about the entire ordeal (she knew she was home already and was excited to explore), I decided to let Penny out so that Weeny could just calm down and decompress.

“Institutionalized”

Red, talking about Brooks in Shawshank Redemption…

“These walls are kind of funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized.”

My dad and I quickly figured out Weeny was suffering from this phenomenon. She lived at Pet Smart for eight of her nine months. She didn’t know any other way to live.

By the next morning she came out of hiding and was eating. She was very afraid of my dad when we would go into her room to visit and let her get to know us. That’s when I figured out she was still semi-feral. She was my first experience with a feral or semi-feral cat. She wasn’t mean….just extremely afraid of people and fearful of change or new conditions.

I had Mom and Dad sit on the floor with her so they would seem less intimidating and I had them feed her treats so she could associate positive things with them. We all played with her and that was the absolute BEST way to bond with her.

It took her WEEKS to come out of her safe room “for good”. The first time I opened the door to let her start exploring, I chose a night that my parents were out since the house was quiet. Weeny started by sniffing near the door, then running back in and hiding. Then she took a step out into the hallway, got scared and ran back in. A few more steps, then back into her safe room. And so on and so forth.

Eventually she got comfortable in the rest of the house, but it definitely took some time and patience!

She Finally Found Her Way!

Like I said…she LIVED to play! So we had every toy imaginable in her room. Linda, the rescue’s director, told us her favorite toy was the Turbo Scratcher, so we made sure we got one for each of the girls. I never really got the whole point of a Turbo Scratcher until I saw Weeny in action with it! She played with it for HOURS and HOURS. She ate her treats on it and slept on it. That thing was her bestest friend!

Weeny sleeping on her Turbo Scratcher
Weeny napping on her beloved Turbo Scratcher on Cat Beach-2013

We brought Penny in for many visits to allow them to get to know each other. Penny was only up at Pet Smart for a couple of weeks before I adopted her, so I suspect that they really didn’t know each other all that well and were not friends at Pet Smart. For a while there, I was afraid they wouldn’t get along. After having Taz and Tabby, who were as bonded as two cats could possibly be, I was a little worried that these two would never bond the way Taz and Tabby did. But, in time, they forged their own little friendship.

Penny Became Her “Mentor”
Penny & Weeny on Cat Beach, 2013

Weeny learned EVERYTHING about being a house cat from Penny. The first time Weeny saw the cat water fountain, it scared her. She had NO idea what it was or what to do with it. One day, she watched Penny drink from the water stream. I could almost see her taking out a notepad and pen and scribbling notes down…”and then you stick your head near the water, then you stick your tongue out, and then you lap the water…” After Penny was done, she went over the fountain to try it herself and proceeded to spill water all over her bib.

She didn’t like that.

She shook her head “no” and ran off! To this very day, I hold that memory near and dear to my heart and WISH I took video!

Weeny drinking from water fountain
Weeny drinking from the fountain-2012
Weeny the Comedian

When my dad was dying from cancer in 2014, Weeny provided very much-needed comic relief for all of us. My dad had bilateral cataracts and couldn’t see very well near the end. But he could HEAR. And Weeny had a habit of running through the house at random times for random reasons, or for NO reason, all the while squeaking and making this trilly chirpy noise. When she ran, it sounded like someone was doing demo work in the house! Dad would hear her and just laugh.

It takes a very special cat to make a dying man smile!

My mom doesn’t understand cats very well. She bonds with dogs much more easily. Yet Weeny, who had trouble bonding with people, and Mom, who had trouble bonding with cats, became really close. Mom spent hours playing with Weeny on her favorite computer chair with a feather or tossing a plastic milk carton ring for Weeny to chase. She even set up cat videos for Weeny to watch on the computer!

Weeny watching cat TV
You thought I was kidding? Grandmommy setting up Cat TV for Weeny – 2013

Weeny also loved to chase bugs. Mom spent many summer nights catching miller moths in a plastic cup to bring in for Weeny’s amusement. Sounds sick and morbid, I know. But what Weeny wanted, she got, especially from Mom! Dad always warned us that Saint Bugnacious was watching and would make Mom repent when the time comes…

On the rare occasions that Weeny wasn’t playing, she spent her time sunbathing on Cat Beach by our glass slider door in the kitchen, where we had direct sunlight for nine months out of the year. She liked to take shady breaks behind my dad’s NJ State Police jacket that he always had hanging on one of the kitchen chairs. After he passed, we had to leave it up on that chair for her. I buried Weeny with that jacket. It’s what Dad would have wanted, I’m sure.

Weeny with her favorite jacket
Weeny and her beloved NJSP jacket. On Cat Beach, of course!

Weeny actually turned out to be a pretty affectionate cat when she was in the mood for love. She absolutely LOVED belly rubs! She had the softest fur of any pet I ever touched. Her fur kind of felt like velvet.

It Wasn’t “Just” a Lump

In May of 2015, I noticed a lump on her side. Around the same time I noticed her ten hours of play each day was slowing down a bit. At first I chalked it up to her hitting maturity. Weeny was coming up on 4 years old, after all!

She also started vomiting every so often, which was not like her AT ALL. Weeny was always very healthy and she was still so young. We took her to the vet and he diagnosed the lump as a sebaceous cyst. He drained it and gave her an antibiotic.

By mid-July, she was itchy all of the time and was vomiting more frequently. We took her back to the vet. This time a more experienced vet looked at her. She still didn’t think it was anything major, but just as she was finishing up her exam, she felt it.

A swollen lymph node under her forearm.

My heart DROPPED.

I knew.

She pulled some tissue from the lymph node and the skin lump to biopsy.

The results came back as an aggressive, malignant mast cell cancer. Typically, cutaneous (skin) mast cell tumors in cats are “in situ”, meaning they don’t spread. There are more rare forms, like this one, that spread to the lymph nodes and spleen. This cancer is usually more common in dogs than in cats.

Quality of Life v. Quantity

Most veterinary cancer treatment is not curative. The majority of the time the goal is to extend their life a bit. Treatment of aggressive mast cell cancer has a 50/50 shot at working to extend life for maybe a few months. If it was in the spleen, removing her spleen would have bought Weeny maybe a year, at most.

I know Weeny. Going to the vet scared her so much she shook uncontrollably. Her favorite activities in life revolved around playing and running. To take that away from her by making her undergo surgery and chemo, just to possibly extend her life for a year, would have been for ME, not for her.

I firmly believe with our pets that the goal should ALWAYS be quality of life over quantity. So I opted for palliative care until I couldn’t keep her comfortable anymore.

For the most part, we did a good job of that. I kept her vomiting in check as well as her itchiness. She possibly ate more while she was sick than when she was well because the medication she was on for the itching also works as a mild appetite stimulant in some cats.

As her illness progressed, she wasn’t really herself anymore. She would still play and chase bugs sometimes, but not near as much as she used to. She didn’t feel well despite our best efforts to keep her life as “normal” as possible. Her lymph node tumor turned into a big gaping, oozing wound that I did my best to keep clean. At this point, she was also on pain medication and antibiotics for the tumor.

Playing with her plastic ring on Grandmommy’s desk chair – 2013
Weeny Told Me She was “Ready”

The day before she died, she gave me “the look” just after I medicated her. Her eyes said it all.

People say your cat will TELL you when they had enough. Tabby did, albeit subtly. When I looked into Weeny’s eyes that day, she told me LOUD AND CLEAR…”I just can’t do this anymore.” She just wanted freedom from her pain.

It was Saturday evening and my only choice was to take her to the emergency vet. I couldn’t do that to Weeny. Not while she was still stable. I promised her right then that we would call her vet first thing on Monday so they could come out and free her from her pain. Since the going to the vet terrified her, I wanted them to come here instead.

The next day, she seemed a little better. She ate very well and even played a little. She ate her 4pm meal with no problems…clean plate and everything.

Just about an hour later, she was sitting on her favorite afghan by the picture window when she actively starting dying. She started projectile vomiting and pooped while she tried to jump off the couch. She was scared and you could see it.

Then the seizures started.

It was a Sunday evening. Our only options were an emergency vet a half hour away or Lap of Love out of Philadelphia.

I Had to Honor Her Wishes

She was going to die that night. I saw my dad during the active dying process and I know what it looks like. I called Lap of Love to see how quickly they could come out instead of allowing her to suffer all night.

Penny kept trying to approach her to check on her and comfort her, but it was just freaking Weeny out. I had Mom take Penny down to the basement to occupy her.

Lap of Love called back within a half hour and the on-call vet was on his way out to assist her in crossing The Bridge.

While he was en route, Weeny’s seizures finally slowed down and she settled in the kitchen on Cat Beach. She was still terrified and struggling to breathe. I wanted so badly to put her on my lap, but Weeny was NEVER a lap cat. She was a “next to you” cat. I had to honor what I knew she wanted by just sitting next to her and talking softly to her.

She took her last breath on Cat Beach with me by her side just about five minutes before the vet arrived.

Bird Watching – 2012
I Meant “FOREVER”

Weeny was a cat who deserved to live life on her terms.

And she deserved to die on her terms.

I won’t lie…it was heartbreaking to watch her in those last hours of her life. However, I did not want to terrorize her by rushing her off in a carrier to go to the emergency vet in her last moments.

For a shy cat who waited SO long for her forever home after being in the public eye at Pet Smart for nine months, to this very day, almost three years later, I’m still glad she got to cross the Bridge in her very favorite spot in the whole world with her very favorite person by her side.

On Cat Beach. AT HOME.

I promised her a forever home when I adopted her. And I never broke that promise.

NICKNAMES: Weener, Weeny-Schnitz, WeenerSchnitzel, Booger, Boogie Board, Der Veener Schnitzel, Wacko, Squeaky McGee, Bad Bad Weeny Brown

SONGS: 

“Rock You Like a Hurricane” – The Scorpions

“Bad to the Bone” – George Thorogood & The Delaware Destroyers

“Bad, Bad LeRoy Brown” – Jim Croce

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Meet Blacky – The Nosiest Neighbor EVER!

Blacky being a spoiled brat
This picture describes Blacky to a TEE!!
Like He Owned the Place

Blacky first came into my life on August 17, 2015. I thought he was another feral cat or maybe a stray since he literally moved right on to our property as if he owned it!

He was already ear tipped. I LOVE when cats come to me already ear-tipped!! Ear tipping is a universal sign that a feral cat was trapped, neutered, vaccinated for rabies and then released/returned.

Since he was so friendly and looked well-kept, I posted his picture on Facebook to see if he was someone’s missing cat. My friend Ken, who works across the street from my house at his folks’ business, commented that it was his sister’s cat.

She recently moved back home with her husband and children.

He Needed a Home

A few days later, she came over and asked me to help her figure out what to do with him. She recently got a dog and Blacky and this dog didn’t get along. Plus, her folks had two cats upstairs that Blacky scrapped with. Unfortunately, in August it’s really difficult to find rescue around here because it’s the height of “kitten season”. The Kits were still outside at the time and I couldn’t even find a rescue to take four adorable 3-month old kittens let alone an adult cat with an ear tip!

She worked something out for him that he could stay on their screened-in porch and he could live outside. Plus, he had a home in my yard if he wanted it. He was originally a feral cat so this is the life he was used to.

A True Survivor

Rose told me that she met Blacky in Wildwood, NJ, when she lived there. An older neighbor was feeding him but really couldn’t afford to feed him anymore. It’s a mystery who neutered him. After Superstorm Sandy battered the NJ Shore in 2012, Rose rescued Blacky, (who was living outside as a feral cat at the time) packed up her family, and moved inland to a town neighboring ours.

Sandy was a horrendous storm that destroyed parts of the Jersey Shore. Blacky lived about 75 miles South of the worst damage, but Wildwood, NJ also was gravely affected by the storm surge, wind, and beach erosion. If you haven’t heard of Sandy, watch this video that shows some of the storm and damage.

Blacky is TRULY a survivor.

Blacky's First Visit
Blacky, the first day he “adopted” us as his second feeders, er, I mean, family!

Growing Pains

Blacky adopted us as his second family very quickly. Like, as soon as I fed him the first time, he decided this was his home, as well.

As if he always lived here and paid the taxes!

Blacky terrorized every other cat here. Fluffy and The Kits were still outside, Oreo was on patrol here many times per day, Chatty (now Cosmo…read about his rescue) showed up a couple of days later and was extremely frightened and sick. At the time, Oreo was living next door to the house where Blacky was staying and Blacky ran Oreo, the head honcho..the Lion King, out of there more times than I can count.

Blacky’s TOUGH. I guess with his life he HAD to be!

He also terrorized Big Orange when Orange moved here in 2016. That entire Spring and Summer I would have to hold the outdoor hose in my hand and warn Blacky that I was “cocked and loaded” if he chased Orange ONE more time!

He eventually settled down and co-exists peacefully with the Yard Cats as well as his doggie brother, but it took a good two years to get him to that point!

So Blacky was living here almost full time and slept here in a shelter I provided for him. He bounced back and forth between our house and the neighbor’s house with some stops off at their next door neighbor’s when it tickles his fancy.

Then He Became Very Sick

Blacky, sick, just before his mama came over and brought him home.
Blacky on January 18, 2016, just before his mama came over to take him inside.

In January, 2016, he was in his heated shelter out back. We get direct sunlight there in the Winter and that area gets nice and toasty. I went out to feed the cats and Blacky would NOT eat and wouldn’t come out all day. I called Rose and told her something was wrong. She came over to see him and he finally came out of his shelter for her, so she snatched him up and put him in a carrier to take him inside. We took him to the vet the next morning. He was burning up with a 105 degree fever and was diagnosed with eosinophilic granuloma complex. The vet gave him a Convenia injection and I had him give Blacky a Cerenia injection for nausea and an appetite stimulant. The vet directed Rose to keep him inside for as long as he would tolerate.

And thank God she did. Just a couple of days later, we got socked with the Blizzard of 2016. It would have been very tough for him to endure the 2′ of snow and high winds we had with that storm, especially if he was sick.

A New Arrangement

Blacky, being Blacky, could only be held inside for so long before he started to scheme his escape. Blacky does things HIS way and ONLY his way. He returned 8 days later. Since Rose figured out a way to keep him separated from the upstairs cats and he was getting along better with Buster, his doggie brother, Blacky became an indoor/outdoor cat. Rose now brings him in overnight and he stays in when the weather is bad.

Everything happens for a reason.

Blacky Keeps Us on Our Toes!

Recently, Rose came over here and told me, “Blacky’s gone!” He didn’t come home the night before and the last time anybody saw him was the previous afternoon when he came over to hit me up for food.

This was VERY unlike Blacky.

He has a schedule. He normally goes in when she calls him in at night, comes here at 7am to eat with my Yard Cats, goes back home to nap until around 10am and then bounces around our block for most of the afternoon, with naps on my property in between his escapades.

Rose thought he was dead. She believed something or someone got him.

But I just had a feeling he was around somewhere. I was concerned he was sick and went off to die alone. He’s probably about 9 years old and has been losing a little weight so it wasn’t out of the question.

We knocked ourselves out for three days trying to figure out where he could be so we could help him. I posted all over Facebook, talked to all of the neighbors on our block, looked high and low and nagged the hell out of Rose to make sure she was doing the same on her side of the street. I even crawled under my next door neighbor’s barn (where Fluffy had The Kits in 2015) with a flashlight to make sure he wasn’t under there.

For three days I called him. Rose called him. We asked her next door neighbor to check around inside HIS barn, outbuildings and shrubs. I kept picturing his face and telling him to let me know where he was so I could help him. I told him that I couldn’t help him if he didn’t make himself known to me!

Blacky v Wild Turkeys, 2017
Blacky blocking a flock of wild turkeys from exiting our back yard…October, 2017

The third morning, it dawned on me that I should look UP. Maybe he climbed a tree and couldn’t climb back down? He’s so soft-spoken under normal circumstances that I wasn’t sure if I would hear him if he was in duress.

I went out front to put food out for the Yard Cats. I called Blacky a few times. The next thing I hear is what sounds like a cat in heat across the street, next door to Rose’s house. I started walking to the street to get a look. As I approached my street, I saw Blacky’s dumb little face in the window of the barn door across the street!

Just like I thought…he got himself trapped! He must have wandered in their barn one day while they were doing yard work and they didn’t realize he was in there when they locked up.

Reunited and It Feels So Good!

Lucky for us, our neighbor returned home just a few minutes later and let me into the barn. Blacky wouldn’t come out with them in there so I asked them to leave us alone out there. He still wouldn’t come out so I ran home (in flip flops, no less) and got a can of his favorite food. I walked back into the barn, cracked open the can and he finally came out.

By then I got in touch with Rose and she came over with a carrier to grab him and keep him inside for a while to make sure he was okay. The weather was hot that week and he didn’t eat or drink anything for that three days he was missing! We both fed him all he could eat the next few days to help him recover. Luckily, he was in pretty good shape for being in a hot barn without food or water for so long!

Blacky and his mama Rose the day I found him
Blacky and his mama, Rose, May 4, 2018. I just found him that morning!

He Changed My Life for the Better

It was then that I realized I love Blacky as much as my own cats. I consider him one of my pets even though he has a home and a mama. A cat can never have too many families, right?

Rose keeps talking about moving out of her folks’ home. And I keep trying to talk her into leaving Blacky to live here. But I can’t bring him inside like she can, and I have to remember he is HER pet, but sometimes it’s hard. He LOVES her. He knows she rescued him. Remember when he was sick and he came out for her and not me?

I have to remember that myself.

Sure, he loves me, but Rose, her husband and kids are his FAMILY. I’m just the nice neighbor with the good food!

All I can do is keep hoping Rose doesn’t move anytime soon! And if she does? I have to PRAY that he will be happy and be okay. And stalk her for weekly updates!

TRULY One of a Kind

He is THE MOST UNIQUE cat, animal, LIVING BEING, I ever met in my ENTIRE life. He marches to the beat of his own drum. It’s HIS way or the highway. He stalks me from across the street when he wants food.

Blacky stalking me in my bedroom window.
Blacky was across the street watching me put suet out in the bird feeder. I tried to duck him and come right back in. The next thing I know, I look at my window to see who Rascal is talking to and see THIS!

EVERY SINGLE TIME I pull up in the Jeep on nice days, he comes running over to greet me and get a snack. If he doesn’t see me and wants something, he will jump outside the windows and STARE into the house until I go out there to tend to his needs.

Blacky stalking the Jeep.
January, 2018. And you thought I was exaggerating, right?

And I’m not the FIRST neighbor that he adopted! Apparently he has done this to Rose’s other neighbors before he moved here!

Blacky has a fan base of neighbors all over South Jersey spanning three counties and 70+ miles!

He has plenty of attitude and plenty of MOXIE.

And a TON of personality!

I’m forever grateful that God and Saint Frances brought Blacky into my life, and I enjoy every single moment I have with him. Even when he’s being bad! Or eating enough cat food to put me in the poorhouse!

Blacky and Lefty the Reindeer, 2015
Blacky, ever the nosy neighbor, is always the FIRST to check out what I’m doing outside. Here he is with his pal Lefty the Reindeer in 2015. It’s our tradition that he helps me decorate for Christmas every year!

Nicknames: Sylvester the Cat, Daddies, Fuss Pot, MOOCH, Nosy Neighbor

Songs: “My Way” – Frank Sinatra, “My Way” – Limp Bizkit

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Tabby Wonder Cat Wilson July 22, 1996 – April 24, 2012

Tabby – Summer, 2011
We Almost Got a Dog Instead…

I’ll never forget the day my ex and I adopted Tabby and her “brother” Taz. We just moved in together a few months before and he decided he wanted a dog, so looked in the paper and found a beautiful older Alaskan Malamute. She had to be re-homed because her owner was moving into a nursing home.

We did a meet and greet with this beautiful, ginormous white gentle giant and I fell in love. She reminded me of a bigger version of my Siberian Husky I had growing up, Dipsey. Her owner was ready to adopt her to us ASAP.

I got home and really thought about it. We had a small one-bedroom apartment at the time and she was a BIG dog. I was a bank manager and since we had one car, I had to drive us both to and from work. We were gone most weekdays from 7am to at least 5pm, if not later.

Dipsey and Robyn 1977
Dipsey as a puppy and me in 1977. I was five years old.

Dipsey had her own doggie door and a fenced yard that she could go out and relieve herself anytime she wanted. This poor pooch would have been stuck in that apartment crossing her legs for over ten hours per day. That was no kind of life for a pooch. I had to call her owner and explain why our home was not the best fit for her.

To this day I hope and pray she found a great home to live out her Golden Years.

The Best $5 I EVER Spent!

We decided a cat would be a much better fit for our home. We saw an ad in the paper selling kittens for $10 each. Labor Day Weekend, 1996, we drove out to meet these kittens.

When we arrived at this private home, they brought out two carriers full of kittens. One was full of Siamese kittens and one was full of regular domestic short hair kittens. I’m writing this 22 years later and I don’t really remember all of the other cats besides Taz and Tabby! Of course, once I met Tabby I KNEW we belonged together and I didn’t really even bother meeting the other kittens.

I didn’t ask too many questions but I imagine these kittens were the product of two unspayed pet cats and the people just wanted rid of them. At least they were charging an adoption fee for the kittens!

My ex immediately fell in love with Taz. I thought he was adorable…but I was distracted by this little tabby thing who just came right up to me and sat on my right side like she had always known me. It was almost as if she was saying, “Okay, Mommy…we can go home now.”

Tabby's First Christmas
Tabby’s First Christmas, 1996. Watching the train under the tree. I wish I took better pictures back then!

Here’s the problem. We only had enough money to adopt one of the kittens. We argued back and forth for probably 20 minutes. But, thankfully, she got tired of hearing us argue and let us have both kittens for $10.

It was the best $10 I EVER spent!

We had no carriers, no litter box or litter, no food bowls or food…nothing. Nelson (ex) held them in the car while I stopped at the store on the way home to pick up litter, a litter box, food and bowls for them.

I think back now and realize how LUCKY we were that neither one of them got out of the car or got away while we carried them into our apartment!  We got them safely home and they promptly hid under the TV stand.

My Apartment Was Finally a “Home”

I set up their stuff and was so excited I called Mom to come over to meet them! I’m reliving that moment right now. I remember this as being one of THE HAPPIEST days of my life. I’ve always had pets. I couldn’t bring my cat Smidgen with me when I moved out of my folks’ house because Smidgen was an indoor/outdoor cat and I knew she would NOT be happy as an indoor-only cat in an apartment. Smidgen was very bonded to her land, and I couldn’t take that away from her. For many cats, their bond with their territory is stronger than ANYTHING, including their bond with their humans.

After we adopted Taz and Tabby, our apartment felt like HOME. Finally!

Those poor cats hid under the TV stand their first three days with us. Tabby wanted to creep out, but I believe she was responding to Taz’s fear and wanted to stay with him. I’m not sure if that lady had them together before we adopted them, but they were bonded from the very beginning of their life with us.

They were not blood related. I believe they were two weeks apart in age. Their birth dates were guestimates by me going by how old they looked when I adopted them. Tabby was only about 6 weeks old and Taz was 8 weeks old when we brought them home.

Taz and Tabby Christmas 1999
Taz and Tabby – Christmas, 1999
Miss Congeniality

As a kitten, Tabby was pretty independent and low maintenance. Honestly, she was low maintenance her entire life. She never demanded much attention and was a pretty healthy cat until her senior years.

And she never complained about anything.

Even when I had a frying pan full of hot canola oil in my hands and tripped over her and spilled it on her, she didn’t complain. I’ll never forget that night. Nelson grabbed a towel and put cold water on it and threw it on her to stop her from running like a maniac. We wrapped her in that cold towel and rushed her right to the emergency vet. Luckily, my quick thinking worked! She had no permanent injury from that oil, although she was oily when we got home. The vet felt it best that we wait a day or two before bathing her since her skin was tender.

After we got home from the vet and settled in for the night, she came over to lie on my lap. Taz jumped up and proceeded to clean her for at least two hours that night.

Her first 10 years, Tabby had to take a back seat to her much needier and not-as-healthy brother. Taz suffered with health issues his entire life. He was a super affectionate cat and hogged all of the attention, but he was also a very shy and skittish cat.

But, again, she never, ever complained. And she loved Taz as much as we did!

My Rock

Tabby saw me through some of my most trying times…active alcoholism and constant fighting with the ex, recovery, marriage, divorce, several moves. After my divorce I was gone even longer hours between work and a hellish commute and just my general need to run away from the house where I had so many bad memories with the ex.

Tabby and Me – Christmas, 1999

Yet she STILL never complained.

When Taz died in 2007, I didn’t adopt another cat. Tabby was 10 by then and I wasn’t sure how she would be with another cat in the house. And I felt it was finally a chance for me to make it all about her. And I did, believe me! She was my daughter and I DOTED on her.

Tabby lived indoor-only but when we moved to a house in the woods, we would take her and Taz outside for supervised outdoor time. In the beginning, she would scratch and protest when I picked her up to carry her inside when it was time to go in. But by the time we moved back to my folks’ house in 2008, she was very well trained. She would stay by my side and even stop, wait, turn around and meow for me in her quiet little way when I was lagging behind.

I had to move back home in 2008 when I was laid off and was one paycheck away from homelessness. By then, my folks were pet-less so it was a very easy transition for Tabby.

And it was actually a very good thing. Tabby liked people and I think she missed living with other people besides just me. Dad was a cat person and she knew it. She and Dad took to each other right away and he doted on her maybe even more than I ever did!

I always say Tabby turned cat haters into believers. My mom was always more of a dog person. Cats don’t like my mom very much..probably because she just doesn’t understand them and treats them like dogs. But Tabby was different. She was just SO good-natured and she LOVED my mom.

She showed Mom what the hype was all about!!

Her Brush With Death

Tabby was getting up there in age and she wasn’t on the best diet because I didn’t know back then how bad most commercial kibbles were for cats. I always fed half kibble, half wet food, but Tabby never really liked wet cat food all that much. She started having problems with chronic constipation when she was 12-13 years old.

In 2011, she had a bout of constipation that almost killed her. I didn’t catch it early like I would have now because I didn’t have much experience with feline health problems and honestly wasn’t paying attention all that much. Up until that point, Tabby was a very healthy cat.

But, she stopped eating and was very lethargic. I took her to the vet and we had complete blood work and a chem panel done. Her blood work showed full-blown fatty liver disease, which will happen when an older, overweight cat stops eating for over 24-48 hours. The vet did an ultrasound and felt strongly that it was liver cancer or possibly an infection.

The vet gave her a Convenia shot that day in case there was an infection. They sent me home with Denamarin, fluids to give her, and an appetite stimulant.

Great! But at the time, I was NO GOOD at medicating cats!

I took her back two weeks later. She still wasn’t eating and now was very weak. She also had some pretty bad jaundice.

Tabby while sick with fatty liver
Tabby – Spring, 2011. See how bad her jaundice is?

I was afraid it was the end. I thought maybe they should admit her. However, my vet is not a 24-hour vet and it was a Saturday morning, so there was a chance she could die in a cage alone. I couldn’t let that be her end. NO WAY. Instead, they had the vet tech show me how to give her fluids and syringe feed her. They gave her another Convenia shot and we brought home a bunch of supplies to save her life.

I was able to force feed her to a point with Mom’s assistance. As for the meds and sub q fluids? Forget it. Wasn’t happening. Remember, I was NO GOOD at medicating cats at that time.

Penny taught me how to become a pro at that stuff a few years later!!

I couldn’t shake the fact that the vets were missing something. This wasn’t denial. My gut was SCREAMING at me that this was NOT her end and we were missing something.

This is when I learned to play Dr Google and taught myself everything I could about fatty liver disease.

I took her back to the vet later that week and INSISTED they check her to see if she was constipated. She wasn’t well enough to have anesthesia, so I had to allow them to attempt a fecal extraction with just lube and a finger.

I bought some Wellness pouch food at Pet Smart later that day and tried feeding her.

And for the first time in six very LONG and stressful weeks, she ate on her own. She didn’t eat the food but she did lick all of the broth up! I ran back to Pet Smart and must have purchased 50 of those packets. Pretty much their entire stock. And I fed her as much broth as she would drink by squeezing the broth out of the packets. She was starting to blow through at least 8 packets per day.

I didn’t care about the cost. WE HAD HOPE!!

She Made a FULL Recovery!

It was a few days later that Tabby started to eat her regular food on her own again. She was becoming more active. Gaining weight and looking less jaundiced as each day passed.

Three weeks later we took her to the vet for a follow up and did another chem panel to check her liver values. When the vet called me the next day, he was AMAZED! He told me that her liver values were almost completely back to normal. Her bilirubin went from “off the charts” to “mildly elevated”.

She was on the road to a FULL recovery! And earned her new nickname…Tabby Wonder Cat Wilson.

I will get more into this with another post, but I did switch her to better quality, all natural food after that. Knowing what I know now, it still wasn’t the BEST diet for a feline, but it was progress and it did make a difference! I also added Miralax to her wet food every day. I gave her 1/8 tsp once per day but if she went longer than 24 hours to defecate, I increased her to 1/8 tsp twice per day. And I PRAISED her every time she pooped!

It worked like a charm.

Tabby Spring 2011
Tabby on one of our walks together shortly after she recovered from fatty liver disease – Spring, 2011
Our Last Year Together

She had another great, quality year after that. I remember her last Christmas was her best one yet. She was playing with all of the ribbons, bows, tissue paper, and had a blast with her new toys. It was like she was a kitten again. She must have known it would be her last Christmas.

The following Spring, she developed some really bad breathing problems. I had her checked by her regular vet and my current vet (who was my 2nd opinion vet at that time). We tried steroids and an asthma inhaler with a spacer, hoping against hope that it was only asthma and not something terminal.

But it was something terminal. We found it was a tumor pressing on her trachea. Likely lymphoma. The steroids worked temporarily but I didn’t want her on long-term steroids to put her at risk for Feline Diabetes (go figure, right?). Knowing what I know now, steroids would have only worked for so long, anyway.

The weekend before she passed, I knew it was time. She wasn’t really eating. She would only lick water off of my fingers so I spent the better part of that weekend dipping my fingers into water for her to lick off. The poor girl couldn’t breath to be able to drink or eat. I had her litter box up on the bed with her because she couldn’t make it to the box and kept having accidents. I slept on the floor since it was a twin bed. To this very day, I wish I could have made room on that bed to sleep with her on her last night.

Her Final Good-Bye

About an hour before the vet arrived to put her to sleep, she actually got off of the bed for the first time in four days. Dad and I were like, “Omg..what do we do NOW? Maybe it’s not time?” Remember, Tabby was the Comeback Kid! She was a fighter!

Tabby used the litter box in the other bedroom and walked around the entire house. By the time she got back to my room, she had such trouble breathing that she collapsed on her side and it took her 10 minutes to catch her breath. That’s when I knew for sure it was “time”.

The vet arrived a few minutes later. This vet, who has since passed on, had a bedside manner like no other vet I ever met. He went in to my room where I put her back on my bed and I knew by the way she reacted to him that she was ready to go. She just wanted her suffering to end. And so did I.

She passed very peacefully, although it took him some time to stop her heart. That last little part of my strong daughter was holding on. But I know in my heart of hearts that I could not have let her suffering go on for one more minute than I already did.

After the vet left, I was BROKEN. Inconsolable. So was Dad. There were many, many tears that week.

Her Last Gift To Me

I went into the bedroom where her litter box was in the corner.

Remember I said that I always praised her when she pooped? When I looked in her litter box, I realized she left me her last little gift. I totally lost it when I saw that. I know now that when she got up to walk around the house that last time, she wasn’t rallying. She was doing one last check of her home before she crossed the Bridge.

She took a large chunk of my heart that day. There’s always that one Special One. And that was my Tabby.

Tabby wrapping gifts
Tabby – Wrapping gifts with me in 2009

July 22, 2012 would have been her Sweet 16th Birthday. Tabby sent a stray balloon to my side yard. None of my immediate neighbors had any graduation parties or BBQs that previous weekend. I know that Tabby sent that balloon to let me know she was okay, flying free, yet still with me. And celebrating up at the Bridge with her beloved brother, Taz.

Keep flying free Tabby. Til we are together again… I love you!

SONGS:

“You Are the Sunshine of My Life” – Stevie Wonder

“Pretty Little Angel Eyes” – Sha Na Na

“If You Only Knew” – Shinedown

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

Any treatments, food and supplements I mention in this post are the result of my own research and experience. Please consult with your vet as necessary.

 

 

 

Cat Rescue Fraud – The Clues and How to Avoid Being Scammed

Just a picture I plucked off the internet when I Googled “litter of kittens”.

NO…I do NOT have kittens! lol

This is just a picture I pulled off the internet when I Googled “litter of kittens” and clicked on images.

“Why is Robyn pulling cat pictures off the internet when she has plenty of her own,” you ask?

Because I want to show you how EASY it is to create a fake “animal rescue” fundraiser through Go Fund Me or You Caring or any other fundraising link.

All you need is a picture of cats, an email address, and viola!

The Back Story

I’ve gone back and forth in my head about posting this for DAYS. Because it’s not my job to discredit people or accuse anybody of anything without having the correct authorities investigating first.

So I won’t name names. It would be wrong of me to ruin someone’s efforts and reputation based on my suspicions.

However, one of our Facebook followers directed me to a “cat sanctuary”. I checked it out because it’s always good to have local friends in rescue, especially if they rescue feral cats!

After checking out their Facebook “like” page and the director’s personal page, I have some SERIOUS doubts that this “rescue” is real.

There are Tell “Tail” Signs

She claims on her fundraiser that feral cats in her town are rounded up by local Animal Control and taken to the County shelter to be euthanized. Yet she lives in a TNR-friendly town in a TNR-friendly County. Her town is contracted with a County shelter that is officially a “no kill” shelter with a 92% live release rate, including feral cats, thanks to a very successful barn cat program.

The shelter’s Cat Director specifically told me that they no longer euthanize feral cats just for being “feral” and haven’t in the past couple of years.

Now, if she was involved in rescue local to her area, wouldn’t she know this?

More Red Flags…

I found several fundraiser campaigns (You Caring, Go Fund Me, etc) on her personal page over the past two years and they are all closed now. She is spamming Facebook group after Facebook group (and other websites) with her fundraiser.

I see ONE CAT her personal page. On the “like” page there is a stock picture of kittens (no pictures of them growing up or as adults) and a video of one other cat being pet by a hand. Whose hand is anybody’s guess. Anybody can save videos off of social media and pass it off as their own. All they need is a smart phone.

There are no updates, intakes, or adoptions. I didn’t see any pictures of feral cats being TNR’ed…and no ear-tipped cats. As far as I can tell, this woman has two cats. That’s not a rescue!

MORE Red Flags…

Furthermore, someone asked her on her “like” page if she could rescue a feral cat and her answer was very evasive. As was her answer on how to tame feral cats after she supposedly tamed one.

She claims to be recently approved for 501c3 exemption, but I have not found her organization listed on the IRS “Exempt” database.

However, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt that the IRS database is not up to date just yet. But, please, when in doubt and before you donate, ALWAYS verify that they are listed on the database if they are claiming to be a registered non-profit.

It’s Not Just About the Money – It’s About Right and Wrong

It really ticks me off when I see so many fraudulent “rescues” out there taking advantage of your good hearts to help pets in need when so many LEGITIMATE rescues need your help! For every fraudulent rescue collecting money, pets at REAL rescues are doing without much-needed food, medical care, and shelter. Rescues can’t intake more pets if they lack the funds to properly vet and care for them.

Questions to Ask Before Donating Money

Here are some of the questions I ask myself before I donate to an animal rescue…

1. Are they a legit 501c3 non-profit? If not, I personally will only donate directly to their VETERINARIAN or purchase through their Amazon Smile or from their Amazon Wish List (Amazon will ship their Wish List items directly to them)… UNLESS I know them in person and know that they, in fact, rescue animals and that the animals will be the recipients of my donation.
2. Do they show pictures of the rescue animals at intake? Are they posting progress reports with pictures and/or medical bills?
3. Do you see them posting successful adoptions? A legitimate rescue typically posts their rescue pets with their adopters to share the good news!
4. Do they talk about spaying and neutering their pets, post pics of their rescue pets when they are recovering, etc? If not, you may be donating to a hoarder and I’ve seen that happen!
5. Here’s a good one…if they are sharing about feral cats, do the feral cats have tipped ears? That’s a universal sign that a feral cat has been neutered and vaccinated for rabies.
6. Another good clue…do you see the kittens growing up? For example, they took an 8-week-old kitten in and you’ve been following them for two months. Does that 8-week-old kitten now look like a 16-week-old kitten?
7. Do they ever post videos or go Live on Facebook or Instagram (assuming you found them on social media) showing the cats? Do you ever see their volunteers or directors in pics and videos?
8. Do you see the same background in the pictures? For example, the cat room at a shelter, an adoption room at Pet Smart or Petco, etc.

9, Are they listed on Petfinder?

Diabetic cat BooBoo for adoption
BooBoo-A diabetic cat waiting for a home at HART of Maine
What Legitimate and Reputable Animal Rescues Look Like

Jersey State Animal Rescue (a 501c3) often posts pics of their adoptables at Pet Smart and you always see the cat room or the store in the background. You see the cats doing different things like playing or interacting with the volunteers and they are always posting videos! The young kittens are growing up as the pictures progress. Every time someone adopts one of their cats, they post pictures of their cats going home with their new parents.

There are many people locally who know their director in person and have adopted great cats from them, including me (that’s where Penny and Weeny came from). In turn, when you talk to local people in rescue, you often hear that they’ve taken in pets in need.

Weeny on her favorite chair 2013
Weeny (RIP) on her favorite chair-2013

Taming Gracie – Feral Cat Care (not a 501c3 yet but LEGIT) posts pictures of her intakes, progress pictures/videos and stories, trail cam pictures of her ferals, and the only ones who aren’t ear tipped are the cats she is planning on TNR’ing. She shows pictures and updates of the sickies recovering after getting vet care.

She is well-known in our area and any rescue worth anything in this area knows the director personally, including me (although I’m not a rescue). Local shelters sometimes send feral cats to her when they cannot find a solution for them.

The Scammers are Taking Away from the Pets who TRULY Need Our Help!

Have I beaten this point into the ground yet?

So many of these fake rescues make it that much harder for the REAL rescues to get donations they so desperately need! I felt it my duty to share what I know and what I’ve found to help stop the frauds where it COUNTS…by stopping the money from coming in.

Please, if you found this useful, SHARE! And if there is anything I missed, comment below so I can update this post! Together, we can STOP the scammers!

Rescues I Know and Stand Behind

Among the many phenomenal animal rescues besides the two I already mentioned, there are a few more that I try to help whenever I can and regularly feature on Facebook.

Diabetic Cats in Need (DCIN)

DCIN is a 501c3 that works tirelessly to help diabetic cats all over the US and Canada in various ways. They help the parents of diabetic cats with care costs related to Feline Diabetes when the cat owners want to keep their cats but can’t afford the care.

DCIN profiles diabetic cats from shelters across the country to assist in finding them homes. They pull death-row diabetics and arrange transport to get them to safety.

DCIN  also has a network of volunteers who will transport diabetic cats across the country to approved adopters. Their work is tireless and I know their directors and some of their Case Managers well.

HART of Maine

HART often takes diabetic (and other special needs kitties!) whose lives are in danger and works tirelessly to find them forever homes. They work closely with DCIN.

Taming Gracie – Feral Cat Care

Denise at Taming Gracie stepped in to help a few times. The first case was Lucy the Basement Feral (blog post to come). She was feral but living in her caretakers basement because they didn’t know how to socialize her. Most recently, Denise helped me with two feral cats found on the property where their caretaker passed away. She is socializing them and then will place them up for adoption. She works tirelessly to help special needs and cats who wouldn’t otherwise have a chance!

Jersey State Animal Rescue

This is Penny and Weeny’s Alma Mater. I’ve been to their home facility as well as their cat room at Pet Smart. Both are always meticulously clean. Linda, their director, has come to my rescue more times than I can count. And although I get donations for her when she does rescue for me, her help is never contingent on bringing in X amount of dollars before she will rescue. She knows her stuff when it comes to cat care. She puts the cats in her care above all else. As it should be!

 

Please look these rescues up on Facebook and give them some love! If you do nothing else but interact with their posts by liking or commenting on them, that helps, because the more people interact with their posts, the more Facebook places those posts in the News Feed!

 

**This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products that we use and wholeheartedly believe in!**

 

Fluffy’s Sudden and Unplanned Rescue from Feral Life

Fluffy…INSIDE! April 2018

Did you notice that Fluffy is listed as an “Innie” (indoor cat) rather than a “Yard Cat”?

She Was Stuck Outside in the Sleet

February 17, 2018, started out like any other day. I noticed a couple of days previously that Fluffy wasn’t hanging out on her Queenie Throne in the shed as often as usual. It was a nice morning, but by evening we were getting heavy sleet and snow. The first of four Nor’Easters were forecasted to hit NJ later that week.

I was still outside getting the Yard Cats situated for the night when the heavy sleet started. Fluffy couldn’t use her heated Queenie Throne because Domino was on it and wouldn’t stay off no matter how many times I moved him. He can be very passive aggressive and he had his mind set on using her heating pad that week.

Fluffy is a creature of habit and would not use the two unoccupied heating pads in the shed. She FINALLY went into the shed after a lot of coaxing and treats.

There was a loud bang in the shed while I was in Charlie’s Corner waiting for him to finish eating. I looked over to the shed area and Fluffy ran out of there and across the yard like a cat out of Hell.

I ran to the shed and saw Trouble and Domino standing there with their fur bristled as if they were about to fight or something spooked them. To this day, I have no clue what caused the bang. My guess is that Fluffy tried to jump up to her Queenie Throne and saw Domino there. The heated food bowl was flipped over and kibble was spilled on the shed floor. I’m thinking that when she jumped back down, she knocked it over.

I called and called her and finally found her under a large tree in the driving sleet. After a particularly dramatic week with the Yard Cats not getting along, this was the climax. I was fed UP.

Fluffy’s Rescue

I was NOT going to have Fluffy, who raised her Kits so amazingly and risked her life to protect them, out there in the driving sleet storm afraid to use her shelter.

I ran into the house, grabbed a cat carrier, ran back outside, and used food to coax her in.

Then I questioned my sanity. I planned on rescuing Fluffy at some point in the future since I worked intently the past year to tame her. However, she still routinely turned around to swat at me with her claws out when I attempted to pet her. Up until that point, I could only pet her while she was eating, and she often would position herself in front of the food bowl and pretend to eat so I could stroke her back. Only for a few seconds. Then she turned around and swatted.

I also have Mischief and Patchy still living separate lives inside the house since they don’t get along. Something I still have to blog about.

That first night, she hid inside the closet most of the evening. She woke me up at 2am sitting in her window, squeaking her little heart out. The next couple of days she would squeak whenever she saw Trouble or Oreo out front. I came VERY close to putting her back outside, especially since the weather got really nice that week.

Fluffy sitting on the windowsill
Fluffy-Sitting on the windowsill trying to figure out how to get outside the morning after her rescue.

But the weather was about to change with an impending Nor’Easter. I had an opportunity to save her. I couldn’t lose the thought that if I put her back outside and something happened to her in the future, I would never forgive myself.

Her Health is at Stake!

I took her to the vet that Monday (the night I rescued her was a Saturday night) and she did very well for a feral cat. She weighed in at 12lb, which confirmed my fears about her weight. She, at most, should weigh 10lbs since she’s such a tiny little thing. Siberian, Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest Cats have a higher risk of Feline Diabetes than other breeds, and Fluffy is a mix of one of those breeds, for sure.

And I knew. I looked at Fluffy the past two years and knew she was at high risk. That’s why she was on “the list” to begin with.

I knew to get the excess weight off of her, I had to remove the high carb kibble from her diet and feed her Young Again Zero (Carb), a food she flat out refused to eat while she was outside. Since there are other feeders on my block, I feed the Cat Chow out there so my Yard Cats won’t cross the street to get to the junk food. But once she’s inside and has no choice, she will eat it!

Fluffy playing with a feather
Fluffy loves play time every night before bed!
She Adjusted to Indoor Life Beautifully!

I will get more into that later, but the change in Fluffy this past six weeks has been remarkable. She is in SUCH better spirits and was so good when I brought Oreo, who was dying, into her room with her. Fluffy LOVES to play and I’m able to pet and handle her more and more each day. I’ve made more progress with taming her the past six weeks than in the entire previous year! I am now training her so I can pick her up and fully handle her. We have to go MUCH than Mischief and I did, but we will get there.

I honestly never believed that she would transition to indoor life as well as she has. We haven’t officially started introductions with her Kits yet, but so far the entire process has gone much more smoothly than I ever imagined it would with her!

I got a very strong feeling when Fluffy and I left the vet that day that Penny played a part in her rescue. It wasn’t something I planned or even wanted at this time, but I firmly believe that everything happens for a REASON.

She’s a completely different cat, and I get the sense that she’s enjoying the kitten-hood she never had a chance to enjoy. I’m pretty sure she was maybe just six months old when she got pregnant with The Kits.

Hence, after 3 1/2 years of being a Yard Cat, Fluffy graduated to an Inside Cat!

Welcome home, Fluffy!

Fluffy relaxing with me.
Fluffy shortly after her rescue. Relaxing after a play session.

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Oreo Crossed the Rainbow Bridge-Surrounded By Love-With Me By His Side

Oreo and Trouble 11.1.17
Oreo and his protege, Trouble-November 2017
Too Soon After Penny Passed

I think I mentioned in Oreo’s Introduction about a thousand times that if Oreo were to become terminally ill and unable to care for himself out there, I hoped I would be able to take him in so he wouldn’t have to die alone under a bush somewhere.

That time came March 1, 2018. His official “Gotcha Day”. I noticed weight loss in February, which is much too early for the Yard Cats to start their “Spring Shed”, especially with harsh Winter we had here in New Jersey. He then started refusing food. I knew right away it was the beginning of the end, but the eternal optimist in me decided to try a few things to help him out. Especially since it was too soon after losing Penny.

I first tried Revolution for fleas and Drontal for any worms he may have had, especially since I saw that he had diarrhea. Oreo was chewed up by ticks in the Spring of 2017, and he had fur mats in the areas where I pulled the biggest ticks out of him.

Once he got Revolution, he was able to pull those fur mats off. He had one on his side that he got off, and I noticed he ripped off a small piece of skin. He developed an abscess that burst, so I started giving him 125mg amoxicillin once per day, which was a challenge since I couldn’t pill him outside without him running away from me. We managed to get six days worth of antibiotics into him and he appeared to be doing better on Days 5 and 6. He started to get back to his old self again…eating, running to greet me, hanging out in my neighbor’s yard during the day…but he wasn’t playing as much as he had been this past year.

Oreo’s Rescue

In hindsight, I realize that was his last rally before his final decline. He started refusing just about anything I tried to feed him. In an attempt to separate himself from the others, he moved out of the shed and started using the heated shelter I have under our back steps. That one isn’t as wind-proof or waterproof as the shed shelters.

They were forecasting the second of four Nor’Easters (in less than a month) to hit NJ. They were calling for 10″ of heavy, wet snow, 60mph winds, and widespread downed trees/power outages. I was REALLY worried that he would run off into the woods and die during those conditions . And if he didn’t, it still would have been rough out there for him since he was so sick. so I brought him in.

I got him the evening the storm was starting to hit. He was TERRIFIED. He would not calm down even with his carrier covered with a sheet. My vet came to see him right after he came inside and we found he was in full blown late stage liver disease. I didn’t want to put him through extensive testing and treatments and break the trust I worked SO hard to earn. Especially since I knew it the back of my mind that there was a good chance it wouldn’t help.

After the vet left, I put him in the room with is pal, Fluffy, who I rescued just two weeks prior. He was sound asleep in his carrier and even when I opened the door, he stayed asleep for the first 15 minutes. This, after all of the excitement and fear. That’s when it really hit home how sick he was.

I REALLY Wanted to do More!

He didn’t want to be inside. I knew that. I didn’t really have a choice. After that bad storm, during which we lost power and heat for 30 hours, we had two more Nor’Easters in the following two weeks. I wasn’t even able to entertain the thought of trying to put him back outside. My heart broke every time he sat in the window and cried when he saw his pal Trouble.

I resisted the urge to break his trust completely by giving him supplements, sub q fluids, B12 injections, appetite stimulants, etc. For his sake and the sake of our relationship, I had to go with the minimal treatment of antibiotics only.

He did allow me to cuddle him and even played with a peacock feather from time to time. My poor boy held his pee for the first two days until I got the idea to go outside where he usually went to the bathroom and get a leaf from that area to put inside his litter box. Once I did that, he used the litter box maybe an hour later and used it faithfully throughout his time inside. I must say…he was remarkably easy to pill for a feral cat!

It Was Time…

Unfortunately, it didn’t help. He was at least 13-14 years old, FIV +, with extensive dental disease. After two weeks on antibiotics and one week of him flat out refusing ANY food, I had to make the gut-wrenching decision to let him go.

It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. I really hoped that I could get him healthy and return him back outside. Or at least give him a good year or two inside with the cats he protected and played a big part in saving.

Trouble, Oreo and Rascal
(Outside) L-R: Trouble and Oreo
(Inside) Rascal. this is where Oreo took his last breaths.

When the vet came, I was clinging to the false hope that maybe we could try something else. I know Dr Matt very well. If he truly thought there was anything else we could try that would help, he would tell me. He felt that there was nothing more we could do.

And I knew it, too. I was just living in Denial Aisle to get me through the heartbreak.

His Final Moments

They administered a sedative so that I could take him out on the back step where he used to nap in the sun. I wanted his last moments to be where he considered “home”. Dr Matt and his assistant stayed inside while I sat with Oreo on the step. I called Trouble over to us to say “goodbye” to him. That was important to me and I’m sure important to Oreo. They had a very weird and special friendship. Oreo didn’t react to Trouble because of the sedative, but I have to believe that he knew Trouble was there.

Once Trouble left us, Dr Matt came outside. We sent him to the Bridge, with me by his side, petting him, and telling him how loved he was.

Just like I hoped, he passed surrounded by love, not alone under a bush.

For the past two years since he moved here, I always told him that this was his forever home.

And it is. We buried him in our backyard with his flag overlooking his colony.

RIP Papa Oreo. Thank you for making a profound impact on our lives, Fluffy and The Kits’ lives, and the Yard Cats’ lives.

You will always be here protecting us. We love you!

Oreo's Final Resting Place
Oreo’s Final Resting Place overlooking his colony.

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Meet Charlie (The Cat Formerly Known as Hitler) – Fluffy and The Kits’ Rescuer!

Charlie eating in the shed 2015
Charlie – Winter, 2015
My First Feral

I started feeding feral cats “by accident” in 2014 when my neighbor’s indoor cat got out during one of the coldest nights of the year and I put food out in the shed to help him. Their cat returned the next day, but I noticed that someone or something ate the food I put out.

That’s where it ALL began!

Charlie, Oreo, and Tiggy (the only REAL feral of the bunch) were my first feral cats and the only cats who came by to eat during 2014. We originally named him “Hitler” because my dad referred to him as “the Hitler cat”. I keep that in his name now because it’s a reminder of my dad and his unique and highly politically incorrect way of thinking (he was a cop, after all). My dad passed away in 2014.

Charlie and Oreo had many territorial shouting matches with each other back then. It didn’t even occur to me that neutering them would stop most of the aggression between the boys. Honestly, I thought Oreo was a girl that first year that I knew him!

I knew nothing about TNR and feral cat care yet. My Crash Course in TNR didn’t happen until 2015 when I met Fluffy and The Kits.

Charlie Rescues Fluffy and The Kits

Charlie is the cat who “rescued” a pregnant Fluffy in April, 2015. If it wasn’t for him, who knows if Fluffy would have ever found us…if her kits would have had been so healthy when I rescued them…if they all would have eventually been rescued?

He’s a very special little guy!

Up until 2015, Charlie would only stop by here once or twice per day to eat. He was a wanderer and there was no rhyme or reason to how often he showed up. The only thing he was consistent with was his “meal time”…which was between 10a-12 noon. He would eat here every day for five days and then take off up to a week at a time. I couldn’t pet him, but he would hang around at a safe distance and talk to me and he would eat inside the shed while I was in there with him. I couldn’t walk toward him or else he would run away. Although I had a heated shelter set up for him inside the shed, he never used it.

When Fluffy had The Kits tucked under the barn next door, Charlie was here more consistently. He would guard the shed while she was in there cleaning me out of six or more cans of Fancy Feast per day. At the time, naive little Robyn thought that he was just being kind and taking this kitten under his wing…because Fluffy was only a kitten herself!

Well, I was HALF right, anyway!

Once The Kits made themselves known to me, they would all hang out here like one big happy family.

It Wouldn’t Last…

I remember one day in August, 2015, a six-week-old Rascal running up to Charlie, tail up in greeting, and Charlie hissed at Rascal and ran off.

Charlie and Rascal September 2015
Charlie and his suspected son, Rascal, Summer 2015.

He didn’t return until November. By then, Fluffy was spayed, Oreo was neutered, and The Kits were living inside. Since it was still mild here in NJ, I knew that I had to grab him and get him neutered before he took off again! I quickly got appointments at the clinic and set out to trap him.

I’ll never forget when I trapped him. He decided to eat at the other feeding station, where I didn’t have a trap set, rather than where I had the trap. The trash truck was out front making all kinds of noise picking up our trash. I had about two minutes left to trap him before it would be too late to get him to the clinic since they had to be dropped off by a certain time. I remember running across the back yard, set trap in hand, yelling “Hitler! Hitler!” (I hadn’t renamed him yet). I plopped that trap down and IN he went right away!

That was SHEER LUCK!

When I released him the next day, he didn’t dart off like the others. He spent a good half hour cleaning himself, eating, and re-acclimating to the area before he left. I took a bunch of pictures of him just in case he went MIA again. He actually came back every day for a few weeks before he took off, yet again, in December.

Charlie after I released him in 2015
Charlie just after his TNR release – November 2015
And He Takes Off… AGAIN!

This time, Charlie didn’t return for MONTHS. By the time he did return, Trouble, Oreo, Fluffy and Orange had established our yard as their permanent home and Junior was working his way into the colony. Charlie tried to come back to eat quite a few times and Trouble would run him off despite my best efforts to stop him. One time, poor Charlie was crying his little heart out to me and I couldn’t stop Trouble from chasing him off. I was HEARTBROKEN for him and ready to ship Trouble off to a farm somewhere.

I later found out that Charlie had been eating at another feeder’s house about 3/4 of a mile away. He would bounce back and forth between our houses through the woods that run behind our houses. I felt relieved knowing that at least he was eating somewhere else and still okay.

I have worried more about Charlie in the past four years than any of the others because he just never wants to stick around!

In the Fall of 2017, Carol (The Other Woman) reported to me that she hadn’t seen “the Hitler cat” (that’s what she named him, too) in six weeks and she feared him dead. It had been quite some time since the last time I saw Charlie, maybe six months or so? I knew that if Charlie was alive, he would try to come back here, and I prayed HARD to God and St Francis to help him find his way back home and I called for him at each feeding time. I decided to set up a new feeding station in an area of our property where Trouble NEVER hangs out, thinking that he won’t perceive that as “his” territory and then maybe poor Charlie would have a chance here.

He’s Back!

Charlie returned two days after I set that station up…starving and sick. He cried his little heart out when he saw me! He ate three entire bowls of food while I stood there, guarding him. When he left, I BEGGED him to come back the next day.

And he did. I posted on our Facebook page about his return, and my friend Marlene was kind enough to donate a house for him, so I bought a heating pad to go inside of it. We created “Charlie’s Corner”, complete with the heated house, his heated bowls, and a feeding shelter.

I sprinkled powdered catnip in his new house to get his curiosity piqued, and then watched while Trouble and Blacky (neighbor’s cat) checked it out. I was beside myself because if either one of them claimed it, Charlie wouldn’t have had a chance during the Winter. He has evidence of past frostbite because I noticed his ear tips are white now, even though his ears are black. I REALLY needed him to take to this house, so every time Trouble or Blacky went inside, I would knock on the back to scare them out. They had their shelters already. They didn’t need his!

It worked. Charlie returned the next day. Ate. Checked out his new snazzy heated house. AND STAYED. He also got the nerve up to rub against my shins one day, so I tried to lightly pet him while he was eating. He was all over me within five minutes. After FOUR YEARS, this feral cat allows me to pet him.

Charlie and Orange standing guard March 2018
Charlie (on his house) and Orange on high alert after they spotted a new cat back in the woods – March 2018

As of this writing, Charlie has been living here for five months. Knock on wood. I say that because I learned that the only thing I can count on with Charlie is that he never does what I want him to do! Trouble still gives him a hard time, but he is slowly becoming more tolerant and accepting of Charlie living here. Again, knock on wood because Trouble never does what I want him to do, either!

My hope is that Charlie moves into the back yard so I can move Charlie’s Corner closer to the house. Right now he’s about 100′ away from the house towards the woods. We just got slammed with four Nor’Easters in a month here in New Jersey. There are a lot of tall trees and we have several down around Charlie’s Corner as a result. It’s not as safe as the clearing in our back yard. I cannot rush the move and risk upsetting Trouble. They will show me when the time is right.

I have to stand outside with Charlie every day, no matter the weather, while he eats. Rain. Snow. Nor’Easters. He’s fussy. I typically have to rotate foods to keep him happy. But after worrying about him for almost four years, I will do what it takes to keep him coming around!

Stay Tuned…

As for Charlie and Fluffy, either she doesn’t remember him or she just don’t care now that she has no use for him. He kept trying to make friends with Fluffy before I rescued her and brought her inside. He JUST figured out where her room is inside the house, though.  Join Us on Facebook to follow the ongoing saga of “The Young and the Neutered”!

Charlie in the background looking for Fluffy
Fluffy rejecting Charlie while he attempts to catch a glimpse of his baby mama.

Nicknames: Hitler, Charlie Boy, My Char-Wee, Fusspot, Mr Charlie, Papa Charlie

Songs: “The Wanderer” – Dion

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