#neuteriscuter Why Spaying or Neutering Your Cats Will Save Lives!

Marbles in a carrier at his new rescue
Marbles, now “Brett” on Rescue Night-Scared, but finally safe!

 

This is “Brett”.

He’s scared. He’s scared because I had to pluck him out of the only home he has ever known and take him to Jersey State Animal Rescue.

Why?

Because his previous owner failed to neuter him.

The ONLY reason why he did not end up as bait for a dog-fighting ring or in a shelter this week is because I saw the previous owner’s (we will call her “Sarah”*) Facebook post..

“Anyone want an almost 1-yr-old male cat? Photos and more info on cat in comments.” This post was done on a Monday. If she didn’t find any takers by Wednesday, he would have been taken to a local high-kill shelter.

Her other cat, an older spayed female, was attacking him so badly that he spent most of his life hiding in a closet and when I rescued him, I noticed he had a huge gash on his neck. “Sarah” had been cleaning it and applying Neosporin but didn’t have the money to take him to the vet.

She rescued him off the street and did a phenomenal job cleaning him and fattening him up! I even helped her to treat an upper respiratory infection he had. Then things in “Sarah’s” life changed and she no longer had the money or mental capacity to get him neutered and worry about re-introducing the two cats. She couldn’t isolate him because she lives in a one-room efficiency. Poor Brett pretty much lived in a closet for the past few months.

Brett, dirty and malnourished.
Brett when Sarah first rescued him.

Now he is spending his second full day at the rescue, scared shitless and hiding under his little bed in the cage at the rescue.

All through absolutely NO fault of his!

This is Chatty. Chatty came to me as a terrified stray cat in the Summer of 2015. He was emaciated, so scared he was shaking like a scared chihuahua, and could only eat if I was standing right there with him because he just kept getting his ass kicked out there.

Emaciated and dirty Chatty
Chatty when he first found me.

He was not neutered. It’s likely he was dumped off in the woods because of typical intact Tom behaviors like urine marking and aggression. Or it could just be that he had a home and escaped because he wasn’t neutered and knew there was a female in heat nearby. He has permanent scars on his ears and face from cat fights. And is FIV+, likely from having to fight to survive out there.

This is Brucey. I found Brucey while doing a TNR project for my Township and his feeder had called looking for help. He was malnourished with permanent scars all over his face, ears, and back. He had a dislocated hip that took two surgeries to correct. Yet, he was the SWEETEST little boy.

Brucey sick and injured
Brucey, the first day I met him in July, 2017.
Brucey close up of face
Despite his very rough life, Brucey was looking for love. Or more wet food!

But he was not neutered.

Again, it’s very likely that he was dumped off in the woods when he came to sexual maturity and started the typical instinctual intact Tom behaviors such as urine marking and aggression. Or, he escaped out of his previous home because he smelled a female in heat nearby. Intact Toms are known to wander until they find them. And if they are confined inside, they will do just about anything to get OUT.

Almost ALL of my so-called “feral” yard cats came to me intact. All but Big Orange.

I could not tell you how many nights I heard Oreo and Charlie (the cat formerly known as Hitler) have their screaming matches in my backyard before I neutered them. Oreo has so many scars on his left ear that I’m surprised it’s still even in one piece! Trouble and Junior fought almost daily before they were neutered. As did Shadow and Trouble before I neutered Shadow.

Oreo, my senior boy, who went from hardened feral to total love bug after he was neutered!

All because they were intact Toms acting like intact Toms. And I say “so-called” feral because out of the nine that I feed out here, only ONE of them is TRULY a feral cat. The rest likely once had a home, even if just as kittens.

I didn’t worry too much about neutering my feral cats in 2014 when I first started feeding because I was feeding two cats who I figured were boys (Oreo and Charlie) and one girl who was already eartipped (Tiggy). I had spoken to a few people who fed community cats and they didn’t worry about the boys all that much.

But I learned my lesson when Charlie brought his little pregnant hussie (Fluffy) here in 2015 to have her kittens in the barn next to my house. I was so naive at the time that I thought she was just a kitten that Charlie had taken under his paw.

I was right about the kitten part. But those six cans of Fancy Feast she blew through each day were because she was PREGNANT.

And if I hadn’t stepped in to that situation and rescued The Kits, all of whom are sleeping in a heated house with full bellies as I sit here and type, let me run through all of the possible scenarios that could have been their fate.

  1. If Fluffy hadn’t found my good eats and had proper nutrition, she may not have had the full surviving litter of four kittens. If she hadn’t eaten the proper food, at least one of those kittens, if not ALL, would have developed herpes eye infections that very well could have led to ruptured eyes, blindness, and/or a horrible painful death. These kitten came inside with perfectly clean bills of health besides some roundworm.
  2. I rescued them at four months old. Had I waited another couple of months, Patchy and Spunky would very likely have become pregnant. They would have spent their lives with the physical and emotional stress of raising litter after litter and being hounded by all the male feral cats out here. And Fluffy was already pregnant AGAIN when I TNR’ed her four months after her first litter. It doesn’t take long.
  3. Rascal and Mischief would have been outed and forced to go find their own territories. And how would they have been evicted? Oreo would have kicked their asses until they no longer came around. These bonded brothers, who were each other’s lifelines when I first rescued them, would have turned on each other while they competed for food, territory, and mates.
  4. To date, 3 1/2 years after The Kits were rescued and all of the adults were TNR’ed, we have prevented the births of over 1 million unwanted feral cats over the next ten years.
Picture of all of our cats-all spayed and neutered.
Every single one of these cats are spayed and neutered! Clockwise from top left: Oreo, Mischief, Rascal, Blacky, Shadow, Patchy, Spunky, Fluffy, Domino, Big Orange, Trouble. Center tortie is Penny and black/white cat is Charlie

My backyard feral colony at the time of this writing consists of one lone female and five full-time males, plus two more males and one female who stop by here most days to eat. For the most part, they live with each other in peace.

My “fulltimers” (Fluffy, Oreo, Trouble, Domino, Big Orange and Charlie) would not all be in their heated shelters in my shed and my yard on this COLD windy night. They would NEVER live in such close proximity to each other if they weren’t fixed. Not in a million years!

I can cite facts and figures ALL DAY LONG. But I wanted to tell the STORIES. You can Google search to learn about the spread of Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), Feline Leukemia (FeLV), all off the feral and shelter cats who are killed each year due to overcrowding, all of the cats who are abused by sick individuals, all of the female cats who are predisposed to mammary cancer and other types of cancers because they are not spayed, and on and on and on.

We hear why spay and neuter is so important EVERY day, yet people fail to do the responsible thing for their pets to have the happiest and healthiest life possible.

They and/or their litters get dumped off into the woods. I live in the woods. THIS HAPPENS EVERY SINGLE DAY OUT HERE. And rather than fixing their cat, people just lather, rinse, and repeat, repeat, repeat.

That cute little kitten you just brought home is ADORABLE until they come to sexual maturity and start exhibiting instinctive sexual behavior for an intact cat…

This shit happens day in and day out. To hundreds of thousands of cats.

They get dumped off at shelters because their urine marking is stinking up the house. They are fighting with the other cats. Their female goes into heat every few weeks and hounds and yowls all day and night until either she gets out and mates or the estrus cycle passes…or she gets pregnant. Female cats in heat often spray, too.

And they are scared like Brett…wondering why they aren’t home with their human who used to love them so, so much.

He lost his home through absolutely NO fault of his own.

Let’s hope he finds the RIGHT home with a FOREVER family this time around.

Do you need help finding low-cost spay or neuter clinics in the South Jersey/Philly area?  Contact Us!

For help in finding low cost options in your area, Google “low cost spay and neuter cats” or contact your local SPCA or no-kill shelter.

Close up of Brucey in his forever home
Brucey-his first Christmas in his forever home. Happy, healthy, loved, and NEUTERED.

 

Chatty in his forever home with his bonded brother
Chatty (now Cosmo, top), neutered and in his forever home with his new bonded brother, Winston.

 

*Some names were changed.*

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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.

 

 

 

 

I Am a Feral Cat Caregiver

Oreo (left) and Domino (right) keeping warm during a record cold streak in NJ.

 

And I am exhausted.

People constantly ask why I do what I do when I have so many other priorities. When it costs money out of my own pocket. When I have my own indoor cats to tend to.

My answer?

Because somewhere down the line, a human let them down. Either they were dumped off, their parents were dumped off, or their great-grandparents, etc etc.

Because people may have been feeding them, but nobody bothered to neuter them so that they wouldn’t keep giving birth to kittens who would potentially suffer and die out there. So that feral kittens would no longer be dropped off at shelters and healthy shelter cats who had been waiting for homes would be euthanized to “make room”. So that Toms would never have to fight for territory or mates anymore. So that they could live healthier, happier lives.

We are just coming out of a period of extended record-breaking cold weather in NJ and many parts of the US & Canada. And feral cat caregivers are exhausted and over-extended trying to help our kitties survive it.

We are out there in sub-zero temperatures trying to feed them wet food before their food freezes and scheming ways to keep water from freezing so that our kitties don’t dehydrate. We are trying to figure out HOW we can get them to use the shelters we have set up for them to weather the elements.

We are worrying ourselves sick when our babies don’t show up after the snow storm. When they get sick because of the rough conditions out there. When one goes missing to hunker down somewhere til conditions improve.

Big Orange enjoying his heated shelter during the January Thaw

We look at untouched food bowls and hope that TODAY will be the day they are able to come out and eat.

We look at the pictures we took of them before the storm and HOPE we get to see them soon…alive and healthy.

Shadow before the New Jersey Blizzard 2018. It’s been six days and he still has not returned.

We spend time on social media talking to other caregivers because our families and friends JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND.

We pray to God, St Francis, and/or the Universe to help our babies survive the harsh weather.

We spend money we don’t have on heating pads, heated bowls, straw, shelters, food, medication and supplements…hell, some of us build additions on to our houses or sacrifice our basements, garages and porches for our babies.

We dig our feral cat shelters out of the snow before we even dig ourselves out.

We scheme ways to treat sick ferals who cannot be handled or touched or just put into a carrier to take to the vet.

Fluffy, who is currently dealing with a bout of diarrhea and is too feral for me to help her much.

We look helplessly at our babies who can’t be handled while they deal with a mess on their bum from diarrhea and think “if she would JUST let me scruff her and wipe, she will feel SO much better!”.

Then we get a little break in the weather. And they come back or come out of their shelters. And enjoy the thaw right along with us.

They follow us around and try to trip us as we walk in the snow and ice and mooch treats and love.

They even roll around and play in the snow!

Oreo enjoying the January Thaw while Domino looks on and wonders what is wrong with him!

Those are the moments us caregivers LIVE for. Those are the moments that make it ALL worth it. When they look at us with love and gratitude in their eyes because they KNOW that all we do makes their lives THAT much more bearable.

Feral Cat Caregivers are unsung and often misunderstood heroes!

We may “think” that we aren’t making a difference in the world because we haven’t won a Nobel Peace Prize or saved children from sex trafficking or aren’t making six-figure incomes.

But to that feral cat, we have changed THEIR entire world.

And that’s ALWAYS enough!

***For more info on some of the products shown in the pictures, click Here ***

***For pictures of all of the shelters I have out for the Yard Cats, click Feral & Yard Cat Shelter Pics***

 

A Facebook Friend is Giving Away Free Kittens, Yet Again…

chatty when he first came to me

Chatty (now Cosmo) when he first came to me in 2015… scared, sick, and ass kicked.

 

And I am FUMING!

As I have four backyard cats who probably had homes at one point and are now “feral”…

I see pets on death row everyday on my Facebook News Feed …

I see rescues and volunteers knocking themselves the hell out and facing daily heartbreak. These heroes are overextended mentally, emotionally, and financially…often paying out of their OWN pocket trying to save the lives of these unwanted kittens and cats…

cosmo and winston feb 2016

Chatty (now Cosmo), top, in his forever home with his new bonded brother, Winston (also a ‘feral’ rescue) six months after I rescued him.

And I look at my five indoor cats…even though I really should only have two for my size house, time and finances. But their mama, who was probably dumped off in the woods one day, showed up here already pregnant and I didn’t even know it til I saw her 1-month-old kittens … and because I rescued these kittens when Weeny died, it meant another rescue or shelter cat did NOT get a home …

I really don’t think people REALIZE the impact their negligence has on shelter cats, feral cats, and the people who see their heartbreak on a DAILY basis.

I’ve spent $500 out of pocket in the past 18 months neutering any cat who even LOOKS at my property….nevermind what I spend to FEED them because SOMEBODY has to give a shit …

With all the low cost spay/neuter programs making it cheaper to spay or neuter your pet than it is to go out to dinner….

I just wonder…

Why the HELL are there people out there STILL not spaying and neutering their pets??

I honestly think those people who are irresponsible pet owners should be forced to do volunteer work at a shelter, or go watch “feral” cats (often just pet cats who once had a home and were DUMPED) get rounded up and euthanized, or should spend the time so many of my friends spend trapping these poor babies for TNR (often we pay for this out of our OWN pockets, by the way), or watch all the shelter pets suffer their heartbreak, illness and despair … just get put to sleep to “make room” …

Trouble day of fight fall 2016

Trouble, after he got hurt in a cat fight while defending his territory.

Or even for my “lucky” ones…my backyard cats, who had to get their asses kicked repeatedly and kick ass repeatedly to establish their “turf” here. And the ones who lost that Turf War, like one of my original feral cats, Hitler? I believe he’s eating down the street at another feeder’s house but did try to come back here a couple of months ago after being MIA for a year and Trouble ran him right out. The heartbreaking thing is that when he saw me bringing him food, he meowed at me for the first time EVER. And because he’s too feral to be handled or rescued, I couldn’t do a damn thing for him but hope that I would see him again. And I haven’t yet…

daddy6

Charlie (the cat formerly known as Hitler), one of my first feral cats … who was chased away when Trouble set up “home” here.

Poor Daisy aka Tiggy, Shadow and Domino, my three ferals who have to sneak in and grab their food while my Core Four resident ferals aren’t watching and hopefully they get to finish their meal before they are “caught”.

Or Junior, who scrapped with Trouble and scrapped with Trouble repeatedly, almost every day, for six months, before he finally calmed down enough to become friendly to humans and we could adopt him out to my aunt.

But both boys have the permanent scars on their faces and ears to show for it.

I. JUST. CAN’T…. sit back and freaking watch people be so irresponsible with their pets and keep my mouth shut ANY longer!

There is absolutely NO good excuse why a pet parent cannot spay or neuter their pet, barring a heart condition or some other illness that makes anesthesia too risky. But at least don’t let them outside to procreate then!

Please spread the word. Share this post if you think it will help! It’s ‘Kitten Season’ in rescue world. And SO many rescues and shelters are already overloaded! These people work TIRELESSLY saving lives. So many of these kittens won’t make it and they and their mothers will suffer this season. A lucky few, like my four “kits”, will survive. But they were VERY lucky their mama found me when she was pregnant.

rascal mischief summer 2016

Two of the LUCKY ones, my rescue kits Rascal (top) and Mischief (foot in mouth, bottom).

Most won’t fare so well.

Why I Haven’t “Rescued” All of my Feral Cats

feral6

Rascal, about 2 months before I rescued him and one of his suspected daddies, Charlie, the cat formerly known as Hitler

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This can be a touchy and controversial subject. I’ll do my best to share with you MY reasoning without taking away from someone else’s decision to rescue.

Let me start with my cat Smidgen, who I had growing up. We adopted her when I was in 9th grade from a pet store (I know, I know…this was the 80s and we didn’t know any better!) at the mall. And she was RIGHT at home when we got her here. After my previous two cats had been hit by cars, I made my mom PROMISE not to let Smidgen out.

But, my mom, being the bull-headed Taurus Italian “I know best” mother that she is, started letting Smidgen out when I wasn’t home one day. She felt bad because Smidge was a little wild and got bored with playtime easily. I was a teenager doing my own thing, and Mom didn’t really know what else to do to entertain her.

And we got very lucky with Smidge. Even though she had never been vaccinated past her kitten shots, even though she was FIV+, and even though she was an indoor/outdoor kitty, she lived a very healthy 14+ years before she passed and never had a health issue until the end.

When I moved out at age 23 (Smidge was 9), I knew that she would NEVER be happy in a one-bedroom apartment after being the Master of her 3-acre domain for almost 10 years, so I made the very unselfish and difficult decision to leave her home. She was also very bonded with my dad but we never lost our bond, either.

To this VERY day, even though I’m a FIRM advocate for keeping pet cats INDOORS, I still stand by my decision. Smidgen wasn’t happy being an indoor-only cat and I couldn’t have imagined her life any differently than the way SHE chose to live it.

So, back to my feral cats. People see my videos of them on Facebook…two can be pet, one sings with me and rubs all over me like I’m her property (although she cannot be pet yet), and one of the two who can be pet can also be pilled and syringed liquid medication. You can meet them in the “About” section of our site!

trouble and oreo feb 2017

Fluffy (top left), Oreo and Trouble enjoying a Spring-ish day.

But they weren’t always that way! It took me almost three years of feeding Oreo before he would allow me to pet him. And I actually let HIM pet me first! Trouble would head-butt my hand while feeding him, but he was such a loose cannon before he got neutered that he even sent me to the ER on St Patty’s Day in 2016! I was afraid of him for a LONG time!

But as they both calmed down after their neuters, they definitely became more sociable and more like pet cats than feral cats. Fluffy still swats at me when I put treats down for her and I can ONLY pet her about five swipes on her back WHILE she’s eating before she literally turns on me. And I cannot even walk towards Orange without him running away.

Yet, they are out there to greet me everyday and they enjoy my company, as I enjoy THEIR company. And I adore them with all my heart and worry about them EVERY day! Especially with the way cars FLY down my street!

So why don’t I rescue them?

Because they are friendly to ME on THEIR turf. Oreo and Trouble are JUST starting to make friends with my mom and they are cool with my neighbors so long as the neighbors stay “over there”. It can go either way if I take them out of their turf. And I could “try” to tame them..hell, we are already halfway there, but I know how bonded cats can get to their territory.

So what if I brought Trouble in and it didn’t work out?

He can be a loose cannon, is territorial, and still marks even though he’s been neutered for over a year as of this writing. So what if he urine marks at his new indoor home? Or gets territorial with the other cats in the home?

As far as adopting him out, he’s FIV+ and anybody who has worked in rescue will tell you how DIFFICULT it is to adopt out an FIV+ cat because of the stigma attached to “Feline AIDS”. I REALLY wish vets would stop using that terminology!

So what if it doesn’t work out and he loses his territory that he fought SO hard to establish (same with Oreo). Then what will happen to him? A shelter? We know feral cats who are out of their element do not have successful outcomes at shelters and, most likely, he would not leave the shelter system alive.

So why would I uproot him like that from what he considers HOME just to satisfy my need to rescue him? I live in a town that is TNR friendly, in a county that just passed a TNR-friendly ordinance, in the first state that passed a declaw ban statewide and is making leaps and bounds toward animal rights every day.

So WHY would I break his heart like that? He has secure shelter in our shed, his heating pad, heated pet bowls, his favorite box, regular feedings, vet care, and me to feed, cuddle and play with him every day. We have 3 acres of land and my house backs to woods. Yes, I worry ALL THE TIME about predators and the cars speeding by my house.

fluffy fall 2016

Fluffy enjoying her heating pad.

On the flip side, I did rescue my kits at 4 months old. Rascal was about the only one who really was friendly out there. I could barely touch Mischief when I rescued him and if it weren’t for him being so bonded to his brother, I don’t think he would have adjusted so well. But, he does have issues. And 18 months later, we STILL don’t have him FULLY integrated into the household. And he had to start Prozac last Summer because I was at the point that it either had to work or he would have to be re-homed with his VERY bonded brother, Rascal, to a home without cats or euthanized. And I couldn’t stand the thought of either.

As for Patchy and Spunky… poor Spunky spent the first six months of her indoor life spending over 80% of her time down in our unfinished basement. And Patchy would intermittently hide in a storage box on the highest ledge possible down in that basement. They FINALLY adjusted with some confidence-building exercises, feline facial pheromones, and a WHOLE lot of love and patience on our part!

However, my mom still makes Patchy a nervous wreck and Spunky still beelines for the basement as soon as a stranger so much as pulls up in our driveway.

Yes, they are TOTALLY worth the effort! And if my feral cats didn’t have it SO good, a couple of them would have been rescued by now. I HAVE adopted out two of my former ferals already…the two who I KNEW, without a DOUBT, would be happier indoors than out there.

But I cannot and will not subject my current feral cats, who I know better than anybody, to a life that does not serve them. And if my patient neighbors move or the laws change in my township, county or state, I most certainly will do what I can to save each and every one of my feral cats..even the more “feral” feral cats!

But, in the meantime…

Like Red says about Andy Dufresne in Shawshenk Redemption…”some birds aren’t meant to be caged.”

trouble-belly

Trouble enjoying the sunshine and schmoozing for treats!

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Meet Big Orange – The Feral Who was Already Fixed!

Big Orange came out of the woods and joined our family one day shortly after the Blizzard of 2016 and decided this was his home.

Before he decided that my yard was “home”, he would sit under the camper at my neighbor’s and wait for me to do the dusk feeding, sneak in, get his food, and leave.

Orange inked under camper

Orange perches on the trailer hitch of the neighbor’s camper watching me put out food.

A timid guy, he was constantly being bullied by Trouble and a sometime feral (Blondie) who was trying to break in here last Spring before Trouble and Oreo chased him out once and for all. I found out later that this same cat was bullying Big Orange about 1/4 mile away at another feeder’s house.

Orange quickly took over the heating pad and feeding station out front of the house that was left vacant by Blacky when Blacky became sick and his mama was holding him inside the house to recover. When Blacky was allowed to come out again, his mom had it set up so that he could come and go as he pleases, so it wasn’t much of a problem for Blacky that Orange had taken over “his” area.

But, Orange is definitely a feral. He quickly moved over to Blacky’s second vacant station under our back steps because he would get scared and run off whenever Mom would go out front to smoke. It’s been about a year now and he still runs away from me but is social enough to come out to greet me. I can actually see him trying to work up the nerve to rub against my legs but he hasn’t quite gotten there yet!

 

OJ4

One of many pics I took of Orange when he first came around to try to see if he was already ear-tipped.

Orange didn’t act like all the other Toms out here. I assumed he was a Tom because female orange tabbies are rare-ish and he just was NOT acting like an intact Tom. He was NICE!  I’ll never forget the first day he got close enough for me to see, for sure. I was out by the back feeding station at the far end of my yard putting out food and he got the nerve up to come closer to me. And guess what? I was RIGHT! He was already ear-tipped!! Which is the BEST kind of new feral cat a girl can have!! So when I saw I had an ear-tipped feral on my hands, I remember saying to him, “Welcome to the family, Orange!!”

He’s been living under my back steps and in my back yard for about a year and a half now. And, like I said, he’s trying REALLY hard to trust me. He will dance in front of me at a distance as if he wants to rub against my legs and he does come out to greet me with a squeak at feeding times. He sounds just like my Spunky. He’s also trying to break into the Shed Clique (Fluffy, Oreo, and Trouble). Trouble terrorized him for their first six months here. Every time Orange would work up the nerve to hang out in the back yard, Trouble would chase him back to his “allowed” area under the steps. I even had to set up a litter box there so that Orange could do his business without fear of being ambushed. The poor guy had to live like that for a LONG time. Knock wood, they have gotten better recently. Trouble now “lets” him hang out in the yard. He will come hang out with Oreo when Trouble is not around. Fluffy sometimes chases him back to his area but in the past couple of weeks she’s growing more tolerant of him, as well.

 

Orange March 2017

Orange, just trying SO hard to trust me!

He’s scared of us humans but craves feline companionship. I’m not sure if he’s related to my kittens at all, but whenever he’s at the glass sliding door in the kitchen and I say really loud “Hi Mr Orange!!”, Mischief and Rascal will drop whatever they are doing to come say “hi”. I would LOVE to talk to an animal communicator and see if The Kits knew Orange when they were living outside!

orange and Mischief March 2017

Mischief and Orange during one of their daily love fests.

My hope one day is that when there is an “opening” that he can come inside. But, he has to get used to me first. The last thing I want is a former feral who will be terrified of us and of living indoors.

But, until then, he lives a pretty happy life under my steps and in my backyard helping to protect the property. I recently figured out that Orange is a “lookout” for Trouble and Oreo. Maybe that’s why Trouble “lets” Orange live here now!

NICKNAMES: Mr. Orange, Captain Pumpkin, Pumpkin Face, Squeaks

ORANGE’S SONG: “He’s So Shy” – The Pointer Sisters

UPDATE 8.22.17: He is now officially part of the Shed Clique along with my new boy, Domino. He and Trouble sometimes greet each other nose to nose. We have made slow progress, but progress nevertheless! He has bumped my hand with his head and allowed for a few pets for time to time. He no longer totally runs away from me when I walk towards him. He will now allow me to put treats right in front of him without him getting totally freaked out. He still swats when I put my hand in front of him with treats, but I’m noticing that sometimes his claws aren’t even out when he swats me.

UPDATE 2.3.18: For a while last Fall, Orange would head butt my hand while I was feeding him. Something must have spooked him one day and he wouldn’t go near my hand for months until yesterday! When I put his wet food down in front of him yesterday morning, not only did he bump my hand, but he pressed his cheek against it so I could pet him! I’m hoping this time we can progress to “full on petting”. I think this is because he is using a new heated house that a friend donated and it’s easier for me to put treats in front of him. He swatted at me the first few days, but most of the time I can now put treats right under his nose and he doesn’t swat. He must be finally creating a positive association with my hands.

Also, when I go outside to feed them, he has taken to head butting Trouble in greeting. At first, Trouble would swat at him, but for the past few days Trouble actually head butt him back. I tell Orange that I have NO idea WHY he likes Trouble so much after all Trouble put him through.

Orange also likes walk with me to the two other feeding stations at the back of my yard to see what everybody is eating! He often greets Shadow when he comes by and has taken to visiting Charlie with me at the other end of my yard. I’m hoping this is the beginning of a friendship between the two!

And, last month I saw something I never thought I would see. We had a very cold and windy day with below-zero wind chills and he was hanging out with the Shed Crew and using one of the heated shelters INSIDE the shed for a full 24 hours! Now he’s using a new heated house I set up, but it’s nice to know that he will go into the shed when he feels like he needs to!

Orange in the shed with Trouble and Domino
The night Orange got the nerve up to hand in the shed with the Shed Crew!!

The more I know this little guy, the more I see his little personality sparkle through and the more I ADORE him! It has been SUCH a joy to watch him come out of his shell, both with me and with the other Yard Cats!

Meet Trouble – Fake Feral Cat #2!

 

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Trouble, March 2017 waiting for a snack on his heating pad.

To see my definition of a “fake” feral cat vs a “real” feral cat, see Meet Oreo.

Trouble came to me JUST before the Blizzard of 2016, when we got pounded by 2′ of snow. The night before the blizzard, just as the first flakes were falling and our new snow thrower was being delivered,  I saw him running around in my back field. I didn’t have time to worry about it as we were feverishly trying to figure out where to put this monster of a snow thrower while it was already snowing at a good clip.

For three days after the blizzard, he was the ONLY cat showing up to eat! I guessed him to be about 4-6 months old at that time, and he was social, but DEFINITELY a loose cannon and DEFINITELY wild.

And I was afraid of him. Especially because he immediately took to head-butting my hand while I was feeding him, but he was a wild one and I didn’t trust him one bit!

He was a holy terror, fighting EVERY cat he could find, including my neighbor’s outdoor cat, Blacky, and literally terrorizing Big Orange, a docile orange tabby cat who showed up here shortly after Trouble did.

On St Patty’s Day 2016, he even sent me to the ER when he bit me. He hadn’t had his rabies vaccination yet, so I figured why not blow $13,000 to get the rabies series? It’s not like I had anything BETTER to do that day and OF COURSE I had thousands of dollars of disposable income to throw around to get sick and feverish from the rabies series!

Trouble’s indiscretions definitely cost him! He would scrap CONSTANTLY with another new young feral tom, Junior. But Trouble is a SMART guy and aligned himself with the Alpha Big Man on Campus, Oreo, for protection and to ensure that our property became HIS!

I finally started to train him to eat out of the humane trap that I use to trap the feral cats to get them neutered and vaccinated, but he was NOT having it AT ALL. This cat would NOT enter that trap no matter HOW hungry he was! I was 8 for 8 with trapping feral cats at this point, and Trouble was going to BLOW my 100% capture record!

But I’m just a LITTLE BIT smarter than Trouble! Just a little… I had my friend Dana’s trap, which has a “back door”, so I started to feed him on the door of that trap in the shed in his usual spot, with a towel over the back of the trap. I figured if I could JUST get him halfway in, I could gently close that back door behind him while he was eating and get him that way!

And it worked! After two LONG months of “training”, I got Trouble in that trap and off we were for his Castration Day! And I didn’t blow my PERFECT record! 9 for 9! HA!

He was actually my most well-behaved feral cat during recovery. Didn’t make a peep. And didn’t growl or hiss or spit at me that next morning once the anesthesia wore off. And he’s VERY forgiving! Because not ONE hour after I released him, was he BACK looking for more food and rubbing up against my legs!

It took this little pistol quite some time to calm down. But, alas, he did. FINALLY. But he IS territorial, bossy, whiny, and still a bit of a loose cannon. But I finally started to fall in love with the little turkey. He just has this way about him that just when you get REALLY MAD at him, he does something super cute and gets all submissive and you just CAN’T stay mad at him!

He assists Oreo with protecting the property. Hence, he has earned the position of Trooper Trouble, again, in honor of my dad, a retired NJ State Trooper. He still scraps, but has FINALLY, for the most part, stopped terrorizing the resident ferals and just focuses his attention on terrorizing any newcomers or anybody who is not in the Core Four (Fluffy, Oreo, Trouble and Big Orange).

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Trouble, the day I found the scratch and resulting abscess on his face.

In October 2016, I found him with a scratch on his face and the side of his face swollen up like the Elephant Man. I managed to lure him into a cat carrier and take him to my vet. I have to say, for a cat named Trouble who has EARNED that name, he was better behaved at the vet than my indoor Maine Coon, Penny! And when we got home, he was scared for about a hot second and then enjoyed the special sardine treat I gave him for being such a good boy.

And he’s been thanking me ever since.  Our relationship changed that day. I’m not sure if it’s just because I REALLY became endeared to him that day or what, but I cannot believe that at one point I had secretly hoped he would find somewhere else to hang out than here. I love him as much as all the others, and honestly, he is my mom’s favorite out there!

When he had a pretty nasty URI in January, I learned he gets rather submissive when I scruff him. I was able to pill this cat for 10 days and I syringe him Lysine powder mixed in with broth cat food (Fancy Feast) twice per day, which he actually LOVES. He will still swat, nip and scratch if you pet him the wrong way and is sensitive about his tail being touched for some reason, but he really has become the official Baby Cat out there!

I don’t believe he’s a candidate to be adopted out. He’s one of those cats who is very bonded with his land. He loves his life out there. He’s bonded to Oreo, too. And he’s extremely territorial. Still marks out there even though he’s neutered.

To bring him inside with my males is out of the question. And to adopt him out and have it not work out, and have him lose his territory, is just not a chance I want to take. So I hope and pray he stays out of the the street and he gets to live a long, happy life on HIS terms. Which is how it must be with him. On HIS terms.

Like Red says about Andy Dufresne in Shawshenk Redemption, “I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright.” That’s Trouble.

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Just when I get REALLY ticked off at him, he pulls one of these little acts!

NICKNAMES: Troubley-Poo, Trubbs, Chubbs, Chubble, Weeny Jr, Trooper Trouble

SONG: “I’m Not a Bad Cat…I’m just Misunderstood” – My Cat From Hell Theme Song

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Meet the (Former Feral) Kits!

 

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Mischief (L) & Rascal (R)-4 months old just after I rescued them.

UNTIL I saw two little 1-month old orange and white kittens in my shed around June 21, 2015. When I walked into the shed, they were so frightened they nearly killed themselves scrambling out!

RASCAL & MISCHIEF

Rascal is the friendly one. I never planned on ever petting or rescuing any feral cats. My theory was that they were too wild to be tamed, too bonded with their land to be brought inside, and should be left alone. Until I met Rascal.

He was the first to rub against my leg at feeding time… even with his mama in the shed with us…and I was so terrified that she would attack me because he was chumming up to me! He would stay behind after breakfast, after his mama and siblings left and went about their day, and would wait for me to come out to mooch seconds, get some free cuddles from me and to play with me.

He was a TRUE mama’s boy and wherever you saw Fluffy, he wouldn’t be far behind.

When his mama got pregnant again, she started to avoid her kits. One day, just after Weeny passed away and I had already been toying with the idea of rescuing him, he ran up to his mama and she FLAT OUT rejected him and ran away. That’s when I made my move because I was SO heartbroken for him.

So, I went inside, got the carrier, set it down in the shed and he immediately walked into the carrier and into his New Life!

Rascal’s Nicknames: Captain Friendly, Captain Freckles, Moochie, Rascally Rascal

Rascal’s Song: “Let the Sunshine In” – Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm, The Flintstones

MISCHIEF is definitely the most “feral” of all the kits. He’s Rascal’s partner in crime and bonded brother. What I figured out later was that Rascal is the ringleader and Mischief is just his innocent follower. I played with the idea of renaming him but he knows his name. I often call him “Chet” (after the clumsy Reindeer on “The Santa Clause II”).

I had no intentions of rescuing Mischief because I just felt he would be better off living his feral life. I was BARELY able to pet him before I rescued him. And he was SO skittish around me! But two days after I rescued Rascal, Mischief was out there with their sisters trying to play with them and they wanted NO parts of playing with him. He started to play by himself with wet leaves under our picnic table and just looked SO forlorn I figured I just HAD to give him a shot and get him back with his brother.

So OUT came the carrier again! I set it down in the shed with some food in it and within seconds I had Mischief in the carrier and inside to Rascal’s room!

Mischief was FLIPPING OUT when I let him out of the carrier. He ran around the room in a COMPLETE PANIC and Rascal went chasing after him. When Rascal finally caught him, he nipped Mischief on the scruff of his neck, on his back, and then on the scruff of his neck again, and Mischief IMMEDIATELY calmed down and started to purr. That’s when I KNEW I did the right thing by bringing these two back together! It would have been a shame to keep these bonded brothers separated, for sure!

Mischief’s Nicknames: Captain Cuddles, Mischievous Mischy, Chet

Mischief’s Song: “I’m Not a Bad Cat” – Jackson Galaxy, My Cat from Hell theme song

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Double Trouble at about 1 year old.

PATCHY & SPUNKY

Patchy & Spunky were supposed to be TNR’ed (Trap-Neuter-Return) because I had JUST started petting them two days before I caught them for their spay surgeries. And I could ONLY pet them while they were eating. They were definitely more “shy” than their brothers and didn’t even really start to seek me out until after I rescued their brothers.

I trapped them 10 days after I brought in Mischief. They were trapped together in the same trap and taken to Animal Welfare Association for their “Feral Fix It”, where they would be spayed, ear tipped, and rabies vaxxed. I also had them give the girls their distemper vaxes…I guess maybe I knew in the back of my mind I wasn’t going to release them back outside, after all. I felt I was already “over my cat limit” inside with three indoor cats.

BUT God, St Francis, and the girlies had OTHER ideas. While they were being spayed, I was watching the weather and found out that a coastal storm was supposed to arrive the day before they were due to be released after their recovery. This storm was forecast to sit and spin over us for FIVE TO SEVEN DAYS. Now, anybody who lives on the East Coast can tell you that our coastal storms and Nor’Easters can be as bad as tropical storms and even hurricanes sometimes.

So how was I to release two 4- month old kittens who just had total hysterectomies into THOSE conditions?

So I set up a LARGE dog pen in my bedroom, fully equipped with a “feral cat den”, litter box, bed/blankets..everything they would need for an “extended stay”.

I picked them up from AWA, got them home, got Patchy into the pen, but Spunky got out when I was trying to transfer her from the carrier to the pen. She ran and hid behind my TV in the corner. Poor Patchy was LITERALLY climbing the walls to the pen, so I let her out to go be scared with Spunky.

I closed the door to my bedroom after getting everything set up, and proceeded to go outside and call my friend Dana, who was teaching me all about TNR and feral cats (I was a newbie at this point). I was in a COMPLETE PANIC because I had two feral cats “loose” in my bedroom and was afraid they would attack me if I went back in there!

Later than night, I went to check on them and see if they had eaten before I went to bed. The poor things were STILL huddled behind my TV together! I decided to sit on the floor and see if they would feel more at ease and come out to me.

Within five minutes of sitting on the floor, I kid you not, I had TWO PURRING KITTENS in my lap.

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Patchy & Spunky at 1 1/2 yrs old…because Patchy does not care that she is CRUSHING her sister!

My next thought was to post on Facebook and ask people how many indoor cats could I have before people would consider me a “hoarder”! By the next day, Mom and I had decided we could NOT let these babies back outside. And we became a five-cat family.

It has taken some time for them to adjust. In the beginning, I was worried they would never be completely at ease as indoor cats. And although Spunky is VERY shy around people she doesn’t know (she basically runs and hides), they have adjusted quite well to indoor spoiled cat life and are the most affectionate little things with SO much personality!

It’s hard to tell in some of the pics but they are both long-haired with raccoon-like tails…just like their mama. And both little beauties!

PATCHY’S Nicknames: Erica Kane (because she likes to slap all and sundry at feeding time just like her soap-opera twin, Susan Lucci), Itty Bitty, Stinklett, Patchy Watchy, Hop Along Betty, Pinky Tuscedero

SPUNKY’S Nicknames: Squeakers, Hop Along Sally, Spunk-A-Monk, Spunky Little Monkey, Spunkster, Fluffy Jr, Little Bosslady

Still working on a song for the little ladies…Stay Tuned!

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Patchy (L) & Spunky (R) at 4 months old the day after I decided they were not returning outside!

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Our Cats Took Over The Bench

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Dad and Mom on The Bench in 2012 waiting for me to come home from work so we could go adopt Penny & Weeny.

I’m owned by cats.

I started this blog to let others who naively believed that they adopted cats and are ‘cat parents’, and later figured out that their cats, in fact, own THEM, know that they are not alone.

The cats get my food budget, my clothing budget, my free time, my dating life, and now, apparently, my outdoor patio furniture.

#catsrulehere

Let me tell you about The Bench…

When Mom retired a few years ago, she purchased this bench so she could sit outside and watch the grass grow, which is what we do here in the NJ Pine Barrens in the Summer. And the bench SAT and SAT and SAT in this box for MONTHS while she waited for my dad to assemble it.

But he never got around to it.

So I decided to take a stab at my handyman skills and I was THRILLED when I got it to together, the folks sat on it, and nobody got hurt!

The Bench has very sentimental value. My folks were sitting on this bench waiting for me to come home from work on May 2, 2012, so we could all go adopt Penny and Weeny from a rescue. My folks spent many a summer night on The Bench listening to cicadas and tree frogs in the last years of Dad’s life. The Bench served as Dad’s link to the outside world in the Summer of 2014 when he was mostly bedridden and dying from cancer.

Now, the feral cat and the neighbor’s outdoor cat have claimed it as their own…

This week, we are enjoying some May-like weather here in South Jersey with temps in the 70s. I did some yard clean-up the other day and figured I would set up the cushions so that Mom could enjoy the warm, sunny weather.

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Trouble-within minutes of me setting up the cushions.

Mom has NOT had a chance to enjoy it because not ONE hour after I set up those cushions, Trouble claimed it as his napping area every morning after breakfast. He worked out a deal with Blacky, the neighbor’s cat, so that Blacky could have it in the afternoons!

Where does that leave Mom? Sitting INSIDE on this beautiful day watching HGTV.

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Neighbor’s cat, Blacky, taking the ‘afternoon’ shift on The Bench.

And so it goes when you are owned by cats… Even feral cats and neighbors’ cats!

I have a lot of experiences and stories to share about my five indoor cats, my eight or so feral cats (YES THEY ARE NEUTERED AND VACCINATED), and my ‘late’ cats and others who have passed through in my life.

They have ALL been lessons and blessings! I hope to entertain you, share what I have learned from Penny’s complex medical issues, caring for feral cats and the challenge of cat behavior, and connect with you along the way!

Stay tuned!

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