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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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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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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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!

 

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Vet Care – Be Your Pet’s Advocate…It May Save Her Life!

close up of Junior at emergency vet
My aunt’s cat, Junior, at the emergency vet.

 

If only I knew then what I know now. How many times do we say that in our lifetime?

Junior’s Story

I’d like to share a story. The cat in the picture above is Junior. He was one of my feral cats who came here in 2016. Soon after he was neutered, he suddenly turned into a love bug with me and Mom (not so much with the other ferals) so I adopted him out to my aunt.

Last year, my aunt had asked me to meet her at our regular vet. She was concerned because she found that Junior had been snacking on her Peace Lily plant and had since stopped eating and was lethargic. My first thought, as well as the receptionist at our vet’s, was, “Oh no! LILY! Kidney failure!” My aunt had already paid $55 to the Animal Poison Control line and had a case number for the vet to reference. The receptionist on duty directed us to the emergency vet 45 minutes away without even calling Animal Poison Control to get direction.

I admit I walked in there on guard. I have had plenty of BAD experiences at emergency vets and I really DO reserve them for emergencies because of the expense and price gouging that occurs in my area.

When we were taken back to the exam room, I told my aunt not to commit to admitting him without my seeing his blood work first. We had a LONG wait because they messed up the results of his first blood panel and had to re-run it. I think we waited at least three hours just to see the blood work results. While we waited, I decided to start playing Dr Google on my phone.

I was AMAZED at what I had found out. Although lilies are toxic to cats and cause kidney failure, Peace Lilies are not really a lily. Therefore, although they cause unpleasant side effects, they do not cause kidney failure in cats. The side effects include “Oral irritation, intense burning and irritation of mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing.” (Source ASPCA – Peace Lily)

When the vet FINALLY came in with his blood work, she reported everything was “within normal limits”. Since she couldn’t figure out WHY he had stopped eating, she recommended admitting him to do IV fluids (even though his liver and kidney values were FINE), more blood work, x-ray, CT scan… You get the idea, right? I could almost hear a cash register ringing each test up as she mentioned them.

Cha-ching! Cha-ching! Cha-ching!

I asked the vet for a copy of the blood work and an estimate before we made any decisions. Of course, she didn’t bring the results into the room with her, so we waited another half hour just for her to bring back a piece of paper.

At this point, I should bring up that my aunt is 75 years old, retired, and on a fixed income. So when the vet re-appeared with normal blood work, an estimate for $1800-$2200 and yet another recommendation to admit, I asked again why the vet felt that he should be admitted. She reiterated that she didn’t know why he was not eating and needed to run tests.

I showed her what I found on ASPCA’s website about Peace Lily poisoning. She had the case number from Animal Poison Control and had consulted with them already. I asked her (and I think I backed her into a corner at this point because I was fuming), “You mean to tell me that the intense burning he’s feeling in his mouth, throat, esophagus and GI tract ISN’T causing his loss of appetite??”

She said, “No. I think it is completely unrelated.”

HELLO??? Whatever happened to common sense?

I asked her if HER mouth, throat, and GI tract felt like they were on fire, would she have an appetite? She never did answer me.

I told her I wanted him to receive 100ml of sub q fluids, a Pepcid injection for the heart burn, and a Cerenia injection for the nausea. I told her my aunt was on a fixed income and I was SURE that once the burning passed that he would feel like eating again and if he didn’t, we would come back. Admission wasn’t necessary.

She left the room to get his meds and sent two vet techs in to do his fluids.

Man, how her attitude CHANGED when she came back in. She started the discharge instructions by saying that she still thought he should be admitted. And I cut her off and told her that my aunt didn’t have the money and it wasn’t necessary. After that, she got downright rude with me. She explained the treatments she was giving him (uh, they were MY idea) and blah blah blah.

My aunt was charged $350 for that visit.

Had I not been there to advocate for my aunt and Junior, they would have gotten a retired women who lives alone and on a fixed income for upwards of $2000.

Do I even have to tell you that Junior was fine the next day and hasn’t had a problem in almost a year now?

And Then There’s Penny

Penny would have died four years ago had I blindly listened to a vet without doing my homework and talking to lay people who live Feline Diabetes day in and day out. You can read more at Our Introduction to Feline Diabetes.

Penny would have died two years prematurely had I blindly listened to a 2nd opinion vet who suggested that I give her 400ml of sub q fluids daily when she “crashed” and was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney disease. (The maximum “safe” amount for Penny’s weight would have been 150ml daily).

The vet also recommended that I admit her for IV fluids, which is common practice and normally beneficial for a cat who in a “crash”. However, Penny was on insulin at the time. Since she was not eating her usual amount, her blood glucose levels were dropping low and I had to follow my gut with her insulin dosing to keep her safe. I knew her diabetes very well and knew her “trends”. This is something a vet tech who was not familiar with Penny would not be able to do as well as I could. If Penny were admitted to the hospital, there would be nobody with her overnight to monitor her blood glucose and I couldn’t take that chance. Once I explained all of that to the vet and showed him her blood glucose spreadsheet, he agreed with me.

Penny sniffing her sub q fluid bag
Penny with her fluid bag just after we successfully did sub q fluids for the very first time!

He respected my opinion and admitted that he didn’t think of the insulin issue and the potential for hypoglycemia without somebody there to monitor. That is a vet whose ego does not get in the way of his work. We treated her safely on home sub q’s, although I did the recommend 10ml per pound of body weight rather than the vet’s suggested 400ml daily.

Taz Would Have Lived a Better Life

My Taz (1996-2007) would have lived a much better quality of life if I played Dr. Google back in 1997 when he was blocked with struvite crystals. The treating vet taught me a lot about urinary tract blockages and how to prevent future episodes. What they DIDN’T teach me was how to prevent the urinary tract infections he was riddled with for the rest of his life.

In 2006, Taz became very ill and stopped eating. My vet could not figure out what was wrong and recommended I ship him off to a veterinary diagnostic hospital up in Ocean County, which was a good hour from where we lived. I opened up a Care Credit that day and took him up there. Five days later, I picked up a terrified and still sick Taz. My new Care Credit was maxed out at $5000 already. He rallied for nine months, but eventually passed away from this mystery disease. The outcome would have been different if I had just asked questions and gotten online to LEARN. It turned out he had liver disease. I could have learned about feline nutrition and how to properly medicate a cat without terrorizing him. But I didn’t. I was told nothing else could be done. I blindly trusted the vets.

Taz September 2000
My Taz in September, 2000

Live and learn.

This is not to bash vets. AT ALL. Like I’ve said before, I could not do their job. God bless them. There are MANY phenomenal vets in the world who treat their patients like their own pets. But I have learned through experience that every cat is different. Some vets see hundreds of patients per week. Including OUR pets. They aren’t given extensive training in specialized diseases such as Feline Diabetes. They aren’t given extensive training in feline nutrition. And since they get a commission for every bag of “prescription food” they sell, I have to wonder if they truly have our pets’ interests at heart when those foods are filled with slop that I wouldn’t feed my worst enemy.

Vets, much like doctors, surgeons, and weather people, are HUMAN. And not always RIGHT.

On The Flip Side..

When my Penny “crashed” and was diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney disease just about two years ago, her vet felt strongly that she needed an emergency dental if she had a chance of pulling through the crash. I had originally cancelled her surgery. He was so adamant about it that he called me at 10pm at night from home to try and talk me into it. He offered to go in to work on his day off to oversee her dental since a less experienced vet was scheduled for the surgery. I had a tough time taking a risk like that with my bad experiences with previous vets, but my gut was telling me that Dr Jared was probably right.

I took her for that emergency dental the next day. And cried and prayed all day long. I didn’t want her last moments to EVER be at the vet or in a cage, alone and scared. She pulled through. And lived 20 more quality months before she crossed the Bridge. I don’t believe we would have ever had that time together had I not listened to my vet that night.

Robyn kissing Penny on the head-Feb 2016
Penny & Me – February 2016 about a week after her emergency dental.

So what’s my point here?

We have to advocate for our pets like we would advocate for our sick parents (been there, done that too!), sick children, and ourselves. Ultimately, the decisions are OURS.

We have something with our pets that no vet will ever have with them – an emotional bond. They are our FAMILY. It’s okay to ask questions to fully understand what is going on. It’s okay to admit that you play Dr Google and discuss what you learn online with your vet. Any GOOD vet will RESPECT that and listen to your concerns.

My vets all know that I know my stuff. They know I play Dr Google. They know that I’ve managed Penny’s diabetes and kidney disease from things I’ve learned online and from lay people. I’ve ALWAYS cleared these treatments with my vets first. They respect that I do my homework, ask smart questions, and take the time to educate myself and understand everything so that I can better help my pets.

I have good vets. I’m very lucky. If I ever came across a vet who didn’t respect and understand that I advocate for my pets, they would never see me or my pet again.

At the end of the day, WE are responsible for our pets’ well being. The vets are there to help. But we make the final decisions.

Don’t be afraid to do your homework before allowing a vet to treat your pet. Please don’t be afraid to speak up. Your pet is DEPENDING on YOU!

Spunky and Robyn selfie Jan 2016
Spunky and me – Jan 2016. She was about 8 months old in this picture!

 

 

 

 

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!

Checkers-The Sick Stray Cat Who Broke Our Hearts

 

checkers

Checky-The night he found us…March 9, 2015

And I want to honor him today as today is his Gotcha Day. This post was originally written on March 9, 2017.

He Showed Up on My Doorstep One Rainy Night

The first time I saw Checky, he was in my back window and I thought he was my old guy, Oreo. But, back then, Oreo wasn’t as social as he is now. And this cat was awfully thin to be Oreo. We had just gotten out of one of the coldest Februaries on record and it was raining this particular evening. I usually don’t feed my feral cats after dark but I went out there to feed him.

As soon as I went outside, I KNEW it wasn’t Oreo. He was all over me like stink on poo and VERY VERY hungry. I fed him and tried to coax him to stay on the heating pad in the shed, but he just followed me to the back door. I snapped this pic to post on social media in case somebody local had lost their cat.

But, I live in the woods. So I know what happened. This poor baby was dumped. His ass was kicked. He was rail thin and sicker than ANY cat I had ever seen.

I found out the next day that he had been staying in neighbor’s garage and living on their covered porch. But they were feeding him table scraps and didn’t vet him or anything. As kind as they were to him, I knew he needed more.

So I SCRAMBLED… contacting the local rescues and NO luck. I finally got a local rescue to agree to help him. It was the ONLY rescue in our area who stepped up! So we set up an emergency vet appointment for the next day and I set out to trap him.

Checky’s Rescue

The neighbor called me when they saw him on the porch the following morning, so I went over and got him to take him to his NEW life.

We took him to the initial vet appointment. By the time we got him there, he was covered in diarrhea. The vet tested him for FIV/FeLV… everything negative…initially looked okay but just malnourished and everybody chalked up the diarrhea to worms or a parasite, so he was given all the meds for those problems. I took him over to the rescue. When the director put him in that cage, he looked ABSOLUTELY heartbroken. He didn’t want me to leave. I wasn’t sure what to do because we didn’t know what was wrong with him, and I had Penny, who was diabetic and therefore immune compromised, and Weeny, who had MAJOR “cat issues”.

But I couldn’t get his heartbroken little face out of my mind and heart that night.

Welcome Home, Checky

When the rescue called me two days later to tell me that she couldn’t keep him, he was just too sick and she was going away and didn’t want to put his care in a volunteer’s hands, I knew I just HAD to take him. He trusted me and I couldn’t let him down.

So Checky became our pet that day. He just didn’t know it yet. And I was excited. I couldn’t wait for that moment that I would return to the rescue and pick him up to bring him home later that week!

checky sleeping

Checky sleeping on his favorite blanket in Mom’s laundry basket.

She agreed to care for him for a few more days to try and get him stable before he came home. She was making little progress. No matter what she did, she could NOT slow down his diarrhea. She bathed him multiple times, which was hard because he was so bony and frail, and she would go check on him in the morning just to find him covered again.

So we took him to the emergency vet. And spent $500 to find out that nothing was wrong in his blood work. We even got him 2nd and a 3rd opinion.

Poor Checky visited the vet FIVE times in four weeks.

Nothing Was Helping..

I did manage to slow down his diarrhea but we could not get him hydrated or gaining weight (and I used Young Again Zero, Nature’s Variety Instinct, Fancy Feast…anything high protein/low carb/high quality that he would eat). Then he started peeing over 12 times per day. Yet, his kidney and thyroid values and blood glucose were fine. No matter WHAT I did, I just could NOT get him stable.

And then I made a decision. I could not torture this poor cat any longer with vet visits and medications. I’m not a big fan of over-medicating cats. Enough was enough. I stopped all meds except for the B12 injections and probiotics to try to slow his diarrhea down, kept him well-fed and well-hydrated … the rest was between him and God.

He lived in Mom’s room because we didn’t want to bring him out with Penny and Weeny until we were sure he didn’t have something contagious. He snuggled Mom every night…ALL night. He would go up to her while she was sleeping multiple times and just tap her arm so she would pet him. Every time he saw us he would start “making biscuits”. And he had this sweet little meow that reminded me SO much of my late Tabby.

Then he stopped eating. He wasn’t able to eat because of a mass or infection in his mouth. We spent his last days spoon feeding him baby food, bone broth … I even made him homemade pureed chicken with bone broth. It would take the poor little guy a half hour to finish maybe 1/4 cup of cat food.

I knew he would not survive a dental. No way. Not in the condition he was in. My vet agreed. To this very day I don’t know if it was oral cancer or just an abscess, but since he took several courses of antibiotics, including two courses of Convenia that was still in his system, I knew it likely wasn’t an abscess.

God Bless the Broken Road

So we made The Decision. And it was the hardest one for me to make. Checky deserved better than getting dumped off and getting his ass kicked by the other cats out there. Then he finally found us and his forever home… only to die. That’s why today is SUCH a difficult day for me.

So, on April 13th I called the vet to come out and help him cross. While we were waiting for the vet appointment, I went into his room to spend some time with him and let him know just how loved he was. We had a radio playing country music (that was the only station we could get on the radio).

While I was spending time with him, “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts came on. I’m not a Country music fan but I think the entire world knows this song. And I just cried and held him and told him how much I loved him. I know God sent him to us to know love and comfort and good eats before he died. And I’m grateful God chose us to love him and make him a member of our family, if only for a short time.

Checky passed peacefully, surrounded by love. Even our vet cried when he gave him the injection. Hundreds of people on Facebook, who had been following Checky’s story, cried along with us.

This little cat doesn’t even know the impact he made on this world in his short time in our family.

We buried him in our backyard with all of our other family pets. We promised him that this was his forever home. And that’s exactly what it became.

Fly free, Checky. You left HUGE pawprints on our hearts and we will never forget you. We love you!

Checky April 2015

Checky, as he realized this was his forever home.

Checky’s Official Song: “Bless the Broken Road” – Rascal Flatts

Nicknames: Checky.

**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.