Saturday, June 9, 2012

An Alien Abduction She Might Think

We've been watching Momma get more and more pregnant for weeks, almost since the moment we brought the kittens inside, back in April. It seemed imperative to catch her and get her neutered before yet more kittens arrived. There seemed absolutely no happy conclusion to a second litter. At best we might have tried to totally stay disengaged, let them grow up entirely wild, let Momma care for them till that point. It might well have worked out for at least a few of them, as she is one terrific mother. But doing it--staying aloof from the situation--I'm not sure it's in our DNA. As you probably have discerned, we suffer from empathy. It has its good and bad points.

Libby spent a good deal of her limited free time searching for the best catch-and-release trap to get. There's lots on the internet about them. I think I posted a youtube here a few posts back featuring a home-made one. We might have to build one of those for next year's rabies booster for Momma, as I'm not sure she'll ever venture into the Tomahawk trap we finally borrowed from Chatham County Animal Control on Monday. Lowe's was out of the things--which might be an indication of the state of small wild creatures here in the county this spring. One of my co-workers just had to deal with a family of skunks in his outbuilding. He was not so empathetic; cute does not necessarily trump all.

Anyways, having procured the loaner trap, we fed Momma just in its mouth for a few days (as is recommended), then on Wednesday I put a plate of tuna fish at the back past the trigger, after lining the floor with newspaper as recommended, and set the trap, with (as it turned out) her looking straight at me and the procedure from only a couple of feet away, under the house. Black is an awesome camouflage, and another facet of the cat universe from the one we've known for 18 previous years as owners of a white, fluffy cat. Anyways, I retreated inside, and in seconds she'd sprung the trap. I covered it with a towel and brought her in for the night. There was no room in there for anything such as food, litter, or water, but she was supposed to not eat for at least 12 hours before her scheduled surgery the next morning.

Libby and I got up early we put her into Libby's truck for the trip to Durham, where the mobile clinic for feral cats was located that day. This was about an hour or so trip. I went on to work, in the other direction. After a while I got a call--the vet told Libby that if Momma had feline AIDs she probably should be put down. They do a lot of standard tests when you bring a feral cat in. Libby and I talked about that and had about decided that we would veto that plan on the grounds that we didn't trap her so's to get her killed, but it turned out she was negative anyways, and healthy on all counts, an estimated 2 years old. The operation was successful (there were kittens, but not so far along as I'd fretted), she came home Thursday night and we transferred her to the larger kennel you can see in the picture. In the transfer she cooperated by retreating to the far end of the kennel so we could open the door and get the trap out.

Thursday night and Friday we talked a lot to her, put some food in the kennel, and litter, water, a little cat bed. There were some pain meds we ground up and put in the food. But while she does seem to have some sort of relationship with us, she is absolutely a wild creature. This morning the kennel was pretty much demolished, newspaper shredded, sheet cover on the floor, litter strewn everywhere, Momma sitting in the litter box glaring at me, and some food still in the dish. I took all this as a clear communication that she did not agree to be "our" cat, that she was not happy to have been examined and "probed" by us two-legged Martians she'd long ago learned to be very careful of, that, in brief, she wanted out. Unlike her kittens, who seemed to know instantly what a litter box was for, Momma was a cowgirl and knew the whole world was her litter box. Or perhaps she was consciously having her a prison riot--which is pretty much my conclusion.

I moved the kennel to the open kitchen door, opened the kennel door, took a few pictures. Wary, Momma stayed at the far back of the kennel. I walked around to the slider and back into the kitchen from behind the kennel. She was gone. (I tried to catch her scampering back towards the shed where the kittens had been born, but only got blurs not worth saving.) But--when she got to the shed she went inside. I took some food and water down there and put it on the step. She ventured out and was checking out the food as I was washing down the kennel with the hose--this spooked her and she ran away. But when I went back inside she returned and ate. I think she's back in the shed now, resting.

We hope she'll still adopt us, as a wild creature. We don't want her to come inside unless she wants to. She's a terrific hunter and was surviving on her own when she found the shed back in March. Neutered, the yellow tom might simply ignore her. And if we get real gung ho we might try catching the yellow tom and getting him neutered too. Meanwhile, the kittens are adolescents now, and quite full of beans. Here's a pic of two of 'em from the other day. They often sleep in a big pile, as Houdanenians are wont to do.


  1. i love so much about this post. i know your political posts are probably more important, but these are the posts that sing to my heart. and really, what can be more important than empathy and compassion? and doing your small bit to make the world better?

    long live the feral cat. i had no idea there was such a thing as feline AIDS but now that i know it's out there i'm glad she doesn't have it. and love to you and libby for what you are doing.

  2. If Obama would simply put his name over a big picture of a kitten, he might rise in the polls. It's getting pretty clear that an awful lot of voters vote against their obvious interests, time and again.