Saturday, March 5, 2011
Santa Clara's Feral Cats Need Help!
Above is a typical scene in my SO's parents' neighborhood (about 2 miles from where Matt and I live, in the same town). As I've noted previously, Matt's parents live at the epicenter of a pretty robust cat colony, and between their efforts and mine and Matt's, we've managed to get a total of nine (counting my three youngsters) cats spayed/neutered over the past three years or so.
And while that's certainly had some positive effect (as the nine cats in question are all currently alive, healthy, and either living happily in their adoptive home or outdoors with their companions)...well, the colony needs a lot more help. There are at least seven more cats out there of reproductive age who aren't yet fixed, and at least six kittens (including the two adorable little black ones in the photo above).
Plus, unfortunately it seems that some humans apparently think it's okay to abandon cats in that area. Right around Christmas 2010 a mother cat (a Siamese mix we've been calling "Blue") showed up with three babies in tow. And it's clear that Blue is not feral, but rather, a very nervous stray. Her coat is all scruffed up (that's one way you can tell a stray from a feral cat -- ferals are accustomed to taking care of themselves outdoors, but strays have a rough time of it), and she will approach humans...but she seems very leery of hands, which makes me wonder if maybe she was not only abandoned, but abused wherever she used to live (or, if she was lost by accident, mistreated by other humans before she found her way into this neighborhood).
Picture above shows Blue in the foreground. Her daughter Dominique is in the background.
Anyway, to make a long story short, there are at least thirteen cats in this colony that we really want to take in for spay/neuter (and rabies shots if possible). If all these cats end up reproducing again for even one generation, that's going to be...well, a lot more cats than the neighborhood can reasonably support.
And it just terrifies me to think of someone deciding to call Animal Control to round up and kill them. It's not their fault they're out there, after all, and in general they're no trouble to have about. But they would all live much happier, safer lives if we were able to take them in for Trap-Neuter-Return.
And I am sort of at my wit's end right now trying to figure out how to make that happen. The logistics are, in a word, daunting.
Thus, this post is mainly a call for advice, especially (though not limited to) from people who might have a clue about relevant groups and/or services in California's South Bay area.
Mind you, I know full well that the Humane Society of Silicon Valley supports TNR and offers trap rental, etc. for feral and stray cats. That's where most of the currently fixed kitties in the local colony went for their checkups and surgery, in fact. But how to get thirteen cats there in one go? I haven't the faintest.
I also know that Silicon Valley Animal Control has a low-cost spay/neuter service. But I don't trust them. Matt's parents initially tried taking Toby there (as a tiny, sick kitten) and almost immediately they said "Well, we can put her down for you...". Needless to say, Matt's mom left THAT place in a hurry (and today Toby is a lovely, healthy almost-4-year-old ladycat).
(I also recently confirmed, after contacting someone who works with Animal Control locally, that they are still pretty quick to indiscriminately kill. E.g., they will kill any kitten under four months old simply because they're too young to receive a rabies shot, and they will also kill adults who appear to be at all unwell, even if their illness is treatable. So while they may offer inexpensive spay/neuter surgery there is NO WAY I would bring any animal in there unless I got to bring at least two other people with me, at least one of which was really good at communicating/advocating in realtime and would be able to help guarantee that the animals would NOT be killed, and that if AC planned on killing them, we'd get a chance to take them elsewhere.)
But anyway. All that aside, here's the critical stuff I am attempting to work out:
1.) Transportation! I personally don't drive (can't, for neurological/disability reasons). Matt can drive, but his car is extremely small (a two-door Focus hatchback) and we'd only be able to fit maybe two or three traps in there at most.
Thus, really, what I am wondering is whether I might be able to find/hire an experienced driver with a van or something who has actually dealt before with transporting large numbers of cats at once. Like is this the sort of thing one could put an ad on Craigslist for? Or even better, is there some local feral-cat advocacy group that for whatever reason I've not personally found a way to get in touch with yet?
2.) Scheduling! Every clinic I've been able to find any information on locally says you need to have an appointment. But if you want to bring in a bunch of feral cats, it's sort of hard to GUARANTEE you're going to have a particular number of cats. It depends, after all, on how many end up walking into the traps! So if anyone knows anything...phone scripts for talking to clinic reps or anything else...that might make the appointment-making go more smoothly, PLEASE feel free to comment with that info (or point me at it).
3.) Help with trapping! Part of this ties into "transportation", as Matt's parents have only one trap and we'd thus need to rent a whole bunch more if we wanted to get the whole colony (or as much of it as possible) in one go. Then there would be the matter of monitoring the traps, covering them (so the cats won't be as frightened) once they're sprung, etc. I can do this myself for a few traps, but if we really want to go and do the Big Difference-Making Mass Trapping Day, we'd definitely need some additional humanpower.
4.) Event Planning! This one is kind of...optional, but definitely something I'm looking for information about. Because I've heard sometimes communities have "TNR events" where a bunch of vets will volunteer to spend a day doing spay/neuter surgery on kind of a mass basis. How does that kind of thing get initiated, though? I can't imagine it's just a matter of one person going in and talking to their vet.
So yeah. I would REALLY TREMENDOUSLY appreciate ANY input on any of the above matters. Note that I am NOT asking or looking for money here, just advice and/or links, contacts, and resources. All I ask is that people please not just tell me to "call the humane society" or "contact animal control", because I've tried doing both those things and neither led to any sort of help at all with transportation, trapping, etc.
I guess the bottom line is that I keep reading all these random news stories from various regions with headlines like "Local Feral Spay Day A Success!" and I keep wondering how the heck that sort of thing gets orchestrated and how it could potentially happen in my community.