Tuesday, March 22, 2011

TNR Report #1: Blue and Grey

Hooray! I am happy to report that two cats were successfully trapped last night, and taken to the Humane Society for spaying/neutering today.

I really wanted to try and get three cats in (seeing as I've now got three traps -- four if you count the smaller "kitten trap" that came with one of the bigger ones) but the HS has a 2-cats-per-appointment limit right now except on special clinic days. I was surprised and somewhat disappointed to learn of that limit, though I can understand it from a resource standpoint. And I will definitely be on the lookout for the "special clinic days" where apparently you get to bring in more cats at one time.

On the major plus side, though, spay/neuter for feral cats is free this month (March 2011), so even though we're "only" going to manage to get four cats total done this week, that's at least $100 saved. The normal $25/cat fee is still pretty manageable as long as we work in increments, but still, kudos to the HSSV for offering the service for free even if for a limited time. It's this kind of thing that demonstrates and helps set a new example for shelters and animal-welfare organizations, in line with the realization that the goal should be fewer cats being turned over to shelters in the first place.

The cats we got last night were Blue (the female male Siamese mix who showed up with her his two "adopted" kittens around Christmas 2010)* and a feisty grey tuxedo boy (the same one shown here with his very protective mom, only he's a lot bigger now!).

Matt's little niece and nephew have been calling the grey and white kitty "Tuxedo" (or "Tuxie"), but I really think he needs a better, less generic name. He's probably only about eight months old, but he's clearly got quite the personality already: he's brash, bold, and insufferably charismatic. He just has this sort of swagger to him, like he's just totally awesome and knows it.

As one of the "braver ferals", he was pretty easy to trap: I had him chasing a feather-wand toy, and with that I was able to entice him into Matt's parents' house, wherein I managed to corral him in the bathroom. He panicked a bit when he realized the door was closed, and proceeded to literally climb the wall, right up to the top of the medicine cabinet (which is mounted next to the window -- which, much to Tuxie's dismay, was closed). When he realized he wasn't getting out, he climbed back down the cabinet and onto a shelf. He sat there, all scrunched up on a folded towel, until Matt came in and picked him up in a blanket and sort of eased him into the trap.

I should note that this is NOT an orthodox trapping technique, and in general, it is NOT advisable to try and pick up unsocialized cats. I was actually really surprised Matt was able to do it...my idea had been to just put the trap in the bathroom, cover it with a blanket, and then wait for Tuxie to enter it on his own (which he most likely would have, given the trap would have been the most 'cave-like' space available).

But it worked out fine in the end, and we got to at least spare Tuxie the sudden BANG-SLAM of the trap door closing behind him (which, though cats seem to "get over", freaks them the heck out to the point that they often wet themselves). There is no way the "corral in bathroom then place in trap" technique is going to work for the warier colony kitties -- they're just going to have to deal with the BANG-SLAM -- but in Tuxie's case it made sense to do it the way we did.

Blue (whose name fits her him somehow even though it's a "color" name -- more on her his personality in a bit) was trapped somewhat more straightforwardly, though plenty of sheer luck was certainly involved. After Tuxie was safely secured in his trap in the bathroom, I went outside, to where I'd put a second trap about an hour prior (though I hadn't set it...I'd just left it out there for the cats to sniff and examine). I crouched down next to the trap and went about preparing and setting it: opening the door, lining it with puppy-training pads (softer and more absorbent than newspaper), and pushing a small plate of sardines (nice and smelly!) to the back of the trap's interior.

Lo and behold, Blue came right up and sat watching me do all this. For whatever reason, the other cats (there were about 10 outside at that point) didn't bother coming over; apparently there was something more interesting to them on the other side of the yard. And once Blue smelled the sardines she he got very excited about her his discovery and walked straight into the trap as I sat there next to it. she he did actually step on the trigger, but by then I'd already released the catch manually and was thus able to at least reduce the volume of the BANG-SLAM for her him.

The rest was uneventful: into the bathroom she he went, her his trap placed a few feet away from Tuxie's and covered with a blanket. she he meowed a little when I moved the blanket to check and make sure the interior of the trap wasn't covered in sardine (as that would have made for a seriously stinky situation, come the next morning) but was otherwise quiet.

(In general she he seems to be a fairly quiet, subtle cat, and I don't think it's just because she's he's been living outside for however long. It's like her his entire bearing is quiet and watchful. She's He's very curious and has a playful side, but part of her him seems to be constantly in "analysis mode", making sure she he doesn't get carried away in any particular direction. She He comes across as very centered and mature, I guess, even though I'd estimate her his age to be no more than a year or two.)

Initially I had been thinking of putting the traps in the garage overnight, and that would still be an option if the need arose (due to managing appointments for more than two cats at once, etc.). Matt's parents' garage is a large, well-constructed building that has its own plumbing and everything, so while it's not heated, it definitely offers plenty of protection from the elements (and from any suburban predators, humans included). But the bathroom easily accommodated two cats, so there they stayed for the evening.

Then, this morning Matt's dad took the kitties to the clinic -- he generally gets up early anyway, so that worked out fine. He also picked them up this afternoon post-surgery, and they will remain in the house until the anaesthesia wears off (probably overnight at least).

So yeah. Overall, the first round went so smoothly that this whole project is looking a lot more doable. Hopefully tomorrow (Wednesday) goes just as well, because we get to do it again (albeit with different cats this time)! I am not sure which cats we'll try for, but I am hoping to get at least one of the less bold ones, and I imagine since we were able to trap last night's pair so quietly and unobtrusively the shy kitties won't have been startled away from any willingness to investigate the traps.

* As I've noted previously, Blue is more likely a "nervous stray" than a wild-born feral cat. However, given that she he is still so relatively wary, and given that she appeared to have a whole cadre of admirers following her around last night, I figured it made more sense to just go ahead and get her spayed BEFORE she got pregnant again!

[UPDATE/EDIT: Blue turned out to be a boy, as noted in my next post with more supporting detail. I was pretty surprised by this but in any case it certainly suggests a re-interpretation of why so many other boy kitties were following him around...my guess now is that they were trying to challenge him to fight!]


  1. I just (re)found you through Amanda's blogroll -- I'm the other Northern California autistic cat-lover, was an LJ-friend for several years and vanished a few years ago (...and isn't going by M***y in order to avoid a still-obsessed deranged ex).

    I think this blog post might be the only one I've run across today that made me happier rather than annoyed -- congratulations on catching them! I never will understand people/orgs that reject TNR (or for some, trap/tame/adopt) as a method for handling ferals despite evidence that it works.

    Hopefully you'll have as much luck tomorrow/Wednesday!

  2. Hey congrats on your first catch! Also I have a name for Tuxie and I don't care that WereBear from Way of Cats has already used it because it's perfect for a tuxedo-wearer with a swagger: James Bond or some variation on it. 007 (pronounced double-oh seven)? One of the actors who played Bond, like Connery or Brosnan?

  3. Xyzzy: Mew! I do remember you and am glad to see you're still around (and ugh. re deranged-ex problems, some people really just need to get on with their OWN lives and stop messing with other people's).

    I don't think I even had any cats living with me the last time you and I communicated. But I've got four now, three of whom were adopted from this same feral colony I am trying to help TNR right now (but if you've looked at this blog's archives at all you probably already know that :)).

    Re. people rejecting TNR, gah, as much as I realize it might not be smart to release a bunch of hungry felis catus onto a small island populated by endangered ground-dwelling birds, I don't get *at all* why some people act like the ecosystem at large isn't flexible enough to accommodate ANY outdoor-living cats. Which is really what most of the TNR opponents are saying. Humans have lived alongside cats in multiple civilizations for literally thousands of years, and it irritates me terribly when people talk as if somehow they don't belong here.

    Thanks for the well-wishing re. trapping tonight! I imagine it'll go well as long as it isn't raining too hard. But even in that case some cats might end up fairly easy to get as they'll probably be inclined to take shelter under the patio awning.

  4. Thanks for the update. Sounds like your plan is going swimmingly. The cats are very lucky you are doing this!

  5. Intransigentia: Heeee, you know, I was actually thinking "James Bond" (or some variation thereof) would be perfect for Tuxie-boy, but had been hesitant due to (as you note) WereBear's kitty of the same name. I mean I know plenty of cats (and plenty of humans) share names, but I was afraid it would be confusing in my brain if two cats in close "mental proximity" to me were called the same thing. Not sure I like any actors' names for this kitty, but I could see just calling him "JB". That would definitely fit. And I will try and get a more recent picture up of him soon. :D

  6. I'm glad your traps went well, and you kind of lucked out with Tuxie, I think - or not just lucked out, you know how to deal with unsocialized cats, and you lucked out. They can get pretty wild when they realize they're locked inside a building.

    It's good you've got the TNR off to a good start, I hope good things continue.

  7. Hi Anne,
    This is the first time I've commented, but I've been reading your blog for awhile now and have enjoyed it tremendously. I too am a 'cat person' ( I love all animals, but have always felt a special connection to felines ). It's nice to know that I'm not the only person who is fascinated by cat psychology, and 'gets' their subtle language. I currently have four pusses that I share the household with, and each is a unique little character in his/her own right. Each have distinctly different personalities, preferences, neurosis, methods of communicating, and I never tire of their company. Good thing my husband is a fan of the four-legged-ones as well, because I'm as commited to the furbabies as I would be to any other member of my family.
    I think the project you've taken upon yourself is wonderfully caring, and I'm so pleased that your initial attempt has met with success!
    Keep up the good work - I look forward to hearing how day two goes! :)

  8. Sounds like it is a family project, how neat.
    Hm, yes, Tuxie is a kind of generic name. Maybe "Spy" or "Secret" or "Agent" or "Vodka" "Martini" Anything but Tuxie! Wait, Martini is a kind of great name, maybe I'll use that! Just kidding, use it if you want, I don't know when I'll have a male tux to name, if ever.
    Right now I'm catsitting elderly CRF cats. Giving fluids to 3 of them, like they are kitty water balloons.
    Sounds like the trapping is going well so far.


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