Whew, what a week! Short version: two more cats have been TNRed at the time of this writing, which means six cats total from the colony have been spayed or neutered since the beginning of last week.
Not bad, and definitely a good start, but I was really hoping for eight (especially given we had eight appointments reserved). The Humane Society folks assured me that this sort of thing happens all the time, as you can't really guarantee you will actually get the number of cats you've made appointments for, but still. Color me annoyed.
Monday night's session went well: we managed to catch Dominique's shy sister Michelle (who is all black with a little white "locket" on her chest):
(Michelle watching me and the camera from a table)
...and a little marble tabby girl we haven't named yet who may well be one of Mimi's siblings judging from her size. So that was good.
(Tiny tabby girl with the high beams on -- this is actually the clearest picture I've got of her thus far)
Wednesday night's session, on the other hand, was...chaotic, to say the least. Matt and I stuck it out monitoring and attending to traps well into the late evening, but ultimately had to admit defeat (our own kitties were home waiting for their dinner, after all!). Matt's parents said they would monitor the traps for a while after we went home and I am sure they did, but I haven't heard from them yet today and I'm not optimistic that anyone actually ended up being trapped.
See, things started out promising. I began by cleaning the traps and setting up all four of them (three regular-sized and one kitten-sized) out in the general area frequented by the cats. At that point it was still light out, and as they'd not been fed yet, kitties were starting to mill around the patio area anticipating their dinner.
Then, just as I started getting ready to actually bait the traps, Toby (former rescue kitten, now the resident Territorial Boss Lady) decided for whatever reason to go around and spritz her signature scent on said traps.
(Toby disapproves of this ridiculousness!)
And when her (feral) younger brother Gryff got wind of his sister's aromatic graffiti, of course he had to go and overmark it with his own eau-de-pheromone.
Anyhow, since Toby's determination to mark the equipment wasn't evident on trapping days prior, my guess is that this time I didn't clean the smells of the other cats (not to mention the "clinic smell" which can be a major feline anxiety trigger) off the traps well enough. Needless to say, lesson learned! Prior to the next session I will most assuredly make sure the traps are liberally sprayed with enzymatic cleaner and thoroughly wiped down and air-dried.
[The newer enzyme sprays ("Nature's Miracle", "Anti Icky Poo", and similar) are really good at destroying the proteins or whatever the stuff in cat urine is that flashes up a giant SPRAY HERE! sign once applied to an object, but you really have to give them time to work, and last night I didn't get a chance to do that in any more than a cursory manner. ]
I may also try to corral Toby in the house or garage next time, seeing as even when she wasn't spraying she seemed determined to meddle in every way possible with what I was doing (she ended up IN a trap at one point when her curiosity got the better of her). She is very much like Nikki in that once she sets her mind on something there's just no arguing with her.
Mind you, of course I don't think ill of Toby for her actions. From a feline standpoint she was acting in accordance with perfectly sensible Cat Logic, and in general she's this awesome sweet bossy ladycat that I am always happy to visit with. She just needs to stay the heck away from my traps on TNR days!
So...I repeat, what a week! I am not sure when the next trapping night will be. It has to be relatively soon if we want to really stabilize the colony population, but given the mess that was last night I am proposing waiting a week or two before trying again. Between Toby's meddling, the neighbor's loud motorcycle (which arrived next door at the worst possible moment, when the ferals were just starting to emerge from the shadows), and assorted other Elements of Certain Chaos I wouldn't be surprised if the shyer cats we really need to start targeting will take a few days to re-establish their routine. And the routine (especially as it pertains to feeding) is really important for successful TNR.
All that said, one thing I am happy with that we managed yesterday was getting Blue into the house.
(Blue on the patio, looking apprehensive)
Blue has been fighting an upper respiratory infection for a while now, and while it seemed much better on Clinic Day, it looked much worse yesterday evening.
Like worse with eyes practically crusted shut, nose completely sealed off by matted dried mucus and hair, and breathing through the mouth due to nasal blockage. Matt's mom, awesome lady that she is, said she'd take Blue to the vet if she could get the obviously under-the-weather kitty inside, and this didn't end up being very difficult at all.
So anyway. Blue went to the vet. The diagnosis of "respiratory infection" was no surprise at all -- but we were all REALLY surprised to learn that "she" was really a "he"! You'd think the Humane Society would have mentioned that little detail, as I presume they neutered (as opposed to spayed) him last week, but still. Wow. Clearly, Blue isn't actually Dominique and Michelle's mother after all, despite the fact that he was sure as heck acting like Mom to them.
And as for how the other boy cats were treating him -- I'd thought they were doing the chase-and-grab thing as part of whatever passes for feline courtship, but now I'm guessing they were trying to fight him.
Anyhow, I really do wish sometimes that I could learn the stories of all these cats that show up. Who knows what kind of environment Blue and Dominique and Michelle came out of, and who knows if (or how) they are even actually related?
Blue is definitely a Siamese mix of some sort (he's got snowshoe points), but he could still be the girls' littermate or older brother. Litters of random-bred kittens can easily be comprised of both "pointed" and non-pointed cats, and as I've noted before, littermates can even all have different fathers due to the manner in which feline reproduction works. And Blue isn't that much bigger than the girls.
Or -- and at this point I'm considering this the likelier case -- Blue could just be an unrelated boy cat who for whatever reason "adopted" the girls he showed up with. Despite his being a relatively little guy, something about him just feels older. I'd picked up on that somewhat even when I thought he was the girls' mom, but still hadn't figured on her (his) being more than a year or two old.
Now, though, I wonder about that estimate. True he's sick right now so that might be adding a layer of confounding weariness to his bearing, but still, at this point I wouldn't be shocked to find out he was seven years of age or even older. And if he's younger than that, ye gads, I don't even want to imagine what he's likely been through.
That aside, it's not unheard of for male cats to occasionally choose the nursemaid role, though I guess it's sort of unusual for an un-neutered male to do this.
Either way, he's been a great nanny/protector to Dominique and Michelle and while again there's no way to objectively confirm this, I get the sense that all three of them had it pretty rough wherever they were before this past December. I have definitely seen cats band together in times of great stress and it really looks like that's what happened with this little family.