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It’s taken me nearly a week to get have enough time and energy to pull together a full wrap up of last weekend’s TNR festivities. I haven’t been that exhausted in I don’t remember how long, wow! So, here’s the run down of the exciting weekend that was.

Trapping day!

Saturday morning was the day of trapping. All the preparations had been completed and it was time to get some cats. I had scheduled 20 spay/neuter appointments for Sunday, so hopefully we would get enough cats to use all the available slots.

A week prior to trapping day, about a dozen traps were set up and secured open around the project site. All throughout that week the cats were mostly only fed in the traps, this way they were acclimated to going into the traps to find food. If this step is done well the trapping should be easy.

To makes matters even better, just prior to this project started, seven kittens were trapped by a gentleman who lives onsite. A Community Cat Coalition volunteer, Laurie, graciously offered to foster and tame five of them in hopes they can hopefully be adopted out and the other two would be altered and returned.

The project site, which spanned a city block, consisted of three distinct areas for trapping. The south end of the block had the bulk of the cats and the north end had one litter of kittens that stayed fairly close to their home. Nancy, my TNR mentor and amazing helper, and I arrived at the site around 6am with additional traps and supplies. We worked out a plan and got right to work. I started on the north end with the family of tabby cats living under a porch while Nancy set the traps around the bigger south section of the site.

traps are set for the tabby family

The tabby family consisted of a mom and three kittens, Small, Medium and Large – the names, given by their resident caretaker, Peggy, correspond to their size! The kittens and mom were semi-feral. As I was setting up the traps the kittens swarmed me as they anticipated their breakfast. Since some of the kittens were friendly to Peggy we first tried to have her pick some up to place in a carrier, but they were too squirmy and energetic. Trapping them would prove to be much easier.

I set the traps and retreated to the nearby car to watch. One by one they entered the traps. Only Large resisted going into the traps, but he is the friendliest of the bunch, so without the distraction of his siblings, Peggy was easily able to pick him up him and place him in a carrier. This process didn’t take long at all. The hardest part of this bit of trapping was resisting their all powerful tabby-cutes! When I first saw them running around, I immediately felt the tug of all their tabby-cute-kitten powers tempting me to just play with and love on them all day. I worked hard to counter their powers by not looking at them too much. That was tough as their cutes were strong!

It was time to team up with Nancy to get the remainder of the cats. Nancy keeps telling me that it’s common to have a large number of cats go right into traps at the start of the trapping and then the pace slows to a trickle as the stragglers make their way into the traps over the rest of the day. So, with this in mind, we watched. And we watched. Slowly over the first few hours a few cats made their way into the traps. So much for Nancy’s theory! By late morning we were up to 8 cats, half of those being the family of four I had trapped in the first hour!

Near mid day we turned the trapping over to Melinda and Jason, two residents of the neighborhood who have a compassionate heart for homeless cats. I stopped over a few more times throughout the day to assist them. They really got into the trapping experience and even stayed up into the wee hours of the next morning trapping cats! What dedication! By the time they were done we had all trapped a total of 13 cats for the day. We had all but one of the cats we were looking to get plus one bonus cat that no one had seen before.

Getting all but one of the cats seemed like a great success, even when it took the full day. We still need to trap the mother of the Siamese kittens. She is being fed under a drop trap now, so once the timing works out, we should be able to get her.

Spay/Neuter!

The trapping was work but it wasn’t all that stressful because I had prior experience with trapping. With this being my first experience with transport and working with a spay/neuter clinic, this day would prove to be a lot more anxiety provoking.

The cats all stayed in their traps overnight in Melinda and Jason’s basement as they awaited transport to the clinic on Sunday morning. Melinda and Jason took good pre-surgical care of the cats. The agreed upon plan was for me to arrive at 7am, to load up the cats with Melinda and Jason’s assistance and then to drive north 30 minutes to the clinic. That all seemed simple enough.

One of the property owners on the block allowed me to borrow their SUV for the transport, which was a tremendous help! I figured I could get the bulk of the cats in that one vehicle which would be super convenient.

Late Saturday night, before I fell into bed, I got an email from Nancy asking if I knew that the bedding in the traps should be changed prior to transport. Matter of fact, I didn’t know that little detail! Apparently it’s bad TNR etiquette to bring a bunch of poop-covered feral cats to the clinic for surgery. Who knew?! As I stared at Nancy’s email in a state of physical exhaustion, my brain was frantically trying to figure out just how much time it might take to swap out poopy, urine soaked bedding out of 13 traps before loading them into the vehicle for transport.

Needless to say, I was smart enough to realize my original plan was not going to leave me enough time to get everything done. Thankfully, my amazing wife, Laura, graciously offered to assist with loading the cats into the vehicle. We somehow made it work.

A brief aside: I’ve always been a bit turned off by poop. One of the reasons I like cats over dogs is that with cats I can use a long handled scoop to extract their odor-free litter-enrobed poops from the box rather than using my hands and a microthin plastic bag to grab dog poop from the lawn. Call me crazy, but I’m not overly fond of feeling the soft sensations of warm poop oozing between my fingers, not to mention the odor. Anyway, on the morning of the clinic, there I was kneeling in the basement, hastily sticking the separator fork in each trap, opening the end away from the cat and yanking all the urine and poop soaked newspapers from the trap with my bare hands! Oh the joy! I was so hurried I don’t think I had time to really realize what I was actually doing.

If that wasn’t enough excitement, driving a large unfamiliar vehicle loaded with 10 talkative cats, while in a hurry made for an exciting drive.

Since this was my first clinic, I didn’t really know what to expect for the check-in process. I had heard about how some of the clinics operated and so I figured it would be similar, but soon I learned I was wrong.

This particular clinic offers a spay/neuter clinic for cats 7 days per week. Maybe it was because it was a weekend day but for whatever reason the place was crazy-packed full of people and cats. The amount of chaos that ensued was off the charts.

eight of our cats waiting for surgery

My brain is easily overwhelmed in such situations, so I was immensely thankful to have Nancy helping. She gracefully surfed the chaos like it was just another day. The experience was more challenging because the 20 cats we had brought to the clinic that morning were separated into four separate groups. We ended up with 15 cats from the RH project site and Nancy filled in the remaining five appointments with some cats from a hoarder situation. Out of the 15 RH cats, five were getting special treatment courtesy of Melinda and Jason and two were getting special treatments courtesy of Peggy.

Completing all the paperwork and keeping track of what form went with what trap was too much for my little overloaded brain to handle. Eventually though with Nancy’s help, we got it all sorted out and all was good. Nancy assured me that the pickup in the afternoon would be much less crazy.

We spent the day doing various other cat projects around the site, such as hunting for several litters of newborn kittens that we had heard about. We didn’t have any luck finding the young kittens, but it wasn’t because we didn’t try! Nancy even boldly explored a huge crawl space. When the late afternoon came it was time to drive back up to the clinic and retrieve the cats.

The clinic opened again at 4:30pm for pick-up of cats. As we waited for the doors to be unlocked, masses of people were lining up, waiting to pick up their kitties. Right about at 4:30, I noticed a cat inside the clinic bonk into the glass door in a wild panic. Apparently a cat had escaped it’s trap and was on the loose in the clinic. 20 minutes later they had captured the escape artist and finally let us in. We never learned which cat got the extra adventure.

It’s difficult for me to actually determine if the level of chaos that afternoon was more or less than the morning, but I would probably go with more, especially when I factor in that by that time of the day I was dog-tired. It didn’t help that the majority of the feral cats we had brought in were females, and since spay surgeries are much more involved than neuters, the poor clinic staff had to work overtime just to get them all done. It was well over an hour after pick-up time that the last cat came out of surgery.

cats post surgery waiting to go home

Part of the chaos of the cat retrieval came from not being confident that the right cats made it back to the correct carriers or traps. One of our traps had the same identifier as someone else’s carrier. The guy thought the black & white kitten in his carrier looked like his, until we told him we had brought in three black & white kittens that looked just like the one in his carrier! In the end the number of toes finally tipped him off that he did indeed have the right kitten.

 

The cats were a lot more subdued on the voyage back home. By this time the majority of my stress had passed and I was just running on fumes, my energy was nearly depleted but much work remained. The cats needed to be moved back into the basement and fed. Thankfully, Melinda and Jason took care of most of the post-surgical recovery care.

When we picked up the cats at the clinic we also got all the specifics about them. We learned the bonus cat was tame and already neutered. What a wild adventure he had! The specifics on the others: 3 boys, 11 girls. The three moms were pregnant again, one at 1-2 weeks and the other two at 5 weeks. We had got them just in time.

Return!

Large, a few minutes after release

The return part of the project went fairly quickly. I met up with Melinda and Jason on Monday afternoon and we brought the cats over to their respective nests. They were released and all ran into their “homes”. The kittens who live under Peggy’s porch were back out bathing and playing in the yard just a few minutes after their release!

Amber’s release

It’s very rewarding seeing the cats go back to their lives, knowing that they no longer will have to focus on reproduction nor on where they will find their next meal. These community cats are as spoiled as community cats can be!

Final census: 

The total census for this project to date: 6 boys neutered and 13 girls spayed. 14 of them were kittens. Two kittens were relocated to a good barn home and five are still in the process of being tamed with hopes of being adopted out. One kitten, Small, was adopted by Peggy’s neighbor and is taming nicely. Large was adopted by Peggy and will remain an inside/outside cat so he can hang out with his sister and mother when not cuddling with Peggy.

Credits:

Many people helped make this project a great success. I’m a little reluctant to try to list everyone that contributed for fear I’ll leave someone out, if I’ve left you off of the list, know it was not intentional and please let me know so I can rectify my error.

Thanks so much to everyone who assisted with this project, your contribution was greatly appreciated!

  • Nancy – for wonderful mentorship, trapping assistance, use of traps and other equipment, holding two kittens, answering my ten thousand questions and a delightful sense of humor
  • Jason & Melinda – for helping with neighbor notification, trapping assistance, pre- & post-surgical care, recovery space, colony historical information and for your compassionate heart for the community cats
  • Leo – for trapping assistance, colony historical information and for care taking the community cats
  • Peggy – for adopting Large and for care taking the community cats
  • Laura – for providing yummy treats, official project photographer, emotional encouragement and for the last minute assistance preparing for transport
  • Sue W. – for the use of traps
  • Laurie – for fostering five kittens
  • Laina – for providing cat food, towels, blankets
  • Joanne – for providing laundry services
  • Penny – for passing along the information about this project
  • Sue A. – for use of the SUV, use of traps and being supportive of this project from the start
  • Katie – for adopting and taming Small
  • NOAH – free spay/neuter services
  • Community Cat Coalition – for providing encouragement throughout the project

Most of the photos in this post were taken by my wonderful and supportive wife, Laura.

8 Responses to “RH site TNR project summary”

  1. Margaret B says:

    Kudos on the success of your project! Wow, that was ALOT of females spayed! Just imagine how many lives you’ve saved…not only the spay/neuters but all those homeless kittens that will not be born! God Bless your whole team for your continued compassion!

  2. Wow~ such an adventure and worth while. Well done my friend! hugs, Linda

  3. No wonder you are tired! I can’t even imagine the work involved in successful TNR and you are ALL to be commended! As for the tabbies? I am dying over here. Tabbies are my favorites!

  4. YOU ROCK!!!! Concats on a good job. It can be so hard – especially with kittens (which is why Junior still lives with us). We are glad you got community support and that you were able to catch most of the cats you were looking for. We still have a couple in our neighborhood, but we will get them. The work you are doing is hard and messy and hard…. :) but so very very worth it.

  5. GREG_1948 says:

    All you need to do now is figure out how to get paid for this, and you have a new career! :)

  6. Fuzzy Tales says:

    Just a FANTASTIC community effort, Phil. Man, I’d be exhausted too. I think I’d crash for a couple of days after that, mostly from the emotional/mental strain! :-)

  7. Katie Isabella says:

    I am just overwhelmed with gratitude to ALL of you. I am and always will be. To use a much over-used phrase, you all ROCK! You’re awesome, each and every one of you.

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