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challenges

Saturday was a long day of TNR. Traps were set and then we waited. And waited.

This is in a neighborhood with a lot of active children. Kids can make trapping challenging as they can scare away the cats, but they can also provide lots of information about the cats. If anyone is going to know what’s going on with the cats in a neighborhood, it’s the kids. This was certainly true in this case.

In the afternoon when I was checking the traps one of the kids said she had seen a mama with kittens. I asked how recently, and she said just a few minutes ago. I asked her to show me where and she went to the back of the yard, picked up a rock and threw it over to where the mama was. I thanked her and told her no more throwing rocks!

The kids kept asking me, what happens to the cats? How do you explain the concept of spay and neuter to little kids?! Then one kid asked how you could tell the difference between boy cats and the girl cats. Too many challenging questions!!

A little while later, one of the kids ran up to me telling me her friend had gotten a cat for me. I went over and a kid was holding Pickles, a super friendly neutered boy who lived down the street. This cat is a very gentle and sweet boy, he adores attention, even by the kids holding him awkwardly. I thanked them for trying and told them I had already worked with Pickles and went about checking traps again.  A few minutes later, the girl came up to me again, this time with a large pink shoelace tied around Pickles’ neck. Pickles was clearly uncomfortable so I told her to take it off him now, she promptly dropped the shoelace and Pickles darted away dragging the shoelace – oh my gosh! My heart sank! I looked everywhere for him and could not find him anywhere.

I kept picturing him choking to death or getting caught on something and getting stuck somewhere. I was worried sick and the kids didn’t seem to care. I tried several times to get them to help me look for Pickles but they didn’t invest much effort. A few hours later, when Sue and I were coming back to check traps and look for Pickles, guess who we saw when he drove in? It was Pickles and the string was gone! He must have worked it off himself. I was so overjoyed, I stopped the car in the middle of the street and we both got out and hugged him!

PIckles, sans-shoelace around his neck!

Pickles, sans-shoelace!

We went on to check the traps and look for the babies. As soon as we approached the nest site, the mama darted out. She is a small black cat. Now, a few days earlier we had trapped a small black mama. The vet at the clinic said she was lactating with 4-5 week old kittens, but we didn’t know where her kittens were. So, we thought maybe this was that same mama and now we found her kittens! We had since released that now spayed and eartipped mama.

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Kittens coming out of their nest

We got busy clearing the way and soon enough Sue was snatching up little bundles of cute! The nest was under a pile of vinyl siding in the backyard. We gathered three kittens and didn’t see or hear any more. Sue estimated they are about 4-5 weeks old.

Crazy adorable!!

Crazy adorable!!

We setup the carrier of kittens with a trap, hoping to catch mom. Then we waited and waited as it rained and rained.

A few hours later we checked the traps. No cat in the trap by the babies. However, in a trap on the other side of the property, we had trapped the eartipped black mama again, so we brought her to the car, not knowing if this was the mama or not. Seemed odd she wasn’t in the trap by the babies but was in a different part of the yard. So, again we waited and waited.

As the night was nearing early morning, I had an idea. We could retrieve the trail camera from a different property in the neighborhood and set it up on the den site, that way we could see if another black cat comes looking for her kittens. If this happened then we could guess that eartipped mama is not the mama of these kittens. There are so many cats at this site, both black and brown tabbies it’s hard to know which kittens belong to which mama. But we want to be sure to TNR all the mamas.

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camera pointed at the den

Sunday morning I went back early to check traps, retrieve the camera photos, and to take cats to the clinic. Can you guess what I found on the pictures?

First this cat:

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Then just a few minutes later, what looks like another kitten! two

Then comes another surprise – a non-eartipped black cat!three

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We set the traps all day Sunday and Sue stayed with them all day and night, even with the crazy rain. The reward of all her hard work?

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She trapped the fourth kitten! The one that showed up on the camera. I’m so glad we setup the camera there and learned about this kitten, would have been horrible to leave him there all by his lonesome. The camera is there again tonight, so Monday morning we will see what we see.

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Fourth kitten is reunited with her siblings.

I don’t have the current cat/kitten count for this project in front of me at the moment, but I think we are at 19 kittens taken from this project so far and maybe around 18 adult cats TNR’ed. These four kittens will be going to their foster home on Monday and starting their journey toward being adopted into good homes. Meanwhile, the trapping goes on…

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reconnaissance

I’ve written in the past about the benefit of using a trail camera to identify cats. In the case of this large site I’ve been working on, we set up the camera first focused on some food overnight after we had trapped a bunch of cats so we could figure out who is still coming around. Eartipped cats we know are done, non-eartips tell us we got more work to do.

Here is what the first night of camera use revealed:

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eartip – this is the mama of some of the kittens

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non-eartip

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eartip!

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eartip – I think this is the same cat as in the first picture

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hmmm, funny looking cat…

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non-eartip

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can’t tell about the eartip, but suspect non-eartip but could be same cat from third picture

We moved the camera to another location to look for a collared cat we have been seeing around, but no one in the neighborhood claims it. We are suspecting he was abandoned with a collar on. Poor thing. He looks rather skinny too, like all the other cats in this neighborhood.

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non-eartip collared cat  with trap door open

He was caught on camera rubbing against the trap door, closing it. He can’t be that hungry or he would be in the trap eating the bait.

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trap door now closed

Is this a boy or a girl – well this next picture gives us some information. Having a trail camera with 10MP resolution is nice.

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he looks quite intact to me!

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look how loose the collar is on this guy

Looks like we have a lot more work ahead of us…

Someone asked me what trail camera we are using. These images are from a Moultrie M-990i No Glow Game Camera. It is fairly basic and is only around $150, but takes great pictures. The organization I volunteer with (Community Cat Coalition) has a bunch of these they loan out to volunteers. The more information we have about the cats we are trapping the easier it is to TNR.

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It was a busy weekend of TNR activities at the mobile home community I’ve been working on. We started trapping early last week in one lot and already have trapped 2 kittens and 7 adults. On Saturday, we walked around the community, gathering information about the community cats. You know it’s going to be an interesting day when the first person you talk with says, “I love cats! Of course, I feed the cats, I love having the cats here, cuz they always take the first hit when the evil spirits come…” Hmmm… Allrighty then.

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trying to trap babies by using mom as bait – mom’s in the carrier and the hope is the kittens come to her via the trap.

We found hoarders, gang bangers, paranoid people, nice folks and every type of person in between. Some of the people were hostile toward us but no one was hostile toward the cats! Yah! Many are even willing to help us trap.

This site is large. I’m guessing 30+ cats and many, many litters of kittens.

see the cat under the mobile home.

can you see the cat under the mobile home?

The day ended with me walking up on the porch of a house to knock on the door and seeing this gorgeous black mama nursing her babies on the porch.
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I signaled for back up and next thing you know, we have 8 babies and black mama in carriers and traps. These poor cats were so hungry, the semi-ferals seemed to forget how feral they were as they wanted food. One volunteer was able to feel one up as she snarfed down food and determined she has a litter of kittens out there.
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As does another mom we noticed. Thankfully, the homeowner was thrilled to have us help them get their semi-feral cats fixed.
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these tiny babies came wobbling over our way

 

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using the babies in the carrier to trap mom

 

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Another mom is hiding out under the porch

 

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here I am getting friendly with the ferals

We left them all the food we had and one of the volunteers brought them a few more cases of food on Monday. These poor cats were so hungry. One of the amazing benefits of the Community Cat Coalition is that we get a lot of food donated for feeding ferals. Once a quarter that food is split up and people like these who are looking after these cats can get a lot of free food. These cats will be thrilled to get more food.
Here are the babies we got on Saturday:
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The two volunteers I was working with both agreed that had we not taken these malnourished babies when we did they would have perished. Their eyes were all goobered up from URI’s.
We have lots more trapping to do at this large site, we are only just beginning, but so far off to a good start!
I was not able to go trapping on Monday due to having to work (what?!) But the other team members went and trapped another two kittens and two mamas. Meanwhile, we got an update on the tiny kittens and mom from the foster mom:
The emaciated tiny ones now have access to their mom, who is being well fed and gaining weight. Their badly infected eyes are improving daily with simple meds and a cleanliness. Just in time.

There is a still a lot of work to to, but having so many homeowners check traps and help in the process is a huge blessing! I love it when the community comes together to take care of their own community cats! That’s the main goal of the Community Cat Coalition, to equipment the community to take care of their cats. Feels good to be part of the humane solution.

Off to bed, gotta get up early again in the morning to check traps and bring the cats to the clinic.

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It’s been a full week of TNR! Lots of checking traps and early morning visits to the spay/neuter clinic. So far, we have trapped nine cats/kittens at this site.

Guess what’s in this covered trap?

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This adorable bundle of fluff!

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So far we have two 8-week old kittens with more to get yet.

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Out of the 7 adults, three were pregnant females!

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We are guessing this friendly guy is the papa of the adorable kitten. However, his fathering days are over now, thanks the neuter. He has a very nasty wound on the side of his head, probably from an abscess. And sadly, he tested FIV+. Hopefully he heals up ok and then he’s on to being available for adoption.

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This girl was pregnant with five kittens and was still lactating from her previous litter.

There are still lots of cats roaming this neighborhood. I’m guessing another 30-40+ cats/kittens are there in need of being trapped. I talked with one neighbor this morning who said one guy alone has over 20 cats.

The plan is to walk around the neighborhood on Saturday and talk with people. Hopefully we can gather more information about who is feeding and better estimate the numbers we are looking at. In the end, I think I’ll be working this site for a long time to come! It’s time to round up a few more volunteers!

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a report of kittens

Not long after wrapping up the previous project, we got a call from a resident of a large apartment complex. She feeds 4-5 adults and had just recently seen a kitten. So, we drove out to assess the site. It’s a large apartment complex that borders a mobile home community. A fence separates the two but there are plenty of places for cats to get through.

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High above cat eavesdropping on us as we create our TNR plan.

The feeder reported seeing the kitten in this old brown truck.

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We talked with the resident of the property where this brown truck resides and they were thrilled we were offering to help with the feral cats. They had called animal control and some other groups asking for help but none was offered and then a few days later we just happen to show up!

Thankfully, these people have offered to help us trap – so they will be checking traps all through the night. Monday morning we will swing by there on the way to the clinic and pick up however many cats they have trapped! I’m hoping all nine traps are full!

On the drive home, I spotted a dog wandering along a major 7-lane highway. He had that “loose dog” look – you know the one. No people or houses in sight, I had to do something. So, I flipped a U-turn and coaxed the dog to me. In no time he was in the car ready to go for a ride! He had a collar on but no tags. A beautiful, older chocolate lab.

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I dropped him by my 24-hour vet, who scanned him and found he is chipped! So, hopefully he goes home and stops his wandering ways.

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success

This project is now as done as done can be for the moment.

TNR is so much easier when you have the cooperation and assistance from the property owner. With this project, we had the blessing to be on the property and to TNR the cats but that was about it. It’s nice when the property owner is willing to check traps or stop feeding during trapping – but when that doesn’t happen you make do.

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I thought for sure this little one was a girl – but turns out to be young boy! He was from mama’s litter back in August.

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If it wasn’t for this cat being many miles away, I might think he’s one of Oliver’s relatives! This guy was a bonus, he didn’t show up in any of the pictures.

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Kittens are being socialized!

In the end four adults were trapped, one of which was the mama and all four kittens were trapped. Of the adults, mama was the only female and the kittens were three boys and one girl.

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I heard today that the kittens are purring more now than hissing – so that’s great progress!

There was one fluffy brown tabby cat that eluded the traps the whole week we were there trapping. She/he is the sibling of the brown fluffy young adult. If the homeowners decide to cooperate and help us then we will try for this last cat. Meanwhile, other sites are calling.

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assessing numbers

Last night I setup the camera at the TNR site again in hopes of catching some photos of the kittens. I also put out three cans of wet food and lots of dry kitten food.

I swung by the site this afternoon to restock the food and to peruse the pictures. The camera was set to take photos when it detected motion. Apparently there was a lot of motion because there were several thousand photos! Amazing how much time it takes to scan through thousands of photos. The same four adult cats hung around all night and feasted on the food.

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And then daylight came, followed by four little bundles of crazy-adorable! Kittens!!!!!!

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proud mom!

proud mom!

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Four kittens – a black and white, fuzzy solid gray, and two gray and white.

Four adults – fluffy gray and white (mom), fluffy brown and white, fluffy brown, and stripped tabby.

Now that we have information about numbers, we look at our work schedules and the clinic schedules and create a plan for when we will trap.

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determining how many

I’m in the process of gathering information about a nearby TNR site, where information about the particulars has been difficult to come by. Homeowner reported seeing three adult cats and recently four kittens.

When information is missing or incomplete, it can be helpful to find other means to gather helpful information. My trapping buddy and I decided to setup a trail camera on the back porch where the cats feed, in hopes we might see the kittens. Getting pictures of the kittens would give us a sense of how old they are. If they are still really young, then we will want to trap them sooner rather than later so they can begin being socialized and adopted into homes. If they are older, then we can go about the trapping with less urgency, as they will be altered and returned to the site.

The camera yielded no photos of kittens, just these gorgeous adults:

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MH Tabby

LH Brown

 

This must be Nahum’s cousin! They look very alike.

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we all come in dinner I want to take them all home and cuddle with them! I love fluffy kitties.

This is actually my first TNR site that involves long-furred cats. For some reason all the sites I have worked on have only had short-furred cats. If these guys are friendly, it would be difficult not to keep them! Good thing I’m already at my maximum cat limit!

The absence of the kittens is odd. I’ll bring the camera back out there and leave it longer to see if they appear. Then it’ll time to schedule some trapping of these four beauties. The homeowners are happy to have them back – so that’s good!

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tis the TNR season

TNR season is starting to heat up again.

Yesterday, I assisted with the preparation efforts on a cooperative trapping. A 180 unit mobile home park has a ever growing colony of feral cats that needs attention. So, yesterday, a team of us went around the park talking with people about TNR and asking if they have any tame cats they want spayed and neutered for free.

On the way home we swung by a site that has 3 adults and 4 kittens that need to be TNR’ed. Depending on the age of the kittens, they may be socialized and adopted out or if they are older they will be returned.

This weekend I’ll be teaching my basic TNR class once again. That is always fun!

And I still need to trap the black cat that comes around my backyard at night. Tuesday night I stayed up late trying to drop trap him, without success. I’ll be trying again next week.

Our local animal shelter has reached out to our TNR group asking for assistance to help them participate in TNR. This is very exciting and has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of cats they euthanize while improving the lives of many more community cats! Yah!

So, yes, it is TNR season once again!

cats on a spit

I had the pleasure to once again teach the Basic TNR class today, with my Community Cat Coalition colleague and friend, Vicki. We traveled to a remote part of the state, an area with many fewer TNR resources available than what I get to enjoy. Several local and nearby animal rescue groups came together to promote the class with the hopes more in the community would be interested in learning TNR.

We had 18 people from the community attend! Many had never trapped cats before but wanted to learn so they could get more involved with TNR. Others had feral cats they were taking care of but were not sure how to trap them or where to take them for spay/neuter. And a few were experienced from recently having started TNR’ing a large local feral colony that is well known in their community. It was a great group of enthusiastic people who care a lot about helping homeless cats. They asked great questions and were very engaged with the class – it was an awesome class!

After class we traveled down to visit the site where the large feral colony were living. Seeing the location was mind-boggling and sad. It’s a less than ideal location for a feral cat colony (crazy understatement). There is very little protection from the elements and no decent cover. These cats arrived at this location most likely from being dumped. Technically, it’s probably more correct to say there are numerous colonies living at this site, as the cats live all up and down this spit of land that juts out to form a safe harbor for ships..  The spit is a little over 3 miles (4.8 km) long but very narrow.

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Image courtesy of Google maps

I’m intentionally not naming the community to protect the location of the colony, and thus the cats. The local newspaper did an article on the feral colony and the large TNR project that is currently underway and sadly, some cruel people came out and harassed the cats and vandalized their shelters and feeding stations. If you recognize the location of this site, please refrain from sharing revealing details in the comments.

There’s not a lot happening on the spit, mostly a road and nice scenic pull-overs. At the tip of the spit is an active US Coast Guard Station and at the other end is a massive lumber mill operation. It’s certainly scenic.

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I met this man out at the site and he quickly became one of my favorite people on the planet. Fred is feeding the ferals, as he does every day.

Fred and his friend Ron are two retired guys who caretake all the cats on the spit. They estimate there are about 30 to 40 or so cats but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are actually more. These guys spend a lot of their time and money bettering the lives of these cats. Seeing how much these guys love and care for these cats, fills my heart with joy.

We were fortunate enough to get a tour of the site from both of these generous men. They both gushed with stories of the all the cats and kittens – they know them all very well. When one goes missing, they grieve. After the newspaper article published the story about the colony, they found the feeding stations destroyed and they found one of the cats dead. They don’t know how he died, but it was clear the pain of the loss was still fresh. Some kind soul placed a flower and a little flag on this log in memory of the deceased cat, which used to eat at the feeding station near this spot.

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We were only there a few minutes before we started seeing the cats – they were everywhere.

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Ron and Fred have been very creative in trying to create shelters for the cats. There is next to nothing available for shelter from the wind and elements, basically, large rocks and driftwood, so they use the driftwood logs to create little sheltered spots for the cats to eat or sleep. The sticks leaning up against the rocks work to keep the abundant seagull population from eating all the cat food.

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As we toured the site, we discussed TNR strategies. This site certainly poses the greatest TNR challenge I have ever seen. It’s so vast, and so wide open – traps can’t be left because they could easily be stolen or vandalized. I believe they said they have TNR’ed 25 already after several days of trapping.

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 These cats are all so beautiful.es21

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A creative feeding station, covered by drift logs. A small log covers the food bowl so it’s out of sight of the humans passing by, but the cats can get to it.

 

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Can you spot the feral cat in this photo?

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He’s hanging out in this little covered feeding space.

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makeshift feral shelter

In one area, there are a few portable shelters made from plastic tubs that the cats love, hidden away behind some large logs. Sadly, the site doesn’t have many such spots where such shelters can safely exist without getting vandalized.

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There are many ferals that live beyond this fence, which is the secured Coast Guard station.

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ferals hanging out in clearing of the Coast Guard station

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peek-a-boo!

All the feral cats we saw looked to be healthy. They are getting good care from Ron and Fred and it shows. Even with such great care, how they survive the cold winters out on this spit, I have no idea. We were told there are some storms that come in where the waves crash over the big rocks, which would destroy their homes, food and water.

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non-eartip feral still needing to be TNR’ed

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Another non-eartipped feral needing to be TNR’ed

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The rainbow ends where the ferals live

Seeing the conditions these cats live in was heart-breaking. Meeting Ron and Fred and hearing how much they look after these cats was heart-warming. Meeting the people who organized the Basic TNR class and the other attendees who want to make a difference in the lives of homeless cats was energizing. One person can make such a  huge difference in the life of a homeless cat. My heart is filled with much gratitude that there are caring people out there who are willing to put the care into action. You all are my heros.

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