Once I made the appointment with TAILS ,our local spay and neuter clinic, for Mama cat I waited until the day before we had to take her to the clinic to catch her. We often watched the kitties play in front of the barn, becoming braver and braver, sometimes with the binoculars. The little one I call Spot even walked up to the front porch. And Bruce mistook the big tabby for a different cat visiting. I kept saying I do not want a cat colony.
The Perils of Leaving Cat Food in the Barn At Night
Two nights before Mama Cat’s appointment, I heard a rustling in the barn when I went to finish chores. I looked and found a healthy possum crouched behind a muck bucket and the wall. I called Bruce who was watching the news. “What is it?” he asked when he came out. I pointed to the possum. He caught him got him into a Rubbermaid garbage can. He clapped the cover on it, got the truck and released him a few miles away..
Box (Have a Heart) Traps
The day before we were due to take Mama Cat to TAILS, we set out our two box traps in the barn with a dish of canned cat food . At first we caught nothing, even though the dish was empty. We figured a cat could avoid the plate which sprang the trap. I worried we’d catch nothing and have to cancel our appointment.
But later in the day we caught two kittens in one trap and one in another. We let one into a crate. We tried to shoo another kitty into the crate but she slipped out the side.
We had secured three kitties. But still no Slick (Mama Cat). I left a message at TAILS to see if they would take more than one cat. I sent texts to neighbors to see if they had an extra box trap. One neighbor said she had one, which turned out to be larger than ours. While we chatted, I showed her the cats we’d caught. She suggested we take them into the garage room because she’d seen raccoons grab animals through cages and kill them. So we carried them inside. I set her larger trap in the barn along with the empty trap and went in the house.
Ah Ha! We caught Mama cat and the remaining kitten! Thanks be to God. Thanks be! I said as Bruce and I carried them to the garage room. Did I say? I do not want a cat colony. I hope I hope TAILS will fix all of them tomorrow. I sent a few texts to friends asking for prayers we get them fixed.
We loaded the kitties in the back of the truck and drove into a brilliant sunrise. I hope. I hope TAILS will fix all five. I do not want to keep the kittens crated until they can make room. I sat on the edge of my seat.
When we pulled in, we parked. “Could you take all five?” I was prepared for her to say no. I’d heard her say they had a busy day.
“Let’s sex them and see?” the intake person said. “They’re probably all girls,” I muttered. Spays are more complicated that neutering.
I brought the kittens in. They checked all four. Three were boys and one was a girl. “Okay we can do this.” “Thank you! Thank you! We plan to give them a home,” I said. “You’re very generous.”
They needed names for surgery, so I called the all gray one “Grey” and the mostly grey one with white, “Brave” because he seemed a little more friendly. The tabby I called Tiger, and the gray and white one, “Spot.” Not very creative I know. I filled out paperwork for each one, asking for rabies and distemper shots and a feline leukemia test for the mother.
What a relief, what a joy. I practically danced through the day and even lunged with Morgen, after weeks of ignoring her. I was amazed at how she still uses herself when she trots. I saw no stumbling. (She’s been treated for EPM and drags her feet enough to wear the front of her hooves.)
When I dropped the lunge line, she flattened to a hard run. Standing on the other side of the barn, she waited for me to scold her, her head and ears up. “Nope. It was my fault,” I said. I picked her up and worked her some more. Both Morgen and Omalola know when my mind has darted away. They call me back to the present. I need to anchor my day in working this horse, working the dog, writing, reading, tending the house. Bruce brush hogged the grassy paddock so I can free lunge her there and find the fun again. I’ve been low grade grieving my loss of Tessie and Night and Bitsy these last two years, and now, finally, I’m waking up, despite the fact we are tumbling towards the dark time of year that calls us to rest and sleep.
When we picked the cats up, Jan Kosek, of Fixin Feral Felines was there. She said that warming mats sold for dogs works very well for keeping them warm in the winter. We could build a kitty condo with hay bales in the winter. She advised we keep the females inside for a week and the boys could go back out in a day. She was off to rescue some kittens in a soybean field.
I couldn’t stop thanking the intake person at TAILS for taking the kitties. What a gift. We paid our bill and loaded the cats into the truck and came home. They gave us pain medication to give twice a day for three days.
We’d set up the ex pen with two rubber mats underneath along with a kitty box and pans of food and water. We opened the traps and carriers and dumped the kitties into the pen. We got out the pain medication. The kittens took, but when it came to Mama Cat she struggled out Bruce’s hands and leapt out of the ex pen. We tried to catch her but to no avail.
The next morning we tried to dose the kittens, but they would have none of it. They fool you, these good looking kittens. You think they’re tame but they’re more wild than squirrels. When I looked through pictures from last year, I came to the conclusion Mama cat was the cat that abandoned a very young kitten. We fed him goat’s milk and called him Pallet because he lived by a stack of pallets. Whenever he saw us he dove into a wall in the barn. After a bitter cold spell, I never saw him again.
It makes sense animals making friends with humans. Our first feral, Onyx, learned how nice it was for me to stroke his face. We could call him back from a quarter mile away. When he was injured he came inside and won our hearts, despite Bruce saying no cats at first. I think he loves them more than I do.
If these kitties weren’t so afraid we might be able to bring them into the garage room and the ex pen during the bitter cold. We’d set up a heater. I wonder if God’s heart breaks when we are too afraid, too distracted to sidle up to His care.
We set another two box traps to catch Mama cat. It was a rainy night, so we were glad they were inside. Though the beautiful Papa cat jumped in the barn while I did chores, patiently waiting for me to leave so he could hole up in the dry barn and eat his supper.
The next morning we saw that Mama Cat had sprung three of the kittens out of the pen, leaving Brave. But she and two were caught in box traps. Bruce and I decided to release them to the shed. So the family is back home, where they started. Though they’ve made themselves scarce since. Mama Cat no longer watches from the driveway when it’s time to feed her.
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