Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Neighborhood Kitten Watch Saves Lives

When the weather is warm the queen cats will mate and reproduce. Feral kittens will start their lives out in sewers, hollow trees, thickets, forest, under your deck, under an abandoned car or anywhere that the mother cat feels that her young will be safe.  

When the kittens are old enough they will emerge from the birth den and venture out into the neighborhood.  Some kittens will be trapped, spayed or neutered, socialized and adopted and others will remain feral.  You can save kittens lives by watching for them in your neighborhood.

I am always on the lookout for kittens.  If I see them I document the location in a journal and then I respect the feral queen cat by not getting too close to her den, however I always set up a feeding station and I bring that mother kitten food to help her boost the kittens immune system.  

I will feed the mother cat 4 times a day in rain or shine.  By doing this I am building a bond with the feral cat and the kittens.  When the kittens are weaned I will trap them and the mother for spay, wormer and get the kittens spay, neutered and their shots.  I will then socialize the kittens for adoption and return the queen to the colony. 

Feral cat and kittens at the shelter
 Spring is a busy time of the year as the queen cat and her kittens must be located and then cared for by providing them regular feedings with food and fresh water, and trapping if they are in harm’s way.  Every year since 2009 I make it a point to watch for feral kittens in my neighborhood and to call animal control for all dogs that are not on a leash, you might say I learned this the hard way.

In May of 2009 the feral cat that I call Lucy was a first time mom, she had a small litter of two kittens; a little black long haired fluffy kitten with green eyes, and a light brown and gray striped tabby.  Lucy hid her kittens in an opening in the rocks in the forest close to an area that  was in heavy brush and was thick with branches and down trees.  The kittens were safe there when they were very young, but when they were three weeks old Lucy decided it was time to move them.  

A horrific storm was in the forecast and we were told to hunker down so we secured everything outdoors and I opened up the old shed door 8 inches and secured it with a rock so it would not be blown closed. I do this for the feral cats; the shed is where they go for safety.   

The winds were very strong, they knocked out the power and took many trees down.   After the wind storm there was a heavy rain.  I remembering looking out the window and I saw movement by my old shed I turned on the flood lights and saw Lucy with a kitten in her mouth.  She was moving her kittens to safety during a horrific storm.  Lucy brought both of her kittens to my old shed and that is where they lived and both my husband and I took care of them.

When Lucy needed a break from the kittens, a Norwegian Forest cat would lie at the front of the shed door and babysit.  Lucy then would eat at the colony feeding station and rest in the forest.  She would be gone for hours and the kittens would be groomed by the male cat.

When the kittens were 8 weeks old the black kitten would go with forest cat and he would take him down to the creek  and I guess show him where to go and where not to go.  The gray tabby kitten would go with the queen cat and she was teaching her the ways of the wild.  

Father cat eats while kitten watches
 One day Lucy was teaching both kittens how to hunt salamander and the kittens wanted nothing to do with the kill.  They saw me come out with the cat food and they ran to greet me.  After the kittens ate Lucy moved them deeper into the woods.  I guess she was telling me to keep my distance from her babies.  I did not see them for five days.

Kittens on Patio
Then one morning I looked out my window and saw the kittens lying on my brick patio and knew that Lucy brought them back to me because she knew they would be safe.  How I missed the kittens and was so happy to see them again.  I went outside with a bowl of food, shook the bowl and the kittens came running to me.  The kittens were  old enough to eat dry food however Lucy was still nursing them three times a day. 

All was peaceful in our yard and garden until our neighbors dog charged into our yard and went after the black kitten.  Lucy jumped up to defend her kittens and I ran out of the house with a broom.  My husband called out to the neighbor to get his dog and we heard the whistle and the dog retreated.  My husband spoke to our neighbor and he did not seem to care about the kittens and so my husband reminded him of the leash laws and told him to control his dog.

After that incident we were on high alert and were watching the kittens in our yard and neighborhood more closely. 

 Lucy took the kittens to the thicket thinking that they would be safer and they were safe until the neighbor let his dog out of the kennel.  Every day the dog would run down the alley and chaise the kittens. When the kittens were not fully weaned they learned that the dog was not their friend. We certainly had a problem on our hands and we decided it was time to set up the traps. My husband went to talk to animal control and they said they would send somebody out give the neighbor a talking to in regard to leash laws. We cleared our schedule and decided we would stay close to home until all the cats were trapped.

I let my neighbors know that I was trapping the neighborhood kittens and had lined up adopters for the kittens. I asked him to refrain from allowing his dog run in the neighborhood. 

The night before I set up the trap Lucy brought the 8 week old  black kitten back to my shed and he was playing in our old carpet, peek-a-boo I see you.   My husband and I sat out in the shed with him for two hours.  We used the time to get the little one use to us. He was comfortable and fell asleep on top of our old carpet.

I thought I would shut the pet door and trap the little one inside the shed.  My husband reminded me that if I blocked the entrance and Lucy could not get to the kitten that she may take them to the woods and then leave them there..  So I set up the trap and I left the pet door open.  I knew as soon as the kitten awoke he would be hungry and would enter the trap.  I went to bed at 4am and rechecked the trap at 6am.  The kitten was not in the trap.   I shook the bowl of food and the kitten did not come.  I thought Lucy had her kitten and then I saw Lucy sniffing the ground.  Then I heard her calling her kitten.

Both parent cats were sniffing the ground and calling out to the kitten. I watched the cats search, they walked down the alley into the woods to the thicket, they crossed the clearing by the rocks.  I took my binoculars to watch for the kitten.  I went to all of the neighbors houses asking for the kitten.  The women that helps me care for the cats, asked everyone to be on watch for the black kitten, we checked the sewers, the woods, the thicket den the hallow trees, we could not find the black kitten. My husband went into the woods, we took apart the thicket one branch at a time, he was gone without a trace. 

  Lucy the feral cat was mournful she called out in a way that I knew she was crying. Both cats lay in my driveway and mourned their kitten. That was two years ago, and I never really got over it.  I suppose it is because I did not have closure, I never really knew what happened to the little black kitten that was so small and brave.  He was the runt but his mom loved him.
The little black kitten was very small but very brave
Today I took a picture over to my other neighbor, it was a picture of Lucy’s kittens and I told him the little tabby is Daisy I trapped her when she was 12 weeks old and the little black one died and he said I know.  I said was it the dog and he said yes.

Spring is feral kitten season which means that if you have cats in your neighborhood you need to be on high watch.  If you see a dog running without a leash then you call animal control because most cities have leash laws.  

It is also against the law to allow your dog to run in your yard without a leash. All dogs must be on a leash or behind a secure fenced area.

Remind everyone in your neighborhood that cats were not put on earth so dogs could chaise them.  Feral queen cats have kittens during the warm seasons, this is the time that all cat lovers must watch in their neighborhoods for feral kittens. Watch, trap them and save lives.

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