Previously on Y&F .......
Ruby, the tortoise shell matriarch of the feral family Cow, had a litter of kittens: Opal, Cindy, Sandy, and The Captain, a.k.a. Cowboy, a black & white cow cat (just like her great, great grand father, Cow), that we thought was a boy until she gave birth to and abandoned infant Jack on my Mom's back step.
In dread of being made into an orphanage for unwanted kittens (I am NOT that cat lady!), I brought in the TNR crew for an intervention in my mom's back yard. That was our first mass TNR session in 2008. 15 humane
traps caught 15 cats and all got spayed & neutered except Opal who had kittens the next year, Ruby's grandchildren:
Garnet, Penny, Peach, Grace and the
Little Cows (a.k.a Jack A. & Jack C., two B&W cow cats like Jack and their aunt
Cowboy). We don't know who the baby daddy is. Could be Black Shuck... could be Bangs...
In a dramatic fence hopping, bush diving moment, Baby Grace had to be rescued and taken to foster care at 4 weeks old due to an eye condition that threatened her sight. She was later adopted by humans. Black Shuck joined the black cat clan across the street and is now the stuff of legend. Cindy and Sandy stayed with their mom, Ruby, as did her grandchildren Peach, Jack C. and Penny. Opal, Garnet, Jack A. and Cowboy all passed away in the summer of 2010. Bangs is MIA. Jack D. lives with the humans who raised him.
The deaths of both her sisters and her niece left Cindy first in
line to become the alpha female of the feral family Cow.....
~~~~~~~~~~ And now... The pulse pounding new episode of The Young & The Feral ~~~~~~
Cindy, Cindy, Cindy..... I am bone tired of worrying about Cindy.
By my calculation Cindy is 7.5 years old. The only cat in our colony older than Cindy is her mother, Ruby, who is almost 9. By the measure of an average feral cat's life span (3-4 years), that's extraordinary. I credit their long life spans to never having to leave the safety of my private yard, at least one good meal a day, often 2 or 3, insulated shelters in the winter, natural flea and pest control in the environment, and medical care when they need it.
If they will accept it.... which brings me to our current story.
Cindy seems such an unlikely feral; kind of a hapless waif. Although she hurls herself over the fence like an Olympic pole vaulter at the sound of footsteps, when you see her sitting still, there's a helplessness about her that you don't see in the other ferals. However cold it is, she seems the coldest. However hungry they are, she looks the hungriest. There's a sad resignation in her posture; a wistful look on her face that says she's just not suited to this life. Cindy looks like she's lived a hundred feral lifetimes and just can't go on.
And as if to prove the point, she's always sick or injured. None of my other feral cats are sickly or prone to injuries. Only Cindy. And I've watched her change from a tall, clean, beautiful cat with long, lovely calico hair a few years ago to a sickly, dirty mess. When the other cats turn up for breakfast bright-eyed, stretching, shiny fur sparkling in the sun, Cindy is filthy. She looks like she spent the night in a swamp. Where is this cat sleeping?! Certainly not in the waterproof, triple-insulated shelters I bought for them. So I worry about her all the time, and constantly try to get close to her so I can help.
Cindy was among the 15 cats trapped and spayed in the first major TNR we did after Jack's mother bequeathed him to us. Of course no cat likes to go to the vet. The ferals are petrified. But I think Cindy was left with PTSD, because all the 6 years of kindly treatment she's received since then has done nothing to win her over. No matter how long we've known each other, regardless how often I come bearing tuna, nor the delicacy of the cod, I just can't befriend this cat.
The first time I had to catch Cindy she had a gaping wound on her left hind leg. It was bloody and raw and not healing for weeks. I figured she got this from jumping the fence too often and too carelessly every time she got spooked (which was pretty much every five minutes).
I borrowed a humane trap from Wendy, a local rescuer, and set it in the yard. This was the type Cindy was first trapped in for spaying, so I guessed she wouldn't come near it, and she didn't. I covered it in black bags and camouflaged it with leaves. It sat empty. I baited it with white meat tuna, baked chicken and anchovies. Everyone else ate her snacks and got trapped. I graduated to Sushi! She would not even come in the yard. In fact, she disappeared altogether and was not seen the entire time the trap was out there.
After 2 weeks of baiting the trap and peeking out the window, Cindy a regular no-show, I thought she must have died of blood poisoning from that leg, and I told Wendy she could take her trap back.
Only when the trap had
been gone for a week did I see Cindy again, sneaking back in the wee, wee, wee
hours of the night. I got up in the middle of one night
for water, happened to glance out the kitchen window, and saw her dart in like
a frog's tongue, grab a kibble and fling herself back over the fence. Well, at least she was alive.
Wendy suggested the drop trap - a large, square box with 4 sides, a top and no bottom. You prop up one side with a peg that's attached to a string, put food underneath, watch from hiding until the cat goes underneath, and then pull the string. The peg tips and the box drops over the cat. It's heavy enough, but a determined cat could get out if he worked at it. So you should be prepared to hurry up and put some weight on it as soon as you get someone inside. Usually, your foot.
The drop trap is not your first choice of trapping method if you can help it, because you still have to get the cat out of there into the humane trap. You can't transport a cat in a drop trap. So it has a sort of garage door on one side, a little trap door that slides up. The humane trap has a similar thing on one end. To get the cat from one to the other, you align the two sliding doors, open the hatches, and the cat (hopefully) runs into the humane trap thinking that's the way out. You then slide the gate of the humane trap down, lock it in place, and go to the vet.
So Wendy set the drop trap, put plenty of tuna underneath, and we watched silently out the back window for our moment to yank the string.
We waited forever. No cats even came to the yard. After 3 hours of fruitless waiting, Wendy had to leave. She recommended I leave the trap set with food underneath, but propped up with bricks, not with the peg set to drop so the ferals could get used to it. We could try again in a few days.
This was disappointing.
I had a vet standing by that was willing to see Cindy on short notice, knowing
full well she's a feral, in wicked shape, and I had no idea how she'd behave.
That's not a vet you want to stand up. I just had to get her in any
time before 7PM.
But as you may know, feral cats don't make appointments. (They prefer not to keep the appointments you make for them either.) Better luck next time.
Wendy left, I locked the door behind her, walked back to the kitchen, looked out the window, and 6 cats, including Cindy, were in the trap! ph-whuuuuut?! It was 6:15PM. The vet would close in 45 minutes.
I called Wendy. Voice mail. Already?! She left 30 seconds ago! She couldn't even be at the corner yet! Shoot, we could still do this if she came back right now. I ran back through the house, out the front door, and up the block in her footsteps while leaving her a frantic message: "Wendy, 6 cats went in the trap the minute you left including Cindy are you still nearby can you come back??? I'll pull the string if I know you're coming back. Call me!" At the corner, I looked left and right. Wendy had vanished.
I ran back in, through the house to the back window, chewed my thumbnail, and watched them all eating. I counted them again: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Should I drop the trap? Can I do this myself? Should I wait for Wendy? What if she doesn't come back? What if she does come back and they bolt? What if that's why they didn't come earlier? They knew. If I get her now I can still make it for 7:00. Could 6 cats overturn that thing? Can I get out there fast enough and put my foot on top? Why are they doing this to me?! These cats are going to give me a heart attack.
Beads of sweat formed on my brow. I thought, if I don't do it now, I may never have a chance to get her again. That leg needs to be seen!
I yanked the string.
And didn't wait by the window to see the result. I just flew out the door
grabbing the humane trap on the way.
I practically sumo slammed the drop trap but got my foot on the top securely.
It was bedlam under the
trap: six cats going completely mental under there trying to scratch and
push and dig a way out. They were yowling and thrashing in panic. (Omg. Did I not say, I am NOT this
crazy cat lady?! How did I get here?!) I backed up the humane
trap's hatch to the hatch of the drop trap. I pulled up the hatch of the
humane trap. (I was tired already!) I pulled up the hatch of the drop
trap. I tapped my foot on the top of the drop trap. It was like
A cat ran out from the drop trap into the humane trap. It was Peach!
I had to close the hatch of the drop trap, open the hatch of the humane trap, move it clear for Peach to get out. It was still mayhem under the drop trap. 5 cats going nuts under there, Peach completely freaked out, frozen with shock in the humane trap, he didn't know he could leave. I had to tilt the cage up and pour him out. All with my left foot holding down the drop trap over 5 freaking-out feral cats. (Good thinking that I put on thick leather boots for this op.)
Peach tumbled out into the grass and ran off horrified. It hurt me to do him like that, but who knew how long I could hold this Jenga together with only two hands and two feet.
One out, FIVE TO GO! OMG, huffing and puffing I aligned the hatches of the two traps again, making sure there was no wiggle room between them, opened the hatch of the humane trap first, opened the hatch of the drop trap second, tapped the top of the drop trap with my foot... another cat ran in. Ruby! OMG! Wendy! Where are yoooooooo!
I did the whole thing again. This time Hahn came out. Three cats left in the drop trap. Can this really be happening right now? Really?
I did it again. Sandy came out!!! I was huffing and puffing so badly by this time I could have passed out. I took a break. Only Penny and Cindy were left in there. Please Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Batman and Robin, will you make Cindy the next one out?! I can't do this 6 times!!
I did it again. Aligned the hatches of the two traps. Pulled up the hatch of the humane trap. Pulled up the hatch of the drop trap. Tapped the drop trap with my foot. Penny ran out! I was near asphyxiation by this time. And every cat in the yard had been unnecessarily terrorized.
Now, of course, only Cindy was left in the drop trap. I aligned the hatches of the two traps to each other one more time. I pulled up the hatch of the humane trap. Pulled up the hatch of the drop trap. Tapped the drop trap with my foot. That was her cue to make a break for it. She didn't move. I tapped again. She was frozen with fear. Again, and again and again I tapped. A little louder, a little longer.... I jiggled the cage on it's hinges with my foot. Cindy would not move.
Still holding the drop trap down with my left foot (which was falling asleep now because it had never moved through 15 minutes of one-legged wrestling with traps), I frantically searched the ground for some kind of branch or something to tap her with through the grill. I found a broken branch, played a new round of Twister to get it, stripped off the small branches and stuck it through a hole to poke her. She ran back and forth under the drop trap several times.
My foot now dead asleep and tingling, my lungs starved of oxygen, I dropped down on the edge of the drop trap and looked at the leaves under my feet. I said, "Cindy, you are going to a doctor. You can either go by 7:00 tonight and put us out of our misery, or we can sit here all night with nothing to eat until he opens again in the morning."
Cindy skulked into the humane trap.
I have few memories of the rest of that experience. I vaguely remember that Cindy was in the cat hospital for 10 days, and that she cost me a fortune of money. But I blacked it all out. Oh, I also remember the vet techs saying that although she would not allow them to pick her up, she would stick out her leg and allow them to treat it. Just the leg, nothing else. All other touching was off limits. I thought that was amazing.
When I got her home to the yard, she shot so fast out of the carrier, I wasn't sure she was ever in there. But the leg was healed, and my job was done.
Or so I thought....
End of Part I....
Will we ever see Cindy again? Is her leg completely healed? Was she ever in the carrier at all? Stay tuned to The Young and the Feral.
Would you consider donating to Cindy's care? It was very expensive.
Dottie's Ferals have a PitchIn Box!