Monday, June 20, 2005
Four FelinesAbout six weeks ago, I heard some mewing in my house. I thought it was my cats or my son, but it was neither. It was coming from the crawl space under my stairs, so out came my flash light to help me find the source. Sure enough, there was a grey tabby GIVING BIRTH right then and there. I left her alone, but checked back often. I'm not sure how many actually came out, but three lived. I went down every day with food and water, which mama cat gobbled right up. She hissed at me, but let me visit every day. A few times she got close enough to me so that I could pet her, but I didn't dare. I knew what I had to do and I didn't want to scare her off.
I borrowed a trap from the shelter (we have some on hand even though we don't rent them out officially) and planned to trap her when her kittens were about 4-5 weeks old (when they could be eating on their own). But one morning I went down to see them and they were GONE. Mama had packed up the whole crew and headed out. I felt like a failure. Like I contributed to the over population problem exponentionally (one female unspayed cat can produce create millions of cats over 11 years).
Then yesterday, my neighbor, who heard I worked at the East Bay SPCA, came over to tell me about a mama cat and some kittens living under her porch. I said, "the grey tabby?" "Yes," she said. I was so excited that I could regain my stature as an animal welfare person by trapping them, that I didn't really listen to my neighbor. Show me the way I said, I'll get them.
She then asked me what I was going to do with them. I explained that the EBSPCA could take in the kittens since they were 8 weeks and under (the law requires cats 9 weeks and older to be held for potential reclaims). The little ones would be fostered and then fixed and then adopted out.
"But what about Mama," she said? I told her, well, if she is feral, we'll get her fixed in our free feral spay neuter program (we work with Fix Our Ferals to spay and neuter feral cats for free) and then we could re-release her.
She asked, "Can't we get her adopted?" I said that there were hundreds and thousands of happy, social, healthy cats waiting to be adopted in shelters and that adopting out ferals or even semi-ferals was not something we were able to do since most clients want cats for pets. A feral cat is often very unhappy being in a home.
She said, "Well, maybe you shouldn't take them. Maybe I can find a home for all of them on my own." I told her that we had to get them fixed before any home was found for any of them. "But where are you going to release the mama cat..? I don't want her here."
It was at that point that I realized I wasn't talking to someone who understood the cat overpopulation problem or the feral cat problem or really anything about stray cats. She was a caring person who just saw some cute kittens. I said that they only other place to "take" her was the city shelter, where most likely after a stray hold, she would have to be euthanized due to behavior reasons.
She asked if we could wait to take the kittens in since she enjoyed them in her backyard. I told her, no, that we'd have to take them while they are still young so that they can get socialized. Feral kittens have a small window to get socialized with people and if you wait too long, you can't easily turn them around.
My neighbor wasn't happy with any of this. But she was able to get them all in carriers and I took them down to the shelter where they would start the next stage of their life...kittens to be fostered and socialized; the mama to be fixed and released.
Having a free feral cat program and a foster program are great things that I am very proud we do. But it really felt good to do a small part with these four felines.