Friday, August 28, 2009

Feral Cats + Cat Food + Heartbreak = Lessons Learned

June the eighth of this year I told you about three feral kittens that someone dumped at our home. I was trying to avoid getting involved with them because the outcome is almost always the same. However, Mr. Pop caved and brought home a bag of kitten food from the market.

Since that time I have fed them and done everything in my power to try to domesticate the cats. They would have none of it. A few weeks ago we were awaken to noises coming from the roof of our house. Upon inspection we found the three cats romping all around up there. They were climbing up the pool enclosure screen to the roof and spending their nights up there. Problem number one.

Last weekend as I was walking back up the driveway after retrieving the mail I happen to look up at our roof. I could see something that looked like little pieces of tree branches up there. I asked Mr. Pop if he would please get the ladder and see what these objects were. He did and just as I feared, the things I was seeing was cat poop. The cats were using our roof not only as a playground but also as a sand box. They were scratching the coating off the shingles and using it as sand. Problem number two. (no pun intended)

We were faced with a dilemma. We could trap all the cats and get them neutered, but then we would have three neutered feral cats that we would have to release and god only knows what would happen to them next, plus there would be no way to keep them off the roof just because they were sterile. Option one.

We could do the humane and common sense thing, trap the cats and call Animal Control. Option two.

Now here’s where it gets sticky. Since the day Mr. Pop bought that bag I cat food I have been the one feeding the cats and trying to tame them. Mr. Pop was pretty much out of the picture. I had taken one of my animal crates out there and gotten them to the point they would walk inside it and eat. I just couldn’t be too close by. Each day for the past two weeks I would stay a little closer to the crate each day and finally last Friday morning I was close enough to bend down really fast and slam the door shut on the crate. I wasn’t fast enough to catch all three but I had two. I called Mr. Pop at work and told him the situation. Did he want me to call Animal Control to come get the two cats. He said absolutely. I asked him a couple more times because I didn’t want this decision left as only my decision. We both agreed it was the right thing to do. About fifteen minutes later the officer arrived and was so amazingly nice and understanding as he put the cats in his truck talking calmly to them all the while.

Now with one cat left that would never even come close to trusting me again, I needed a new approach. I talked to a lady at the Animal Control office and she said an officer would bring out, bait with cat food and set a Have-a-Heart trap. If the cat did enter the trap it would not in any way be injured.

Wednesday morning of this week at 11:30am the officer arrived with the trap, set it up and explained to me how to re-bait it if needed. At 12:15pm the cat went into the trap and the door shut. I called Animal Control and within 15 minutes they were here and picked up the cat and the trap. I cannot express to you how wonderful those people at Animal Control were during this whole heartbreaking ordeal.

So here’s the moral of the story and Mr. Pop would agree with it all the way. He brought the cat food here, but in the end it was me who had to devise a way to get the cats away. I was the one who had to look into their frightened faces in the carrier and the trap. In other words what Mr. Pop started was left up to me to carry out and deal with the many feelings of guilt along with tears.

We have made a promise to one another now. We will never feed another feral cat. If a domesticated cat should show up at our door, we will do our best to find it a home.

The other lesson we both learned is that neither of us should start something that the other one has to finish. We both agree, it’s just not fair to anyone.

58 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy, do I know your situation! Have been one to do all the iccky parts of TNR and vet visits, meds, etc. so I made the last cat my husband's responsibility. Now he has bonded with the cat! I am in the process of trying to find a home for this very sweet cat, despite my husband's ambivalent feelings. We have an ordinance in our town that sets a limit for the number of pets allowed so this one would tip us over the limit, not to mention that our other cats do NOT like him. But what can you do? Your agreement sounds like a good approach.

August 28, 2009 7:53 AM  
Blogger roger said...

best to not feed wild animals...even wild housecats. compassion gets us in trouble sometimes. something about unintended consequences.

August 28, 2009 8:19 AM  
Blogger two crows said...

so sorry you had to go through this ordeal, PoP.
it sounds like you and Mr. PoP have come to a good agreement. now, tattoo it upside down on your chests so you'll remember it just by looking down the next time a similar situation comes your way.
it will, you know.

August 28, 2009 9:04 AM  
Blogger Mauigirl said...

I know, it's always a heartbreak waiting to happen. But if it's any help to make you feel better, since they're kittens, perhaps someone will adopt them from the shelter? Even if they're feral, perhaps they're young enough to get used to people, especially since two of them were starting to trust you.

August 28, 2009 11:57 AM  
Blogger Utah Savage said...

In the past I had thought I'd learned some very hard lesson that I would never repeat, but somehow, I seem to forget when the opportunity to make the same mistake again. I hope you have better luck with this lesson learning thing than I have.

August 28, 2009 12:36 PM  
Blogger Fixer said...

Just a statistic and a corollary to your heartwrenching post. 2 to 3 million animals, dogs and cats, are euthanized every year because they're unwanted. Had someone seen fit to be responsible, you wouldn't have had to make the decisions you did. Spaying and neutering should be a reflex action to people adopting a pet. It's a shame so many beautiful creatures end up ins such desperate straits.

August 28, 2009 3:46 PM  
Blogger Freida Bee, MD said...

"Problem number two. (no pun intended)"

Ha! I always fall for potty humor.

I am very sorry you've had to deal with this. I know here in Austin, calling animal control and handing cats over will result in euthanasia. Such a hard call.

Mostly, though, I'm just impressed with how respectful Mr. POP and you are to each other. I guess the true showing remains to be seen.

August 30, 2009 5:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It`s a shame that you chose to conveniently believe there were only two options available. The truly compassionate thing would have been to have all three of them sterilized and then release them. You could have set up a modest, inexpensive shelter for them in your yard and supplied them with food and water. As for the roof issue, I understand that poop on your roof is not okay, but with a bit of effort that problem could have been fixed as well. I`m sure some kind of barrier could have been erected at the entry point they were using, just temporarily, until they stopped using the roof. Or even placed deterrents on that side of the roof, such as a plastic tarp, or sprayed a special repellent spray you can buy. You could have put some sand or earth on the ground to get them used to pooping there instead. They are kittens, and young enough to be taught different behaviour. Calling Animal Control is anything but the "humane and common sense thing." Let`s be honest; it was the EASIEST thing to do for yourself...not for those poor kittens. Did you even care enough to ask the guy who came what would happen to them? You are deluding yourself if you think there was a hope in hell that they would not be killed. If you were too selfish to take on the responsibility of caring for them as outdoor cats, then the least you could have done was taken the time to find a feral rescue group or individual in your area (or an area you could drive them to). You gave up on them far too quickly, and as I write this, they are probably dead thanks to your supposed "humane" intervention. If you think I am pointing the finger out of lack of experience, you are mistaken. I volunteer for a feral rescue organization in my neighbourhood, and we do anything we can EXCEPT make a death call to animal control. Even individual neighbours in our area leave food, water, and shelter out for feral cats on their properties. If you want to play God, then you have a moral obligation to give them the gift of life, not send the Grim Reaper after them. And in future, as for just ignoring any strays that come around, that is truly cold-hearted. How can you see an animal hungry, on the verge of starving to death and ignore their suffering? If the situation was reversed and you had little access to food and water, through no fault of your own, wouldn`t you pray for someone to help you, not kill you? Reading this post made me really sad. I hope in future, you will reconsider your harsh position, and do what`s right - even if it means a bit of sacrifice and effort. You truly can give the gift of life to an innocent animal. Please consult Alley Cat Allies at www.alleycat.org for a incredible wealth of information on this topic. Society is progressing on these issues, and I sincerely hope you will change your attitude in future. These precious beings deserve so much better.

September 19, 2009 7:59 AM  
Blogger digital-film said...

Maybe you could have taken the time to trap the kittens, and find them homes? I did this for (so far) 12 feral cats and kittens outside my house, and all have went on to be fine pets. Feeding them is kind, but not the cure. They need trapped, placed, or fixed. The kittens don't know better and weren't trying to be pests. I don't think feral cats are undeserving of being fed as a result of your experience. After all, whose fault is it they find themselves feral? That would be human err so it is up to us to correct it. Thank you for what you did try and I hope you don't give up on caring.

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