In our lovely town of Port Angeles, Washington there is an organization that calls itself, simply, Clallam County Trap-Neuter-Return. It is staffed by dedicated volunteers in the area who go out into the wilds to trap our local colonies of feral cats, spay and neuter them, give them basic shots, a flea treatment, then releases them back to where they found them. The only exception to this is the kittens. If they catch feral kittens young enough to be socialized, they are moved to the Humane Society for adoption.
It is a lot of work. And a lot of care goes into what they do. And because of their efforts to spay and neuter every wild-cat they can find, the feral cat population here is steadily decreasing. So much so, that there are now very few feral kittens available for socialization. I find this amazing and wonderful.
And why I am writing about this is, as you all know, if you’ve been reading this blog, Jatina and I have our own small, feral-cat colony living under our house. Three boys, one mama, and one kitten. And it was slowly growing in size. Jennie, the mama, was having 1 kitten a year. And though we were okay with feeding four, feral kitties, now there were five. And we really didn’t want any more.
When we spayed Cienna (we got lucky with Zeeta, as she was ear-tipped and already fixed) it ran us about $300 for everything. That took a good bite out of our finances, and we knew that there was just no way we could come up with that kind of money for five, feral cats. So about a month ago, I went on to Facebook’s PORT ANGELES PAWA page and began inquiring about any low-cost spay/neuter options for our ferals.
Shortly after my post, I was contacted by a woman named Marion Wagner who was part of the Clallam County Trap-Neuter-Return group in our area. She was quite willing to help us.
As C.C.T.N.R works with our local Spay to Save Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinic, Marion was able to arrange four slots for our ferals on the 30th of July. Then she sent one of her volunteers over to bring us the traps, and to show us exactly how they worked, and to advise us on how to go about trapping our kitties.
I want to take a moment to say how much I really liked their traps. When we bought the small, Havahart trap for Cienna back in December 2016, it had a spring mechanism that snapped the door shut HARD. We were very worried it might slam down on her tail or a foot. And I wouldn’t recommend Havahart traps for that reason. (See Photo Below)Owch! Look at that scary door thing!
But the C.C.T.N.R. traps are designed quite differently and are far safer. When the trap is tripped, the door falls via gravity only, then locks securely, making it almost impossible for the animal to be hurt. Also, these traps had two doors, one which slides up so that you can put food or water into the cage without an escape. And I liked that, too. (See Photo Below)
Aren’t they great? It is the Humane Way 914048 Live Trap Animal, Medium 32″x12″x10″
The volunteer that came to our house on the 14th was named Bruce. He went over the use of the traps more than once to make sure we understood how to use them. And then explained the plan.
We were to start feeding the ferals from inside the unset traps immediately. We would do this for a couple of weeks, and then, two days before our appointment at the clinic, we would stop all food. Then, the day before, on the 29th, we’d set the traps and bait them, and our hungry boys and girl would come running, and find themselves captured.
There was one exception. They brought one trap with a “kitten door”. It was a piece of plywood with a small entry hole cut in it and secured near the front of the cage. This would keep the big cats out, but let the little one in. Bruce wanted us to catch the kitten right away, and begin socializing it. That way, should we decide not to keep it, it would be accustomed enough to humans to make it adoptable at the Humane Society. (I will write about this process soon.)
Catching the baby turned out to be incredibly easy. Since we had stopped all food the night before, everyone was hungry. And since only the baby’s trap had food, it wasn’t even an hour before we had the little one.
We brought the baby in and transferred him/her into a dog crate with a small cat box, food, water and a blankie. Then we removed the kitten-gate, and put that cage back outside with the others. Then put food out for all the hungry ferals, inside the new, blanket-covered boxes.
It took no time at all for Jennie, Little Boy, and Biggie to start eating out of the covered traps. They seemed to really like it, to be honest. They thought they were cool, new cat things, and they’d come daily, sniff around, stretch, and go in and eat. Biggie even claimed one for himself, laying outside it between meals, and mostly the others respected that. They each seemed to pick out their favorites.
The only one I was not seeing regularly was the one we call “Papa”. In fact, it is possible I’ve confused seeing him with Cienna because he looks exactly like her. Also, I did see him recently laying on a lawn of a house down the street, relaxed, even with people sitting on their porch. So … maybe Papa isn’t so feral after all. And that’s a good thing.
All this said, I still have to admit that I felt a bit guilty setting them up like that. But I knew that if we fixed them, we would be helping to keep the feral population down. And that’s a very good thing. Plus we were worried about the fighting. Whenever a lady-cat went into season, everybody went crazy, and eventually, someone was going to get hurt. Not to mention that our Mr. Biggie is getting very old.
And then, the 28th came before we knew it. We kept Cienna and Zeeta in to keep them out of the traps, emptied out the food from all the cages, and waited until the afternoon of the 29th. Then we baited and set the traps.
We caught Biggie first, poor old boy. And an hour later, Little Boy was trapped, too. But Jennie. Jennie was crafty. She made in and out of her preferred trap 3 times before we finally switched it out for our other free trap. And then, we caught her. There was much cheering in the household because she was our main target.
The last trap remained empty, though. Not because of any malfunction in its door mechanism, but simply because we saw no trace of Cienna’s Papa. I guess, if he has a home, he just doesn’t feel the need to eat here all the time.
So. Our feral kids spent the night in their covered cages. And the next morning we put them in the back of my 1989 Silverado and drove them to their appointments. Mostly, they were very good about it. Little Boy threatened to kill us when we reached for the cage but settled fairly quickly when we picked it up. Biggie and Jennie were mostly quiet but were a bit jumpy when we first picked up the cages.
We arrived at the Clinic at 8:30am, filled out paperwork, and with the help of one staffer, put the cages in the shade next to the Mobile Clinic. And that’s when we found out that they don’t just spay and neuter the feral kitties. They also give them free shots and a free flea treatment, too. And they fix ferals for FREE. I was quite surprised. And left a donation with them as thanks.
We were told to come back at 4:30pm for our ferals, and once home, to leave them in their cages till the next morning. We thanked them and drove home to wait.
At around 3pm, however, we got a call.
Upon examining Jennie they discovered that she had a disease called Stomatitis, an extremely painful condition that is very hard to treat. They said often it is incurable, and only gets worse with time. They told me that they’d brought in another vet to get a second opinion, just to be sure. And everyone agreed that she had it, and it was advanced. I was told that she was in extreme pain, and after talking to Jatina, we agreed to have her put down. They said that they could do it for us there.
And … I … am quite sad. But also grateful to the Spay to Save Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinic for taking care of our little girl.
But, the boys seem to have done well. We brought them home and kept them inside in their covered cages overnight. The next morning we let them loose and they went straight under the house. We haven’t seen Biggie since, but likely he’s ticked at us and it may be a few days before he is willing to tolerate our presence. But Little Boy… Little Boy was out hanging with our Cienna within a couple of hours of being released. He looks pretty happy.
And that is the story of the Fixing of the Ferals. If you have ferals yourself, you might google your local area for a similar group. There seems to be people all over the country coming together to help keep down the feral population.
And even if you are feral free, but have a pet you aren’t sure you can afford to fix, look for a local “Spay to Save Mobile Clinic”. Ours will fix your fur babies, cat or dog, for only $20 for the girls and $15 for the boys. And shots and flea treatments are also available for a discounted price, as well.
Both groups do very good work. If you are looking for a place to donate to, please consider:
Spay to Save Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinic
Clallam County Trap-Neuter-Return
And thank you! I hope you all have a wonderful and inspiring day!