Thursday, April 19, 2012

Seven cats, one night

I'm finishing up the Lisle farm colony. There appears to be just a few tom cat stragglers, that will require setting a bunch of traps all weekend, letting out the cats who have already been altered, until the stragglers are all captured.

I went by Tuesday night to return a cute little orange tom and the Mom Cat, bearer of many beautiful litters of kittens. Well, she will bear no more, and hopefully she can concentrate on enjoying the sun and hunting mousies in the field.

However, as the farmer was coming out to greet me, she was being followed by a little black cat I had not yet trapped, who was limping badly. I was sure I had not altered the black cat; the farmer was sure I had. I had her scoop the little guy up and stuff him in one of the vacated crates from the cats I had just released. I reached in and copped a feel. Testicles. My memory was correct (a few of the cats had missed being eartipped by the clinic they are going to). I figured I would have the veterinarian take a peek at his paw while he was getting altered, and maybe keep him an extra few weeks for cage rest. No biggee.

Then the farmer mentioned one of the house cats, Billie, had been hit by a car almost two weeks ago. This was a pet cat she had gotten altered herself last year. I went in the house, and Billie was carrying one paw (there appears to be some nerve damage, but he can move the leg back and forth, and he does use it when running). However, he had a broken lower canine that was cutting his upper lip. The farmer could not afford the many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars she knew she would pay at the vet, so she had given him antibiotics and let him be. He probably could have limped by this way permanently, but the tooth definitely had to go. So we chased poor Billie around until we could get him in a crate, too.

Two cats coming, two cats going. So much for empty cages.

At this point, I really wanted some human contact, but it was nearly nine pm, and in this area, the world shuts down at 9 on a Tuesday night. Worse yet, all the places that closed at 9 looked happy and warm inside with people who were finishing up their meals, mocking me with what I had missed out on. So I headed home. As I drove down 17C I noticed the neon sign at the small wine store was blinking "Open." Huh. I stopped, and the owner and clerk were breaking down boxes. They had forgotten the light was on. The owner smiled at the clerk. "She's too short to reach it," he said as he let me in. "Go ahead and buy." It wasn't the wine so much as human conversation I needed. I bought a bottle of NYS white, laughed with them for a bit, and headed home.

But then, on Halsey Valley Road, I saw eyes on the left and slowed down. One of the nearby farmer's cats, I figured.

Then the cat launched herself into the road, straight in front of my car. I yelled "NO" and hit the brakes, but I felt the *thump* as I hit her. I immediately pulled over into the dirt entry to the dry gas well, grabbed my flashlight, and jumped out.

There was no cat in the road. DAMN! I would have preferred a dead cat to a missing injured cat. Some readers may find that heartless, but I knew how hard I had hit that cat, and she didn't escape that without serious injury.

Suddenly I heard "MEOW! MEOW! MEOW!" and thought I had found my victim. The cry was coming up by my ear, though? I shown my flashlight around, and there, only an arm's reach away by my face, was a small calico longhaired kitten, perched on top of a fence post, squalling her heart out.

She wasn't near where I had hit the cat, and she seemed much smaller than the cat I hit. I knew how a kitten ran, and I hadn't hit a kitten.

Where there was one kitten and a mom cat, there were more kittens. I scooped this trembling little kitten up and put her in my jacket. She didn't stop yelling, which I figured was a good thing. Maybe her siblings would answer. It was clear what I had here wasn't just a farm cat. It was a mother cat and kittens abandoned at the dry gas well where it was easy for someone to pull off. No one would question an idling car here. Everyone stopped here because it was the last place into the valley where you could catch a cell signal. People sat here all the time.

I realized suddenly I had no crates. They were all full of injured barn cats.

As I swung my flashlight, I caught a little movement down the road toward the dry well. I walked down and looked into the grass, and saw two little faces staring back at me. Two kittens were burrowed down tight into the grass, not moving an inch.

Well, crap! What was I going to put them in? I went back in the car and poked around. I knew better than to let them loose in the car. I'd end up with kittens up in the dashboard. Finally I pulled out an empty Friskies bag. I figured the crackling would scare the kittens, but they were terrified into stillness. I put my little friend in first, and then went back to the kittens. They let me scruff them and pull them from the grass, and lower them into the bag.

I looked and looked with the flashlight, but didn't see any more kittens. I dumped a can of tuna out on a paper plate and left it where I had found them. I took one last walk up and down the road, hoping to find the cat I hit. No dice.

Once I was home, I cleaned cages and set the new cats and kittens up. Terrified eyes stared at me all around. What a sad sight. I had taken two cats home, and came back with five!

The next morning I got up and went back out into the frost and sun. The tuna was missing from the plate, and another set of eyes and a tiny nose gleamed from the grass. This kitten was burrowed down as far as she could get, trying to stay warm all night on her own. I pulled her out and crated her, then carefully pressed down on all of the old grass, not wanting to leave anyone behind.

Eight curious heifers came over to see what I was doing. They followed me all up and down the fence line on the gas road, and then all up and down the paved road as I looked again for the cat.

No one stopped to ask me how I was the night before. No one stopped today. Ten years ago, three or four people would have stopped.

No one stops any more.

(This is not true, of course. Last summer I stopped when I notice a pulled-over car with a man fallen on the shoulder. Another woman stopped at the same time I did. An older couple had been changing drivers when the man fell. He just needed help getting up. The woman and I each got an elbow and lifted him up. We exchanged long looks when we all parted. You could see that "Thank God it wasn't a heart attack because I don't know if I remember my CPR" look in both our glances, I'm sure. I always wish I'd asked that woman's name. I'm sure we could have been friends).

The kittens and Billie have a veterinarian's appointment Friday. The black cat will go to the clinic next week. I may be transferring the kittens to another shelter. At the moment, one shelter has no kittens at all, and needs kittens to keep people visiting (to hopefully fall in love with an adult!) but that could change by next week when these little girls are ready to go. I have two inquiries via a rant I left on Craigslist (more on that later) however if another shelter will take on the spay/neuter of these little girls, that would be a huge help to me. There will be plenty more kittens later this year when the shelters are totally full.

A big "thank you" to my friends on Facebook who expressed support when I ranted there after getting the cats all set up in cages.

So spring begins.


  1. OMG, I'm sorry. Did you ever find the one you hit? If you had not hit the mom, sad as fate is, the kittens would not now be cared for. Life is so tough at times and so strange. So you rant sometimes too. Somehow, that makes me feel better.

  2. Ditto, with Strayer. At best those kittens would have grown up feral and started breeding. At worst, none would have survived. And, I can't stop thinking about momma either. I'm sure you've already gone back out in daylight to see if you can find her. Fingers crossed you will find her and she will be okay. Hope springs eternal.

    I know it's more for you to handle, but you did the right thing. None of us would ever want to be grouped with the types that would dump mom & kittens to fend for themselves.

  3. Poor mom cat, at least her kittens have a chance at a better life.

  4. I so agree with what has already been written. You definitely did the right thing. Paws crossed that somehow, some way, you are able to find and save the mama cat.