Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I love cats. We always had cats while I was growing up, but my boyfriend is allergic to them, so we haven't had any in the 17 years we've been together.

However, last winter the neighbors (who had about two dozen cats) moved but didn't take all their felines with them. I occasionally saw a big gray one and frequently noticed a smaller black one prowling around the barn. We started feeding them, since someone had to care for them. Well, guess what, last spring I went into the barn one day and found kittens. Big surprise, huh? The black cat turned out to be female and was now a mother. She hid when I entered the barn and carried off and hid her kittens as soon as I left. We've continued feeding the cats, but I've never been able to get close to any of them.

We knew we had to get everyone spayed or neutered (we didn't even know what gender the kittens were) before more kittens were born, especially since these kittens were now almost old enough to have babies themselves. The surgery can be kind of pricey, though, especially since we had three cats (mother and kittens) to be fixed; I don't think we'll ever be able to catch the big gray cat, Ghost, but at least he's male. We contacted various people and groups involved with animal rescue and found someone who connected us with United Animal Friends and a vet willing to work with feral cats and to spay/neuter them at a discount.

Now came the really difficult part: catching one semi-feral and two feral cats! I still can't believe how it all worked out.

I didn't give the cats much food that morning, so they would be hungry and waiting to be fed in the late afternoon. My cat-catching tools included a small dog carrier I borrowed from a neighbor, a can of tuna fish, some dry cat food, and a push broom. I poured some cat food in a dish and then drained the water off the tuna fish onto it. I placed the dish in the back of the dog carrier. Next, I positioned the front of the carrier about 6" from a wall, leaving the gate wide open. Then I hid around the side of the barn, holding the push broom.

One by one, the cats approached the carrier, sniffing it out of curiousity and scenting the tuna fish. The mother went in first, while one of the kittens made a large, cautious circuit of the area. Then the other kitten slowly investigated the carrier and went in. Finally, the first kitten returned, circled the carrier, and entered. As quietly as possible, I crept forward and, when near enough, used the push broom to shove the carrier against the wall, thus covering the door. All three cats were inside -- amazing!

Now came the more dangerous part (to me). I slid a board between the wall and the door of the carrier. I turned the carrier on end and carefully moved the board to one side while simultaneously closing the gate. At this point a paw (or maybe two) flashed out through the gate and got my hand. By the time I finished removing the board and closing and latching the gate, there was blood flowing pretty freely. Those claws had pierced my hand in four places and made two scratches. All in all, though, I got off pretty easy. Three cats mean 12 paws and many, many claws (and teeth, of course), so I actually managed the whole event with a fairly minimal injury.

Can you believe it, though? I caught all three cats at the same time and on the first try!

The story has a happy ending. The mother cat was spayed and the two kittens (who turned out to be male) were neutered, and they all received rabies vaccinations. I picked them up from the vet this morning. They were very happy to be released from that pet carrier, and now they're romping around, checking out their territory, and making sure everything is in order.