Monday, December 10, 2012

Remy the Cat Whisperer?

Apparently cats are attracted to Remy. At least that is how it seemed today when we discovered a feral litter of adolescent kittens emerging from our shrubbery...

It all started with an innocent trip to the back yard for Remy to do his mid-day business. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a gray and white kitten with a pink nose came bounding up to Remy. Having been raised with a cat during his first 9 weeks, Remy was thrilled to see a potential playmate and began tugging at the leash and swatting the air with his front paws. I didn't let him get too close to the feline stranger, not knowing if the kitty was truly friendly or just canine-curious. The kitty appeared to be an adolescent female, lanky, yet young enough that I would still consider her a kitten. Though thin, she did not look malnourished or sick, but she was not wearing a collar or ID. I figured she must be a new neighbor kitty.

Remy and I went on with our walk around the house and the pink-nosed kitty proceeded to follow us, right up to the front porch. I opened the door just enough to tell my husband, Jamie, that a stray cat was hanging about. He came outside and just as he was looking the cat over we heard a little "mew" coming from the shrubbery... Another collarless kitty, same age, with pretty gray stripes came trotting out to say hello. He (definitely a little male) was followed by another little gray and white female. By this time we realized we didn't just have someone's lost kitty, we had attracted an entire "lost" litter, all of whom were well beyond weaning. They were all friendly, but they seemed more like a little band of vagabonds than anyone's trio of pets.

So now what?  Several of our neighbors have lost their pet cats to coyotes in the past few months... If we left these younglings out to fend for themselves they would likely suffer the same fate, not to mention the toll they would take on our local songbird population. 

We decided the best thing would be to take them to the animal shelter - at least there they would be safe and warm, for the time being and hopefully, if they belonged to someone and were just lost, they would be chipped and/or the owners would think to look there. We brought out some dry dog food (all we have) and water and the bigger male immediately dove into it. The females were a bit hesitant to eat at first, but each ate a bit of kibble. We figured we should wait a bit to see if any more kitties emerged. As soon as I squatted down the male jumped into my lap and snuggled up next to my fleece coat. Jamie went to get a box (all our dog carriers are in use) and we proceeded to pick up the kitties and try to put them in the box. That was a trick...I'll spare you the details of the multiple failed  attempts to get three cats into the large box, but let's just say I'll never use the term "herding cats" again without remembering just how crazy that process truly was. Interesting thing is, despite the multiple efforts at their capture, all three cats kept coming back to us when we called them (they all answered to "kitty," of course). FINALLY we got them all in, put the box into the back of the Subaru and headed for the shelter.

I was greeted by a young woman who seemed not to believe me when I said we had found a litter of kittens and were turning them in. I suppose that's the line everyone uses when they're dumping kittens at the shelter. She asked me to fill out a form and informed me that it would cost $10 to drop them off. I explained that these weren't our kittens, they were strays that wandered into our yard. She replied "It's only ten dollars" and gave me that "you are dumping kittens, aren't you" look again.

I'm all for supporting the animal shelter, and $10 is not a huge sum so I didn't really mind, but I thought it a bit odd and counter-productive -- punishing people for turning in stray cats is not the way to reach the goal of getting highly reproductive cats off the street. Anyway...we brought them in and the girl took one look in the box and said "these aren't kittens, they're adolescent cats, so that will be $10 per cat."

Seriously? You are charging us $30 for the privilege of being good samaritans who just spent the better part of the past two hours chasing three cats around our yard, putting them into a box and driving them across town to the shelter? I suppose they have no way to determine if we are telling the truth or not so it's easier to apply the "rules" to everyone. But that's quite a sum, and a financially strapped potential do-gooder might be hard pressed to do the right thing if they had to choose between turning in a litter of stray cats or putting dinner on their family's table.

Jamie went to the cashier to pay and a couple more girls came out from the back and proceeded to photograph and vaccinate the cats. By this time I had told them all our story and I think at least two of them believed me. I told them I just hoped there weren't any more cats because doing the right thing was getting kinda spendy.

We left, $30 poorer but feeling good that we had prevented those cute kitties from becoming another coyote banquet. (We love coyotes but wish they would stick to rabbits and squirrels...) We got home, took Remy out again and I saw something moving in the bushes. No....Yes. Dang. It was another gray striped kitty, same age, no collar. The sibling that was left behind.

"We can't let her fend for herself...especially now that she doesn't even have the protection of her litter mates." I think I said it out loud, but I could tell Jamie was thinking the same thing. He went to get the box. She was a bit more skittery than the other kitties, but eventually she came to us. Then came the battle. This little kitty, the smallest of the four, put up an amazing fight. It took as much effort to keep her in the box as it did all the other three cats combined. We struggled to tape it shut so she couldn't jump out the top -- she sliced through the tape with a little box-cutter-sharp claw and proceeded to stab me in the hand, then slice through my husband's palm before making her escape. This happened two more times, with a different box and a new set of wounds. Even with gloves, poor Jamie ended up with blood running down his arm. Expletives were said. Boxes were thrown. We went inside to swab our wounds and left the kitty mewing in the yard.

We contemplated leaving her there. I cried (mostly out of frustration). Finally, after both our tempers cooled down, we decided to give it another go. The shelter said we could come in and get a cat carrier, so we drove back across town again, got the carrier, came home and found the cat sitting in the neighbor's lawn, still mewing. The gloves went on, the cat was successfully stuffed into the crate, we snapped the metal door closed behind her and drove her, mewing all the way, across town to the shelter.

Another girl helped us. She was a lot nicer to deal with as she took the carrier and handed us another slip for $10.  Yes, today we paid the local shelter $40 for the privilege of dropping off stray cats.

We called the doctor to ask after cat scratches and possibly bites (it was hard to tell with all the kerfuffle exactly which sharp object the cat was lashing out with). I just had one tiny scratch, but Jamie's hand and arm looked like Swiss cheese. His doctor said to come in. Antibiotics...just in case. Can't wait to get the bill for that.

Four hours later we were home and wondering when the next kitten would be wandering out of the bushes. We may just have to walk Remy around the other side of the house from now on...

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Maybe you should have just kept that last kitten!