I got out of bed early on Saturday because I wanted to be sure to release the feral cats in the cover of darkness. I figured they usually only come around in darkness so they would probably be more comfortable leaving in the dark.
The releasing went without any problems. Oliver was there to see them off. As I saw the last one dart out of the yard, I wondered if I would ever see them again, I sure hope so.
In the afternoon, I had the opportunity to attend a TNR class facilitated by The Community Cat Task Force which was formed as a coalition of several local rescue groups. The class covered all the basics of what needs to be considered before engaging in TNR. The handouts alone are worth gold. Here are a few of the many things I learned:
- Don't make eye contact with the feral cat. I have read before that eye contact with cats can increase their level of anxiety. I know this to be true with Rose, she gets scared and sometimes runs away when she sees a human looking at her, it's very sad. Buddy, on the other hand loves eye contact and can't get enough of it. Anyway, I can totally see how eye contact would freak out ferals. When I heard this at the class, I felt sad for Oliver's family, because I made eye contact with all of them! I couldn't resist seeing how beautiful they are up close.
- Always secure the trap doors with something (bungie, carabiner, zip tie, etc.) when traps are occupied and in transit. Apparently there are stories of ferals escaping from their traps while being transported. Can you imagine, a freaked out feral cat loose in your car while you are driving - yikes! That's not something I ever want to experience.
- Have more traps than cats you plan to trap, especially with black cats, who may all look the same. I can testify to this. Had I not been watching carefully, I most likely would have caught the Crooked Tail Kitty in a trap, which may not have been a bad thing, but it would have meant not having enough traps for all of Oliver's family.
- Always use a trap divider when opening occupied traps to replenish food and water or to change out bedding. I was very thankful I had purchased one of these tools when I got my trap, at the time it seemed like a necessary tool and that certainly proved true.
Marianne demonstrates the proper use of the trap divider. Come in
from the side and make sure you go out the other side, otherwise
the divider won't stop the cat, just slow it down as it escapes.
- Always keeps the traps covered. I learned this important part when trapping squirrels and birds in college. Wild animals calm quickly when covered. At the class, I learned that making a trap cover out of vinyl is easy - a better option than my clunky rain-sheds!
Marianne demonstrates how homemade vinyl trap covers can be used.
- When you are trapping lots and lots of cats over time, it appear inevitable that a few will figure out how to escape their traps. The seasoned TNR'er doesn't get discouraged, but refocuses and tries again to re-trap the wily kitty. If I ever experience a cat getting away, I bet I'll be pretty freaked out. Hopefully this doesn't come to pass for me.
- I learned that my heart still has the capacity to love dogs. How did I learn this in a TNR class, you ask? Bayley, the Welsh Springer Spaniel (on the bottom left of the photos above) was with us at the class. She is the she sweetest dog, she has such a gentle presence and these amazing soulful eyes. Several time she would quietly come and sit in front of me, all the while gazing at me with her enchanting eyes. If that wasn't enough to get my hand petting on her, she would softly place her paw up on my foot or leg. I wanted to take her home with me! I haven't felt that way about dogs in years.
- Always have your well stocked cat trapping kit with you when in the field. Each of us students were given a wonderful laminated list of necessary items for these kits. And we were even given a bunch of these items to start our own kits, including one of the most important items, chocolate for the trapper! When it comes to something like TNR, I'm a big planner. I need to have a well thought out plan in advance of whatever I am doing as it greatly reduces my anxiety. Having a well stocked kit would be a significant part of that plan.
I'm interested in this whole TNR thing. It seems like such a really good thing for the community cats. I'm considering how I might get more involved. I like that TNR can involve lots of people assisting in the process - one person may trap, another transport and another do the recovery part. I think I would like to start by assisting some people as they plan, trap, transport, recover and release - to see how they do it. I need some hands on experience in the field and I need to learn how not to get so emotionally attached to the cats where I compromise my boundaries while also somehow keeping my heart open to their plight.
Thanks to Jenny (and Bayley) from Pasado's Safe Haven for hosting and Ruth, Nancy and Marianne for teaching a helpful class and being very generous with giving us lots of bonus goodies.
Meanwhile, in the late afternoon, back at home, I went out before dusk and stocked up the food bowls in the Dining Hall with wet and dry for Oliver and his family. I was guessing that his family wouldn't be back for awhile, but just in case they felt safe enough to return, I wanted them to have as much food as they wanted.
Imagine my delight when later in the evening I saw one of the ferals out there chomping away! I was thrilled that it was back. It got spooked when it glanced over at me and noticed me watching it through the window. Later I saw another one out there eating too, it may have been the same one, it's hard to tell. I certainly slept better last night knowing that at least one of them still trusts me enough to come eat my food.