Fixing the Future, Part 2: Letting Go and Hanging On

8 Oct, 2019
Bark Avenue Foundation

If the cats were telling this tale, we, the humans, would be the aliens in their alien abduction story and they the victims: baited, trapped, brought to an undisclosed location and anesthetized, only to awaken with evidence of a medical procedure having been performed and the inability to bear children for the rest of their lives. Returning to their colony, the cats would share their tales and show their scars. The legend of the night the aliens came would be told for generations to come… Or not.

Because that’s the whole point.

While the entire ordeal is stressful on the cats, an uncomfortable 24-72 hours is a small price to pay for a lifetime free from the risks of procreation and overpopulation.  Females will no longer be hunted down by males because they are in heat, and then suffer through pregnancy and labor possibly two or three times a year. There is no record of how many kittens are stillborn or cats that die during childbirth since wildlife takes care of the evidence. Complications in pregnancies, cancers, and the strain of providing for young can all reduce lifespan, if not downright kill a cat. Too many cats and kittens in a colony can lead to in-fighting or starvation. It’s a tough life out there for the feral cat; we’re just trying to make it a little easier. I doubt the aliens would say the same about their abductions of us. Nor would they be so compassionate.

Christy spent a mostly sleepless night with her eleven charges. Although most of them slept soundly in their traps, taking advantage of a safe night off the streets where they’d otherwise be defending themselves from predators till dawn, a few didn’t see the situation as all roses. Multiple times every hour, Christy got herself out of bed to check on the the few mewing kittens rattling their traps to try to calm their fears. There was little she could do except recover their cages and be there, hoping on some level the cats would understand that we meant them no harm.

Just after dawn, Christy arose for the final time of the night and got the cats back into the truck for the next step of this endeavor.  At 7:45 a.m., Christy arrived at the vet clinic with seven female and four male cats. As with any pet, the cats were not thrilled to be handled for a thorough examination, but it was necessary. If they were not medically sound, they could not undergo surgery. Although almost every cat was suffering from an upper respiratory infection, they were cleared for surgery. Having a minor cold during surgery wasn’t life-threatening. They were treated with Covina, a one time antibiotic injection that is the equivalent of fourteen days of antibiotic pills. For cats on the streets, this is a lifesaver. This may be the only vet visit any of the cats will have in their lifetime.

Usually a spay or neuter surgery for feral felines is the same as the BAF mobile clinic for pet dogs and cats: they come in in the morning and are released mid-afternoon once the anesthesia wears off. The dogs and cats may be a little groggy, but they’re soon back to their normal selves with a little TLC from their guardians. But these cats weren’t going back to a quiet apartment to rest in the comfort of their home with their person. They needed to be 100% alert and ready for life back on the streets. With this in mind, and given their upper respiratory infections, the veterinarian kept them overnight to give them time to fully recuperate.

Friday morning, I met back up with Christy and Carolyn to see the return of the cats to their colony. We unloaded the eleven traps from Christy’s truck and three traps from Carolyn’s car and placed them near the steel beams the skunk and pregnant cat had holed out under. 

Christy and I opened the traps, and each cat darted out on his or her own. Some took an extra minute, wondering if this was a trick. As each cat ran to find their families and friends (and tell them of the alien abduction to explain their absence), we folded up the towels, cleaned out the traps and loaded them back into the truck. I lifted the towel off the top of the last remaining trap, and to my surprise, found a cat that just didn’t want to get out. I gave him a moment, but he didn’t move. He was awake, but something wasn’t right. One urgent phone call later, Amanda agreed to care for the cat until well enough to be released. 

They say it takes a village to raise a child; it also takes a village to help a cat colony. TNR should have been a simple three step process: trap, neuter, return. But it doesn’t always happen that way. Fifteen cats were trapped, fourteen were neutered, but only thirteen were returned. And it cost more than just time and humanpower. While Carolyn’s three cats received free surgery through Fixnation, the rest had to be paid for out of pocket. Surgery, vaccinations  and antibiotics for eleven cats came to a whopping $1161.

The little kitten under Carolyn’s care, now named Patrick, still needed more assistance to get better, and there was still plenty more cats that needed to be trapped and neutered.. TNR is not one of Bark Avenue Foundation’s core programs, so there was no money earmarked for this venture or its unforeseen additional expenses. All of us who donated our time reached out through social media to donate money toward the costs. 

The donation campaign had raised $140 when the Bock Company wrote a surprise check to Bark Avenue Foundation covering the entire vet bill: $1161.00. We are ever grateful for their generosity. Never did we think a business that was closing would be able to give so much or at all.  With the bill paid in full by the Bock Company, the money donated by friends and family could be used for additional care for Patrick and for supplies for the next venture—because the story doesn’t end here.

Captain Ahab would not rest until he found Moby Dick. Jen was just as tenacious, although it was love and compassion—not revenge—that fueled her obsession. She was determined to get that injured kitten and would not stop until she found him. Her quest to find Moby would leave many cats in her wake: spayed, neutered, vetted, and helped along the way. When one person wants to do good, it’s a wave, sweeping others up into the undertow. So of course BAF couldn’t help but be carried along on the tides of change. 

But that’s another night… and another story. Come back to follow Captain Jen and the BAF gang on a mission that started out to help one kitten, and turned into a community coming together for the sake of an entire cat colony.  

 

Stephanie Wescott is a freelance writer whose mission is to save animals’ lives through story. Although she hails from New England and resides in Southern California, you’ll mostly likely find her somewhere in between on the open road with her canine companion Tucker, searching for trails to hike and stories to tell. You can follow their tracks and read their tales at www.alltuckeredout.org.