Jackie Dale—TheCatMother/Cat Trapper : Make Provisions For Your Pets, Helping or Hoarding, TNR Time Again

 By Jackie Dale

Make Provisions For Your Pets

January has been a brisk month. Fortunately not with kittens, but mostly sending adults into rescue. There are many reasons why an adult cat may suddenly find themselves homeless. Frequently, it is because the owner has died. Very few people give thought to what will happen to their pets once they’re gone. Many rely, erroneously, on their relatives, thinking they will care for their beloved pet. More often than not, the animal is simply taken to the pound. It happens all the time.

Winnie, owner surrender
Such was the case just this week. I had TNRed about ten cats at this elderly man’s property. Fast forward a couple years, the man dies of Covid and his little Chihuahua, Lucy, suddenly had no one to take care of her. The neighbors, the ones who had financed the TNR project, took temporary custody of the senior dog. We all knew the man’s daughter would be no help. She refused to allow her father, who had the means, to spend any money to fix the cats he was feeding. Her solution was “to shoot them.” One other offer to take the dog came from a woman whose plan was to make the poor old girl sleep outside while her personal dogs slept inside. Um, I don’t think so! So my friends sent me a photo of the dog which I immediately posted on Facebook with a caption so plaintive…she was adopted within two hours! A friend of mine, who coincidentally lives down the street from the dog’s original home, sent me a message inquiring about the dog. It turns out that her father’s dog had recently passed, and they were looking for another companion for him. Lucy was a perfect fit and her new family, which includes cats and children, too, is very excited to have Lucy join their family. Another happy ending!

Harper Lee, dumped cat
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Sometimes people give up their cats because they don’t get along with the other animals. One lady was sad to give up her recently adopted cat, but her two resident cats were constantly attacking the newcomer and time had not seemed to lessen the problem. She felt the cat would be happier in a home with less conflict. She put the well-being of her cat ahead of her own feelings, and I wish I would see a lot more of that. 

Then there are the cats that were obviously someone’s pet that suddenly just show up. Then, I usually get a call or text something to the tune of: “Someone dropped this cat off by/at/near my house, and my dogs are trying to kill it,” “This cat showed up at my door and it won’t leave,” or “This cat showed up at my house, and I can’t keep it because I already have a dog/cat/fish/bird/lizard, and they are very jealous.” 

 Lady with too many cats, cats
Helping or Hoarding?

Then, we have a few people who are walking a pretty slim line between helper of cats and hoarder of cats. It is really hard to find spaces for SO many cats at once. One lady I’m helping now has about twenty cats. Good point is that all are fixed and vaccinated. She was fostering for an agency who then left her high and dry and completely on her own. Another lady has thirty-six cats, a few of those are feral. Despite the somewhat deplorable living situation, the cats seem healthy, however, none are fixed or vaccinated. We are giving this situation top priority as we want to get the cats out of that living situation as quickly as we can. Both of these people have limited income and are struggling to feed the cats. Hopefully by the next column, I will have happy news to report regarding these two situations. 

TNR Time Again

The vet is back! The vet is back! She is currently only doing rescues but will open to the general public again soon. I immediately got one cat and two kittens in to be fixed and sent out to rescue. Then, we commenced with trapping at the local college. Unlike the previous one, the new administration is fully onboard with the TNR process. The previous administration wanted to trap the cats and dump them elsewhere. They didn’t care where. They felt the cats were bringing fleas to the campus. We told them that the likely source of that problem was the large squirrel population. Since in reality the cats were probably keeping the squirrel population under control, removing the cats would actually exacerbate the flea issue. Then, of course, we tried to explain the “vacuum effect.” This occurs when an existing colony is removed. More cats will simply move in and take over the now vacant spots. We explained that the existing colony will keep out other cats, newcomers are rarely welcomed with open arms. Existing colony members will attack unfamiliar cats and try to prevent them from accessing the food. That is why it is so heartbreaking when people dump their unwanted pets at a colony. Colony life is brutal, and the average house cat will not do very well.

It Really Never Ends

And the cat business marched steadily on. I made a home visit to a friend who had rescued a few cats and needed to thin out the herd a bit. Her neighbors were cat-haters and were making problems. I was disappointed to see that most of the kittens had a URI, and so I had to pass them over for the moment. I left with an adult polydactyl, 2-10 month-old sisters, and two kittens. 

Just a couple days later, a friend brought me a tiny kitten she found at her feral colony. It was near death. About eight weeks old, it barely weighed one pound and was literally skin and bones. The gums were white, a very bad sign indicating severe anemia. After a visit to the vet, I syringe fed the little guy every two hours for about two weeks. Slowly he began to finally eat on his own. “Roger” is now a fat and sassy little guy who already has an interested adopter. 


The same day Roger arrived, I received a call from one of my foster people. A friendly cat had shown up but had a severe limp. Her neighbor was caring for the fellow that he called “Dozer.” We wanted to send him to rescue, but we decided to check out that limp. An x-ray revealed a fractured pelvis. The vet said that since it was a clean fracture, it was probably from a fall, “like from being tossed out a car window.” Dozer is now on eight weeks of “cage rest,” and once healed, will go to rescue. “Oh, and by the way,” says my friend, the neighbor caring for Dozer had found a newborn kitten at his job. Born to a feral mom who will be trapped, the kitten was the only survivor of a litter of four. I, of course, began to bottle feed. That meant taking the kitten with me everywhere so I could feed regularly. I even took the baby to the World Ag Expo and carried him in a tote bag. 

I noticed a post on Facebook about a man who was very upset that a stray cat had her kittens in his garage. He was looking for someone to take them away. His, however, unfortunate choice of words ignited a firestorm. The cat-haters and the cat-lovers engaged in a war of words over why cats should or should not be allowed to roam free. Meanwhile, no one was stepping up to take the mom and babies. The man was threatening to take them to the pound. So, yeah, I stepped up. I asked a friend to pick up the family and hold them for me till the following day. They are resting comfortably in my kitten room.  

Then I had one of those great big DUH, face-palm moments. I was bottle feeding the newborn for two whole days before I realized, “Hey, I have a nursing mother cat!” I rubbed one of mom’s kittens on the new kitten and helped it find a nipple. Mom kept hissing at me but never tried to hurt me. I was concerned that mom’s nipples would be too large as her kittens are a bit older, but the little one is doing great!

Beth, owner surrender
As I was trying to get this column done, the interruptions were constant. Go evaluate the hoarding thing at one o’clock. I had an appointment to go visit another home where the woman has a lot of cats/kittens. Hooking up with her has been difficult, and she missed our appointment. She gave me three different excuses. Anytime I get more than one reason, I know they are fibbing. I will still try to connect with her, but only for the sake of the cats. I sit down to continue writing. I get a text from a lady whose cat I agreed to take that day. Ok, so I forgot about it but was surprised that they wanted me to come get it. It showed up at their rural home and was quite friendly. When I asked if they could meet me, they said they were not cat people and didn’t even have a carrier. The woman said she had never picked up a cat and didn’t know how. I was amused by this but kept it to myself. They thought she may be pregnant. After a quick exam I told them, “No, I think she is just fat.” She is now in my cat room.

After I finish this column, I am scheduled to go pick up two cats going to rescue tomorrow. My friend will drive them to the rescue along with several ferals going to get fixed. We worked out a temporary deal with our rescue to do our spays and neuters while our own vet was away. It’s a 2-1/2 hour drive each way, but they are giving us a great deal.

Lucy, mentioned at the top of the article

Like so many other things these days, the rising prices of practically everything have forced the vet to raise her rates a little bit. We understand completely. Her rates are still the best deal in town, and we are grateful.

If you would like to make a donation, I have a PayPal account steamodale@gmail[dot]com. You can also send donations via good old snail mail to Jackie Dale, P O Box 1859, Reedley, CA 93654 Questions? jackiejoy@hotmail[dot]com.




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Jackie Dale is a freelance writer who lives in Reedley with her husband, Frank. A former ballerina, Jackie now teaches yoga and fitness classes privately and at local area gyms in addition to her cat related duties.