Jackie Dale—TheCatMother/Cat Trapper: A Long & Difficult Month at the Maternity Ward

Apr 29, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Animal Rescue Adventures, Jackie Dale, Reedley News

by Jackie Dale

The past month has been difficult. The sheer number of kittens needing help is overwhelming. There is a meme making the rounds that says: “It’s rude to ask a rescuer how many cats they have during kitten season.” When people ask me that question, I just sigh, shrug my shoulders, and say, “I don’t know.” In reality, the numbers for the past month have hovered around 23-27 kittens and cats.

Cremesicle’s 5 Fluffies

This year has brought a lot of mothers and kittens to my house. I jokingly call it the Maternity Ward. A beautifully fluffy orange and white cat was recently dumped in my yard. After about a month, (we named her Cremesicle) she finally allowed me to pet her at the feeding bowls. She even let me pick her up and to my dismay, I realized the cat was not only a female, but she was quite pregnant. The next day my husband woke me up to say he thought Cremesicle was acting strangely and maybe was ready to deliver. It took us a few minutes to track her down in our fairly messy storage/garage area. She had found a small box in the dead middle of the mess and had her babies. The box has by now was completely wet on the bottom so we removed the mom and her six babies one by one and moved them into the house. One of the kittens passed, but the rest are healthy little fluff balls who will soon be on solid food.

Abandoned kittens

Then I received a call about another mom and her five kittens. They were born in a low-income senior apartment complex. The elderly lady who was so kind in bringing them inside was desperate for help. She is also disabled so taking care of this family was difficult for her. But she made the effort and scored major points for that. I set the family up in a large pop-up playpen. Things were going well the first couple of weeks. Then I discovered that one of the kittens had suddenly passed away. Now I’m watching the family like a hawk. I determined that she was not feeding the kittens enough, so I removed them from her and began to bottle feed them. Mom stopped eating, so I took her to the vet. The vet determined that she had some kind of advanced liver failure, and she was let go. I had blood tests done on her to rule out HIV or leukemia. Both tests were negative, and the remaining four kittens are doing very well.

This was a sad month for cats. The part of rescue that is the hardest is having to decide who will benefit from medical treatment and who likely will not. Resources are scarce and must be spent judiciously.

One of the cats dumped in my yard last year showed up one day with an obviously broken leg. However, it took us a month to trap the cat. I kept catching every other cat except that one. FINALLY, one day, there he was in the trap. Turns out he hadn’t been neutered either. Remember, I had 14-15 tuxedo cats dumped in my yard. So, it is not that surprising that I missed one. The vet said that it was too late to treat the leg, it had already begun to heal. The cat, now named “Topeka”, will be fine. He may have a little limp, but Topeka is now neutered, vaccinated, and doing quite well.

Kittens to rescue

Then things really started to pick up. The local shelter that I help with cats called to say they had a friendly adult female cat. She had been found just sitting in the middle of the road. Once at my house, I gave her a few days to adjust. “Alice” did not seem to adjust. She sat in one spot, didn’t eat, didn’t do anything. I took her to the vet where once again it was determined she was in the ending stage liver failure. What are the chances of two cases of liver failure in one month? Extremely slim, but here it was. I had to let Alice go, too. Then a call from someone who found a tiny kitten in her yard. She waited, but no mother returned so I took the kitten. I placed the tiny baby with Cremesicle, but the kitten was already too weak. By the next morning, the kitten was gone.

Then a call from a friend, there is an obviously sick cat at the local Dollar General store. I went to get him, and I knew the minute I saw the scene, the cat likely had stomatitis. It was drooling heavily and several cans of uneaten food were scattered around. I took him straight to the vet, and my diagnosis was correct. Stomatitis is an extremely painful gum disease that can only be remedied by removing all the teeth. General’s case was raging, and it caused a secondary infection. General didn’t make it either. By now my spirits are lagging. So much death can do that to a person.

20 pound cat going to rescue

I had received several calls regarding a fluffy gray kitten in a local shopping center. There was cat food being left at a nearby vacant restaurant, so I set traps there. I caught a black fluffy female and a huge orange and white male. Unbeknownst to me, the female was full-term pregnant. Sigh. The gray kitten proved to be elusive until a friend, using food, managed to lure her into a carrier. She was taken to be fixed the next day, and alas, another full-term pregnancy. She was fostered for a week, and then released into the foster’s neighborhood.

Here comes another cat from the shelter. At least this one appears to be reasonably healthy. “Gracie” has a tipped ear but is friendly so she will eventually go to rescue. She was joined by another cat brought to the shelter, a young, friendly black female. “Coalene” has now been spayed, thankfully she was not pregnant!

My caretaker at the feral refuge notified me that a feral cat had given birth to six kittens. Oh, brother, I had no room, so I asked a friend to foster the group. Thankfully, he said yes, and that family is doing fine. Kittens will be removed at about five weeks, when they can eat solid food, and mom will be spayed and returned to her original home.

Karen and her brood of 5

Think it starts to slow down? Oh no, this train is only picking up speed. A lady called me to say that a mom cat had five kittens in a large plant on her patio. She tried all the usual reasons, I’m old, I don’t want pets, I’m afraid I’ll trip, etc. It took me a couple of days to make room for the family. “Karen” (from Carpenter St.) and her babies are doing fantastic.

Call from the shelter again. Someone left five kittens in a box at the Rite-Aid, right across the street from the shelter. I’m bottle feeding them now. I sent three out to a foster but had to take them back after a week. They weren’t doing well and one died shortly after I got it back. The remaining four are doing well. They were joined by a lone black kitten that a lady found in her backyard.

I got a message one afternoon from a young man who had heard a kitten crying in the alley behind his house. He discovered a lone kitten in a small box with some dirty rags. They purchased formula but really had no idea what they were doing so he reached out to me. I took the little gray baby and am bottle feeding, but he has a bit of a URI so is being kept separate from the other kittens.

A lady asked me for helping trapping and fixing three female ferals and one male. Well, she waited a bit too long as all three girls were pregnant and delivered within days of each other. They are safe and secure in a large equipment shed. Waiting too long is going to cost this lady a lot of money to fix all these kittens, but she is willing to bite the bullet to stop this from happening again. I also had a lady pay me to come trap two cats for her. This is the kind of attitude I like to see, but rarely do. The “I have a problem, I’m going to fix it, and not let it happen again” kind of attitude!

I can’t operate without them. 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.

You can check out more animal rescue articles in KRL’s animal rescue section! Join our Pets Facebook group to help keep up with our pet articles.

Jackie Dale is a freelance writer who lives in Reedley with her husband of 27 years, Frank, and their 2 children. A former ballerina, Jackie now teaches yoga and fitness classes privately and at local area gyms in addition to her cat related duties.


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