by Jackie Dale
This is an incredibly frenzied time of the year for those of us involved in freelance rescue. That is because it is full-blown kitten season, and it’s really bad this year. I spend a good portion of my day answering emails, texts, and phone calls as well as responding to Facebook tags. The shelter is hovering at around 70 kittens and a handful of adults, mainly mothers of kittens. We took in quite a few mom cats and newborns this year. Fortunately, one of the rescues I work with likes to take older cats so we have options for the moms, too. They like to have a selection of cats of various ages because not everyone wants a kitten. With an older cat, you can get a better sense of its personality than you can with a kitten. Plus some people appreciate the calm maturity of an adult cat.
We work very hard to find no-kill rescues for our cats. We work equally hard to maintain the relationships we establish. That means we only send out cats and kittens that are, to the best of our knowledge, healthy and fit. We don’t have the means to completely test every cat and kitten for various maladies, so we have a 100% return policy.
We have made mistakes, but we learned from those mistakes, and that is the key. Last year, there was a ringworm outbreak. The reason was that apparently I needed glasses so badly, I failed to notice the signs of the infection. So I changed my protocol. Along with wearing glasses to examine the cats and kittens, every feline that crosses the threshold is given a black-light test. The scaly patches of ringworm will glow a neon green. However, tons of other things will glow as well, including urine. So if we see a glow but no scaly patches, we will wipe the cat down with a damp towel and repeat the test.
Sidebar: Many things glow under a black light so do yourself a favor and do not, I repeat, do not walk around your house with the black light. You will want to burn down your house and start over. Did you know that toothpaste and bleach both glow? I was so shocked by the walls of my bathroom, (how does toothpaste get on the ceiling?) I scrubbed them down with bleach. Well, suffice it to say that the bleach only made it look horribly worse under the black light and the “stains” were still there even though it looked (and is) clean as a whistle to the naked eye.
It has been a busy month. I have sent/adopted out a fair number of cats and kittens, despite the fact that nearly all the shelters are full. The number of calls are steady. We received a call from the cousin of a lady who I had helped in the past with her many rescued strays. She took very good care of them and I helped her get them all fixed. Now she has dementia and will likely not be returning to her home. I finally understood why she accused me of “beating up her cat.” The story goes: said cat came home after being gone for three weeks. She called me and asked if we could get the cat fixed right away so he wouldn’t wander as much. I complied and picked up the cat. However as I attempted to move the semi-feral cat into a trap, he freaked out. As some cats are known to do, he rammed his face into the cage in a frantic attempt to escape. It gets worse. After coming back from his neuter, the cat wasn’t doing well. The woman waited a week before calling me and telling me the cat hadn’t been eating. Well, the cat died and the woman went ballistic. Now she’s gone and we are trying to help her elderly cousin re-home 12 cats, not all of which are house pet material. It will be a challenge.I got a call from a local restaurant about a Siamese kitten they had in a box. There is a small cat colony living in the alley behind the restaurant. The lady at the restaurant was a little haughty about me coming to get the kitten. I asked her what would happen to the kitten if I didn’t come and get it? She said they would just let it go to rejoin the group. Well, I picked it up, brought it to the shelter, and got it spayed. The kitten was not yet completely feral and I was able to settle it down and it quickly went to rescue. There are more kittens to trap at this location. A friend trapped and had to put down two very sick cats from there. A third cat eluded us and has since disappeared. It probably died. Because of the sick cats, I had the Siamese kitten tested for feline AIDS and leukemia. Both were negative. Then I returned to let them know of my TNR plans and put out some food. It was then I discovered what, in my opinion, is the source of the illness in the colony. Someone had been feeding the cats raw chicken. The cats probably had salmonella poisoning. I explained that this was a very bad practice and they agreed to stop.
I was in the vet’s office one morning when I was shocked to see two tiny ladies struggling to bring in a large dog. I was doubly shocked to see that this was the same dog I had seen posted just the night before on Facebook as an injured stray needing help. The dog was riddled with obvious tumors including a facial tumor that had apparently ruptured. This left the dog with a grievous wound that was beyond horrible. Despite the vet’s recommendation to have the dog put out of its irreparable misery, the women insisted on giving the dog a chance. I tried to reason with them for an hour but they were adamant and took the dog home with meds for infection and pain. Out of deep concern for the welfare of the dog, and following the law, I reported the found dog to animal control and let them investigate. The dog was ultimately turned over to them. We must accept that there will be times when there are just no good alternatives. Animal rescue is not for the faint of heart.A lady who works at the local market and I have collaborated on many TNRs. She called me one day to ask for help with a local homeless lady who has six small dogs, two parents and four puppies. We persuaded her to get the dogs fixed, and I set up appointments for the mom and a daughter. My friend provided the elderly woman with dog food and I donated a pop-up puppy pen so she could corral them at night. Mind you, all this time we were trying to convince her to give us the puppies so they could be sent to the already-arranged rescue. She refused to give any up and it took some convincing to hand over the two to get fixed. But she showed up at the appointed time. I took the dogs, had them spayed and vaccinated. I kept them at my house for 10 days to recover. When I met her to return her dogs, I begged, I pleaded, I even cried out of sheer frustration, but she refused to let me take any of the dogs. I told her not to be selfish, I told her to think of the dogs in a safe, happy, warm home. She said no and then proceeded to avoid us for a while. Then one morning I received the worst kind of call. The night before, a homeless man, without warning or provocation, struck one of the dogs I had fixed with a blunt object, killing it instantly. The woman was of course, very distraught. We are hoping that she will now reconsider giving us the dogs for their own safety. Please keep a good thought, prayer, whatever it is you do, for the homeless lady and her safety. Her name is Caroline. I was finally able to release the feral mom cat back to her home near the restaurant. She was really mean and tried to kill me every time I even got close. After her kittens were old enough to leave her, I took her in to be spayed, relieved to finally soon be rid of her. Oh man. The vet said she had mastitis and had to be on antibiotics for a week. That was fun. I faithfully gave the meds and she was finally well. So I released her, and then I saw a calico just sitting there. So I walked over and start petting it. With a sigh I realized that it was another dump. The reason became quickly apparent as the cat nipped me a few times. It probably bit someone’s kid. So I brought her home, got her spayed and guess what? She no longer nips, so her chances of adoption are greatly increased. She is a gorgeous cat with unusual facial markings and what I call a “half tail” that was evidently broken at the end and has a permanent crook in it. Her name is Elvira. She joins Queenie, Maylor, and Hedy Lamar in the kitten room. Thankfully, the ladies all get along fabulously.
To sum up the month: Elle Woods, a white kitten that my friend fostered for me, flew first class to her forever home in Chicago to meet her new mom, a lawyer. Elle was brought to a local shelter with her upper lip bitten off by a dog; she was rescued by a special needs rescue. The kitten was even picked up by plane in Fresno. We also successfully rescued a cat who was locked inside a sweltering mobile home without food, water, or a litter box (it was gross!) after the owner died. The manager didn’t care about the welfare of the cat so we were forced to call for police intervention; who ordered the manager to let us retrieve the cat. One of my foster people had to the trap the completely freaked-out cat. It is being neutered and will probably be taken to the refuge as it does not seem very socialized.
Thank you to everyone who has donated cash or goods (litter, cat trees, food, etc). It expensive to care for all these kittens and cats. The current feline count among three of us is about 65. The cost of food and litter, not to mention vet visits, is pretty staggering.
If you would like to donate to help fund TNR projects, support the feral refuge, or any aspect of my cat-related work, it would be greatly appreciated. I have a GoFundMe account under my name. Or you can send donations via mail to Jackie Dale, P O Box 1859, Reedley, CA 93654. Questions? jackiejoy@hotmail[dot]com.
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