Jackie Dale-The Cat Mother/Cat Trapper: Smoke, Kittens and TNR

Sep 19, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Animal Rescue Adventures, Jackie Dale, Reedley News

by Jackie Dale

It has been a very long, very hot month. The extreme heat alone was enough to cause issues, but the smoke from the many California wildfires only served to complicate matters. I even tried to bring my dog, Ilsa inside the house, but apparently she isn’t too keen on being inside. Not sure why that is but needless to say, once she tried to launch herself through a closed window, I put her back outside. She has shade, a pool and I would regularly hose her down. In the evenings I walk Ilsa down to the nearby canal so she can take a little dip.

Orange Grove Kitten Rescue
On one such evening Ilsa and I were walking around 8 p.m. It was starting to get dark, when I heard the unmistakable sounds of kittens crying. I tried to tell myself I didn’t hear that. How could I hear kittens in the middle of an orange grove? Or maybe it’s the kittens of a feral cat. Possibly my imagination? I couldn’t just go look. The sounds were coming from the orange trees on the other side of the canal. We were separated by 25 feet of deep water. So Ilsa and I jogged home where I grabbed a search light and my car keys. I drove to the spot that I had marked in my mind; there wasn’t even room to pull over.

Orange grove kitten

Leaving my car partially in the road I went down an embankment and towards the crying. I found a chubby tabby kitten alongside of two others that were already deceased. They appeared to have been healthy before obviously being chucked out of the car window by some black-hearted, soul-less sub-human. I heard another cry and after a few minutes of searching located a fourth kitten whose eyes were so crusted shut that it could not see where it was going. I retrieved the poor babies and rushed them home. I have no idea how long they had been there but they were very hungry. I cleaned their eyes and administered eye ointment. I did not need to bathe as they were fairly clean and flea-free. This tells me that these kittens were most likely born and kept inside before being unceremoniously tossed away like trash. I can only imagine what kind of lie the person told regarding the fate of the kittens. “Oh, they all went to good homes” is what they probably told family members. It is just incredibly hard to fathom that anyone could be okay with just tossing away live creatures. Right at the very top of the checklist titled: “How to Identify a Sociopath” is the question; “Does this person have little to no regard for living creatures?”

Another orange grove kitten

Still Lots of Kittens
So, at this point I’m up to about 19 kittens and one adult inside the house. I have a tent compound for one group of four set up on the shady portion of the lawn. And one cage is also set up outside for quarantine purposes. It’s a constant shell game. I try to keep groups separate which is difficult, but it helps prevent cross contamination of any kind. Outside while it is cool, back inside when it gets too hot. All the shuffling around is a lot of work. Move the litter boxes and food/water bowls. Clean up. Move them again. Clean up.

Marbles headed to rescue

In just the past month alone I have spent almost $1,000 on getting my felines fixed. In addition, all cats receive rabies shots and some ferals get the FVRCP vaccine, since giving it myself isn’t feasible. Fortunately, most of this was made possible by donations. My deepest gratitude and appreciation to everyone who supports me.

Gardener headed to rescue

My rescue group came to my aid! After a short hiatus they recently took 10 kittens from me. They took three (of six) from one of my foster people. (This awesome foster mom also found the most perfect home for the difficult-to-place mom cat. An older couple with NO kids and NO other pets. YAY!) They also took my four bottle babies, Hallelujah! I had six bottle babies at one point, but two which were picked up at a local apartment were in such poor condition, they didn’t survive. They also chose a group of three kittens that came from a nearby town. The mother is a stray and the kittens were somewhat friendly. They were completely infested with fleas and it took two hours to bathe, de-flea with a toothbrush and blow dry the three kittens, two white and one tuxedo. About two weeks later I received a call that a fourth kitten had been retrieved. It was also white, quite hissy and naturally, covered in fleas. I applied Frontline this time as the kitten was old enough and a bath would probably be traumatic, for the both of us! All four of these kittens were very receptive to humans and felt more secure each day. My rescue was eager to have the third white kitten join her siblings, so I drove her to our usual meeting spot.

Mr. Timms

Bottle Babies Save the Day
I must relate how the bottle babies likely saved the lives of the four kittens and one adult in my main kitten room. As usual, the bottle babies roused me from sleep at about 5:45 in the morning. As I sleepily warmed the bottles and proceeded to feed the babies, I could hear a sort of commotion of sorts coming from the kitten room. I heard what I considered to be an unusual amount of meowing as well as scratching at the door. So I go to check things out and upon opening the door I am horrified to discover that the room was about 150° inside. The cats were clearly distressed and panting. During the heat wave we placed a mobile air conditioner in the room and vented it out the window. Somehow the cats had knocked the hose off the air conditioner and all that hot air was now filling the room. I could hardly breathe. I sprang into action, shutting off the machine and opening the windows. I turned up the air in the next room full blast and brought in two fans to dissipate the hot air as quickly as possible. Everyone was okay and suffered no ill effects. This was a lesson to make certain that in the future, the hose is secure from being dislodged. It never even occurred to me that something like this could happen.

Bottle baby

TNR Time
I have also been helping two women here in Reedley with a stray cat issue. You may remember the elderly gentleman with the hostile daughter from Texas who simply thought shooting the cats was the cheapest way to deal with the problem. Well, the neighbors basically got left holding the bag as far as the cats go. The guy doesn’t care if the cats are there and he allows the neighbor to feed them in his carport. But despite owing multiple properties, the man doesn’t want to help pay for the TNR. But he doesn’t want more kittens. I’m standing there scratching my head, trying to figure out how anyone can think this way. Does he think the cats will magically stop having kittens? Why is it that sometimes, the people with the most money, are the biggest cheapskates? Having forethought is very hard for some people. They can’t see past the end of their wallet to realize you sometimes have to spend a little bit now to avoid a much larger expense/problem (more cats) in the future. Anyhoo…to date I have trapped and fixed six of the estimated nine cats: four girls and two boys. We had one pregnant female whom we failed to catch and she had her kittens somewhere unknown. There is also one (definite) tom cat and one older kitten, sex unknown. The TNR will continue until all cats are fixed and accounted for.

One of our TNR subjects

I still receive a lot of calls and tags on Facebook about taking in kittens. I have to say “No” a lot because I have not the room and certainly not the money I had in the past. My child needs to move back in for a while and that means I will now have one less kitten room, and the bathroom also needs to remain free, so technically I’m losing two rooms. I will have to be very selective about kittens I take. I just took in a feral mom and her two kittens; they will be a cage in my living room. I need to turn my focus back to more TNR.

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 deeply appreciated. I use my husband’s PayPal account (steamodale@gmail[dot]com) and I have a GoFundMe account under my name. You can also send donations via 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.