by Jackie Dale
Did you miss me? I didn’t write a column last month because my personal life has been in chaos.
For the past few months, I have been caring for a dear friend of over 25 years. She was diagnosed with stage four cancer and was basically in hospice. She also has an adult son who is autistic. She needed a lot of help and her family members were some distance away. Even though I was a little slow because of my foot, I spent a lot of time helping her. That meant I had to say “No” to quite a few people because my plate was just full. My friend Renee left this Earthly plane on October 7.
If that wasn’t enough, my father has had a serious stroke and is also now in hospice. He is three hours away and was going to be put into assisted living. My sister graciously volunteered to put her life on hold and come down from Idaho to care for him in his home. I wasn’t able to provide that option. Unfortunately, my dad and I are not close. In addition, I had a literal houseful of cats and kittens. They have to be cared for no matter what happens. I often had to bring bottle babies with me when I would drive up for a day visit.
Lots of Trapping
I had to do another TNR at the local mobile home park. The usual story. Fed a stray cat who then had a litter of kittens. I trapped and fixed all five of the kittens. And like a beacon from the heavens, I received a call from someone looking for a few barn cats. They had just moved to a five-acre property and wanted some rodent control. When they heard of the group of five siblings, they agreed to take them all! All are doing fantastically. The mother cat was elusive but was eventually trapped and the feeder elected to keep her.
The ironic part is that if this person had not brought in his own cats, strays would have eventually showed up. They always do when you live in the country. They would have then had kittens, and well, you know the rest of the story. By bringing in already fixed cats, they have circumvented that problem. The existing (already fixed and vaccinated) colony will keep out any newcomers. I frequently try to explain the “vacuum effect” to people but they don’t get it until it happens. I tell them to do the research, easily available at www.alleycat.org.
Another mother cat and her two kittens were captured by my foster person there. And she just called to tell me about another resident who found some kittens. This park is a never ending source of stray cats and kittens. Part of the difficulty is the residential homes across the street. They don’t fix their pets and allow them to roam. The main problem is the proximity to Reedley Beach. Low-life scum think that the beach is a great area to dump their unwanted pets. Several of the drop-offs were friendly, obviously house pets. So I paid to get them fixed and housed them until they were accepted by rescue.
Stand Back! It’s A Flash Flood!
As we moved into September, things really started picking up. I took in three tiny bottle babies from a local shelter. A friend brought a single stray kitten, white with black spots; it looked like a Holstein cow! Then came two friendly young cats and an adult, all fixed and needing a place to go. I was able to quickly get the older three into rescue. These days friendly and fixed are the magic words!
I still see kittens at a nearby town post office. One was napping on the grass so I scooped it up in my net. It was quite a feat wrangling it out of the net and into a carrier that I thankfully had in the car. I returned with some traps but only caught one more, a sibling kitten. Both are black with white spots; one is taming down slowly. I pet him and hold him briefly. The other is resisting my efforts. She swats at me and tried to bite me when I had to remove her from the cage on spay day. Plus I believe she has a neurological issue as she does this weird head turning thing that vaguely reminds me of The Exorcist. Once recovered from her spay, I will take her for a vet consult and will get a SNAP test. This colony has had some unexplained deaths so I want to verify that the kittens do not have FIV or leukemia. I am thinking that the one kitten will be unadoptable and I don’t want to separate them. So there is a strong possibility that they will be remaining with me and will eventually be released on my property.
From the shelter in the same town as this particular post office, I volunteered to take in an extremely pregnant cat. The kittens started coming the next day. The first one was born dead. The mother was in distress as she tried to deliver the rest of the kittens. By the time I got her to the vet, it was too late. The vet determined that the mother cat was extremely ill with calicivirus. This is a very contagious disease that causes mouth sores. The mother cat was too weak to even push out her babies. Sadly, none survived.
While I was at the vet’s office, they told me that someone had left a box of three kittens at the door of the building. They were bottle babies, and that is a death sentence. I don’t know why people do that. I guess they think the vets will keep them but in reality they go to animal control. And at animal control, kittens unable to eat on their own are euthanized. So I took them home.
Then along came a seven-year old black Siberian cat whose owner had died. The granddaughter took in the cat but she was living in a motel with her two small children and her own cat. The cat was friendly so he came to my kitten room. A colleague called to say a friendly, young cat had been dumped at one of the feral colonies where she feeds. I took him in also. Both went to my rescue along with a cute orange fellow from, where else, the mobile home park.Another transport! This time it was two of my kittens and three kittens being fostered by a friend. A few days later, my vet called. Another box of four kittens left at their door. They were healthy and old enough to eat on their own so I took them too. Then I took four kittens from a friend, hoping to send them out that week. Alas, they were not as socialized as I was led to believe. So scratch that plan. Now I’m over inundated with young kittens. They’re all healthy and constantly hungry. At feeding time they are so overcome with excitement, they scurry around like a bunch of rats in a burning meth lab!
In the meantime, an old friend asked for help with some TNR. He and his brother lived next door to each other and both had cats that needed to be trapped and fixed. I trapped four for the one brother. The following week I trapped four for the other brother. They both generously donated to my efforts, unlike the Fresno business that asked me to help them. They were feeding cats on their property and wanted them fixed to avoid any more kittens. I spent most of a Sunday sitting around waiting for these cats to go in the traps. Drove back the next day to trap two more. Cared for them, transported them to their appointments and back, cared for them until their release the following day. He gave me a check to reimburse for the vet’s charges, but nothing for me. He even asked me how I support my work. I said “through donations” while looking him in the eye. Sounds of crickets…I can’t force people to pay me when I say I operate on donations so I will have to change my response to indicate that at the VERY LEAST, I expect a few dollars for gas. It was 15 miles each way to this business, x four trips, plus the trip to the vets and back, I put about 150 miles on my car! Plus my time! It’s hard to believe that someone with a successful business could be so dense.
I have also been helping a woman in yet another nearby town with trapping. In the past we have fixed and/or removed over 20 cats and kittens but they just keep coming. We trapped a mom and two of her kittens. When we realized there were actually four kittens, we returned to trap those, catching an adult male as well. The mom and four kittens are in foster, the male was fixed and released.As I wrapped up this column, an ACO from the next town called to say he had a cute, healthy kitten. The sibling was killed when the pair tried to cross a busy street. No doubt that little “Cybil” will find placement soon. She is cute, friendly and a ball of energy.
These young kittens eat A LOT of wet kitten food. I figure I spend about $15 A DAY just to feed them the canned food. The price of the food has jumped outrageously. So…
If you would care 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.