Monday, October 17, 2011

A Post for the Cat Lovers

I need your help

Mom and the boys (as we found out later)
For the record I really don’t like cats, but I don’t want to see them suffer either, which brings me to my kind but misguided neighbor who feeds the feral cats in our neighborhood and is now responsible for a growing population of mating, pooping, stinky, noisy cats.  When one exhausted momma cat took up residence in our yard with her second or third litter, my husband and I knew we had to do something.  After a little research we came upon this article on Trap, Neuter, and Release (TNR) programs and decided that this was the route we needed to take.  Let me say right now that my husband has been the best sport about all of this.  He’s been a victim or more than one of my goofy schemes, but he usually just rolls his eyes and puts up with them.  This adventure was no different.

Pre ear clip and with his you-know-whats intact
I started out by trying to gather what information I could about local programs.  I was soon put in touch with All About Animals Rescue, and they could not have been any more helpful.  If you take one of their monthly classes on trapping feral cats, they will loan you all the equipment you’ll need and provide low cost spaying and neutering.  As luck would have it, they were having a big “Feline Fixing Frenzy” (that really is what they called it) the next Sunday.  In my own frenzy, I borrowed four traps - I wanted to start with the momma and her two babies that were living in our yard – and headed home.   It was mid October, and I didn’t see the Michigan weather getting any better, so I picked up some tuna and cat food and prepared to do a battle of wits with our cat family.

I’d been worried about putting out food and getting vermin.  Thankfully, the class taught us to put out food for one hour and then take it in.  We did this for a few days prior to setting the traps.  Cats are smart enough to learn when to come for dinner, and it worked like a charm.  Thursday, the day before we set out the traps, we didn’t feed them, per the instructions of the animal rescue staff.  On Friday, by the time we put out the traps, it took all of 15 minutes to trap the three of them.  Once we got those three fed and watered in their cages all covered and cozy, we decided to put out the fourth cage in hopes of catching the tom cat that has been amazingly prolific.
"I'm so embarrassed"

Saturday morning we woke up horrified to find to a huge raccoon in the trap.  I am guessing he weighed in at about 30 lbs.  My poor husband, who had been my semi-willing partner in this escapade, was worried.  He’d seen trapped raccoons and knew how vicious they could be.  We couldn’t leave it in the cage and he didn’t want to release it at the risk that it would attack us.  Luckily the county animal shelter would take care of it (note, it was tested for rabies and released) if we got it to them.  With no other choice, we prepared to struggle with a ferocious raccoon.  To our surprise, it was really docile.  It actually looked a little sheepish and it occurred to me that it was probably filling up on the cat food our neighbor put out.  Heck, it probably thought it was a cat too.
Not what any of us wanted to be doing early Sunday morning

Sunday, we were up at 6:30 to get the cats to the shelter by our 7:30 appointment.   According to the staff they had over 211 cats scheduled for neutering.  For $10 each they examined the cats, gave them a rabies shot, spayed or neutered them, and clipped their left ear which is the universal sign of a neutered feral cat.  One of our kittens had a hernia and they repaired that as well.  The next morning my husband was back down there at 7:00 am (why do cat people do things so early?) to bring them home.  We will be feeding them from now on (our choice), and hope that they will continue to keep the mice out of our house and the squirrels out of the garden.  I’m not an animal person, but this is a partnership I can live with.

I suppose you are wondering why I need your help.  I need you to help me stop the practice of feeding of feral cats without regards to their unchecked breeding.  If you or someone you know is feeding stray cats, and is overwhelmed by their numbers, you need to know that there are places that can help trap and neuter them for less money than you’d think.  Kind hearted people start out with only a few cats, but as the population grows, they find themselves surrounded by more until it becomes totally unmanageable.  Often times the food they leave out attracts vermin (no offense Mr. Raccoon) and the smell and the noise angers the neighbors. 

If you call animal control to catch and euthanize the cats, and food is still available, more animals will come.  If you sterilize the cats, they will keep other animals out and the population will stabilize, much of the fighting and spraying will stop and over time they will die out naturally.  Even if you can get those who are feeding the cats to limit the amount of time they keep food out,  you will be helping.  Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go over to my neighbor’s house very soon and see if we can’t work something out.  Heck, once he sees the size of that raccoon he’s been growing, and I tell him how much he could be saving on cat food if he wasn’t feeding the raccoons, I expect he will gladly hear me out.

P.S.  I have a lot of info about this that I would love to share.  Please contact me with any questions, and if I can’t help, I will find someone who can.The Butcher

It has been mentioned that I should have released the inadvertantly captured raccoon myself, and I first want to assure everyone that we handled the animal as gently as possible, the county testeded it for rabies and it was ultimately released elsewhere.  If I have any regrets, it is that we didn't plan for this better.  I would recommend that anyone trapping feral cats be aware of the possibility of trapping other animals and have a plan for addressing this. 

UPDATE:  All About Animals Rescue (the organization who helped us with our feral cats) posted this to my facebook page and I wanted to share it with you:

Just a reminder to everyone that when you are trapping ferals it is possible to trap wildlife other than your intended kitty – we advocate releasing the wildlife in the same area as they were trapped. Unfortunately, involving animal control... means euthanasia for the animal. Releasing the animal in the same area is important as it could be a nursing mother with dependent babies. Standing behind the trap and pulling the door straight up will allow the animal to run straight out.

Thank you again for all your help and your ongoing educational efforts.  I've learned so much from you all.


  1. Raccoons are no more vicious than a feral cat. If you would have just covered the trap and opened one end, the raccoon would have calmly walked out. You are now responsible for having another living creature terrified and ultimately euthanized. Please amend your article to let people know if they trap anything other than a cat, they should cover the trap and open one end and release the animal.

  2. I hope it wasn't a nursing mother raccoon. Why not just let the raccoon go? It would not have attacked you. You should be very sad that you are now responsible for killing an innocent animal.

  3. I have learned so much from this experience. Thank you for the comment. In the county I live in, the raccoon was tested for rabies and released. We've caught groundhogs in the past and trust me, they did not calmly leave when we released them. I agree that we should have planned better for catching something other than a cat. Please see my amended post, and thanks again.

  4. Anonymous,

    I have been thinking a lot about your comments, and would be very interested in hearing any tips you might have with regards to caring for our three feral cats. Thanks again for your comments.

  5. Chris, I commend you for being so responsible and caring. It's unfortunate that the only comments you've gotten so far only noted the one thing that might've been handled better without also acknowledging the painstaking efforts you and your husband put in. I'll post a link to this post on my Facebook page to spread the word. Good job, my online friend!

  6. Please correct the statement about the raccoon being tested for Rabies and relocated. There is not a single shelter that is going to take the time, effort and expense to handle a wild animal,take a blood test, house the animal until they get the results and then relocate the animal. They told you that so that you didn't know the truth and take the animal to another location and release it. That raccoon was euthanized probably before you got home. How is one life any more important than another? Please don't make a very sad situation worse by
    actually making people think that there is even the slightest chance a wild animal will be tested, housed and relocated. You should have relased the animal and continued trying to trap the ferals. Trust me when I tell you, the raccoon was killed, and if she was a nursing mother, I'm sure her babies also perished. Just post something saying that you should ALWAYS release a wild animal from a trap instead of
    sending it to its death. When the animal control officer said they would take care of it, they meant they would kill her.

  7. Scrollwork, Thank you for the kind words. I truly appreciate them.

    Anonymous, I've posted an update with the All About Animals Rescues response. I hope that people will take the advice of a reputable animal rescue organization over the word of some misguided amature (me) over how to handle animals.