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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

For the love of feral felines

I had a very lucky phone call last week. A friend of ours, who is a veterinarian, was giving me some advice on my barn cat population. Halfway through the conversation, he offered to come out to the farm and perform surgery on as many as I can catch. At first I thought I was hearing things. But rather than look the gift horse in the mouth (what a weird expression) and ask too many questions, I thanked him and hung up with the direction to collect as many cat carriers as possible in order to catch my mostly feral feline family. And I would study up on the Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) process.

I contacted Paul Lafleur of the Village Kitten Rescue in North Gower, for advice on trapping the little beasties. He was extremely helpful, showing up within a couple of days with two dozen cat carriers.

Some readers may remember my comments one year ago, when I stated that I would not be spaying and neutering my barn cats. Our feline population was controlling itself at the time, I thought. That is no longer the case.

I trolled the Web for more info on luring and trapping. is full of sound advice and insight. The worst thing you can do for a feral cat, the site states, is to catch it and bring it to an animal shelter. First of all, it is not adoptable. Wild cats are not good house pet material. Wild kittens, on the other hand, have a chance of being tamed. The trick is to socialize them as soon as possible. Several of our barn cats now march right into the house – one even knows how to slide the screen door open to let himself in – because we have been handling them since they were tiny. Once given their shots, they will be quite good pets to some lucky Fisher farm visitor. But if we don’t do something about the adult feral felines, the overpopulation will only get worse. I’m already starting to resemble a crazy cat lady, as I shuffle along to the barn with a dozen little critters at my feet.

The Trap-Neuter-Release method sounds like the solution to our problems. Of course, it has been suggested before by a few well-meaning yet highly critical people who must think I have all the money in the world. Perhaps they thought I had one or two cats to fix. But with the good doctor’s help, we will get this cat collection under control.

Catching and culling my cats, as some other farmers have suggested, is not a reasonable method of controlling the population either, in case it has crossed your mind. I have a food supply here – rodents in my sheep feed. Cats will always be here, and having to routinely put the “excess” kittens down is not something that I can allow in my environment.

I have assembled the cat carriers. They are lined with newspaper. I am putting small amounts of food in the cages, to allow the cats to become comfortable inside the small spaces. On TNR day, I will put a tiny delicious pile of something – perhaps tuna? – inside each cage. Cat will go in, and I will then tuck his or her tail in and latch the door. Doc will come, needle the cat into a nice blue dream, my assistants (5 cat-loving daughters) will carry the sleeping patients to the surgery deck (yet to be determined – the Farmer is thinking “not my kitchen island”) and the work will begin. Post-surgery, the cats will be gently placed back in their carriers until the drug wears off. They have trouble controlling their body temperature during this recovery phase (also learned that from, so they will remain in the house overnight.

I expect we will awake the next day to quite a racket. And when we release the cats back to their homes in the hay bales, they will have quite a shared adventure to discuss.

During my inquiries regarding TNR, I also met someone named Gwen Thompson, who is running the Country Cat Rescue. She has her hands – and house – full of kittens that she lovingly cares for until someone adopts them. Unfortunately, since the recent tainted pet food catastrophe, her suppliers (Purina and Iams) are no longer sending her donations. If any Farmwife readers out there know of a way- a corporate donation would be lovely – or a grant of some kind - to keep Gwen in kitty food, please give her a call: 613.258.2622 – The kitties thank you.

1 comment:

Nes said...

Something that works really well is liverwurst. The stuff you get in a tube in the deli section. Smells delicious and gives them a nice snack to tuck into. Good luck!