Monday, February 12, 2007

"Clip Clip Here, Clip Clip There...

We give the roughest claws--
That certain air of savoir faire
In the Merry Old Land of Oz!"

It’s mating season behind the dumpster. Several weeks ago, four big tom cats came around looking for love. Hopefully they didn’t find any with the few remaining unfixed girls I have back there. After taking advantage of the free food for a few days, three of them left. One has made himself quite comfortable. This one I’ve grown a little attached to due to his absolutely pathetic appearance. He has a mammoth build but appeared emaciated. He has long, coarse gray hair, very pronounced facial features and expressive eyes. He was missing big clumps of fur (including half the fur on his tail) and the rest of his fur had mats and snarls. Awhile back Heather had set up a hotel of sorts consisting of three big boxes set on their sides with blankets in them. He was perpetually in one of them, scrambling out whenever I came to feed.

Well, free boarding and meals comes at a price around here and he ended up in one of my traps Saturday night. I was happy and sad to see him trapped. The big toms are the ones to do a lot of damage reproductively but I was also quite nervous. You see, before cats get fixed for Spay Day, they get tested for feline HIV and feline leukemia. If they test positive they are immediately euthanized instead of fixed. I know this is the right thing to do, but if I’d ever seen a sickly kitty it was this one. For a split second I thought of turning him loose, but if he was sick that would be unfair to all the others living back there exposed to diseases.

I only set out two traps this month and with the help of my mother-in-law (a “Crazy Cat Lady in Training”) who’s here visiting, we filled both of them. It’s getting more and more difficult to traps cats that haven’t been fixed. The same ones seem to always want to go in. That requires me to stand close enough to squirt them with a spray bottle if they get too close. The squirting and subsequent rustling dissuades the shier cats from coming in. All in all it’s a chore that gets tougher each time. The second trap was filled with presumably a sibling of this kitten. The age is about right and the markings identical. Unfortunately, she’s just too old already to be socialized.

Sylvia and I drove the kitties to the ACT clinic at 6:30 am yesterday. It was the first time I’d been there since I usually enlist someone with a bigger vehicle to take them for me. Since Sylvia rented a car while on vacation we were able to fit both the kitties in the back seat. You know how you get into a rental car always slightly wary of what has happened in it? Well, now you can add transportation of feral cats to the list of possibilities. I spent a long day wringing my hands over my pathetic tom, waiting for a call from the clinic saying, “Sorry, but…”

Eight agonizing hours later, we got back in the car to pick up the patients. When we got to the clinic they weren’t quite ready. The female I had trapped was having a hard time raising her body temperature and was in “kitty ICU” with a hot pad and a few blankets. They brought out my huge tom who was also wrapped in a blanket so I couldn’t see his fur.

“Um, I know you guys fix like 100 cats…but when I brought this guy in he looked pretty pathetic…”

“Oh, I know!” A woman exclaimed, “He had awful dermatitis. We scrubbed him up and treated him for it. We gave him an antibiotic in case he scabs up and gets infected. We also cut out the matted fur, de-fleaed him, treated him for parasites, cleaned his ears. The usual. Plus a little extra TLC since he was sorta sorry looking.” My heart melted. They do so much there it’s amazing. Yet have time to love on the kitties and make sure each one is properly fixed up.

My pathetic tom actually looks pretty good. Maybe his bald spots will grow back now that he’s been treated. Since we picked him up yesterday, he is eating me out of house and home. Four cans of food already! I’ll give him one more when I get home and turn him loose after he finishes. The food has to go somewhere in the end and he’s already stinking up the balcony. Plus, after the help Sylvia gave me, I want her to be around for the most rewarding part.

My “cold girl” is also doing well. I gave her an extra towel and fleece blanket and she made it through the night so she’ll be just fine. I’ll keep her for tonight even though her appetite seems to have returned as well.

Letting the most primal, caring instincts out for a few days to help needy creatures (even non-humans) does wonders for the soul.


Runner Girl FL said...

Yea!! More fixed kitties and you got that Tom. :) He sounds even more pathetic than poor Saga when I brought her and her scaby mess of a tail home.

Jackie said...

That's awsome that you got that Tom! I can imagine that each time you trap it gets harder and harder, but I bet it is just as rewarding every time!

I'm so glad that he was just a little under-the-weather and not something seriously wrong with him!

mr. schprock said...

Wow! Not many people have the heart and goodness to do what you do. Good for you, good for mom-in-law and good for the kitties.

Of course, what we have hanging around near dumpsters here in Boston aren't cats, but it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to trap them and get them treatment too.

magnetbabe said...

Yay! Mr. Schprock is back! Thanks for your kind words. I suspect "feeding" Boston's dumpster dwellers would involve lots of resources much more expensive than cat food. But if you get the urge to do a mass trapping and castrating so they don't multiply, holler and I'll come help.

It's the stress if worrying about them that is exhausting me at this point. We let the big tom go yesterday evening and he was back in his cardboard box and ready for breakfast by this morning. That's what feels the best. Now if I see pathetic long-patchy-haired gray kittens in a few months, I'll know I was too late...

Ha! He was tied with Saga. Saga's size played a lot into her pathetic-ness. However, because of your little Saga-bug I was able to console another feral cat caregiver at the clinic by saying "No, really! Scabies aren't that bad! You'll hardly notice them at all!"

lefty_grrrl said...

I'm glad your tom wasn't too ill for saving. And if he doesn't grow his fur back, well, at least you'll always know it's him.

I truly admire your dedication, Natalie.

Sylvia said...

This was an awesome experience except for what Scraggly Tom did in the back seat of the rental car. Thanks, Magnet Babe for letting me help with this!!