4. This Feral Cat Colony Caretaker & The Vacuum Effect

My addiction to cats – did I say “addiction”?  I did not. Clyde sneaked in when I stepped out and he wrote it.  Well, he is a keen observer of the obvious.  How do cats know these things?  Ah, oh, well, what I meant to say was my deep and abiding concern for feral cats began with Snowball.

There are those days when I feel overwhelmed and I have to remind myself that feral cat commitment is forever.  Then, like so many, I take on more work.  Our ferals grace and enrich our lives in a way that’s beyond explanation; our hearts are touched and we can’t stop.

When I get discouraged, my cat Snowball snuggles close and purrs.  Then he moves in even closer.  He puts a paw on my arm and reminds me: “To the world, you are just another person.  To a rescued cat, you are the world.”  He always seems to know just when to do that; I do not know how.  Snowball’s story is the first post “Some Beginnings With Neighborhood Cats” on NoBadCat.com.

As I said in a previous account, the sacred moments in our lives and those of our cats are precious.  We hold those moments in our hearts with a love that’s ineffable.  Those moments give us needed strength and compassion.

We also need to remind ourselves of this truth.  We are their caretakers, not their owners – this is the deal between us and them and nothing abrogates or transcends that.

Now, where was I?  Three weeks ago, we sanctuaried the three ferals from our backyard colony.  Snowball, Tangerine, and Stripes were clearly bonded to each other and they were bonded to us.  Of course, it’s Snowball’s fault.  He head butted my hand one day when I was feeding him.  I just could not resist petting him.  I had no self-control.  Well, I could not help myself and neither could Nancy.

Snowball and Tangerine are both twelve pound males who are at least five years old.  Both are FIV positive, but are asymptomatic.  These three were isolated for three weeks in Nancy’s “study” to acclimate.  We introduced our indoor cats to them one at a time and it went well.  There were a few hisses from the indoor cats, but the three sanctuaried cats did not respond in kind.

Now then, the “feral vacuum effect” which we’ve all read about or heard about is real.  All it took was a few days of no cats in the back yard colony.  Then, other cats began showing up.  First were two all black cats.  They seemed to be a mother and one of her kibs.  Then, yesterday, a very large cat (mostly black and a little orange) appeared in the yard.  As we begin the TNR process, we have decided to give them character names from Shakespeare’s plays.

This week is our first TNR of one of the “vacuum” cats.  These vet visits include neutering, Rabies and FVRCP vaccinations, and left eartipping.   Both Alley Cat Allies [Alleycat.org] and Neighborhood Cats [Neighborhoodcats.org] strongly recommend left eartipping.  In addition, each feral cat receives Revolution, a brief physical exam, ear cleaning if necessary, and anything else our vet may telephone us about.  We are grateful that the Rockford, IL PAWS subsidizes much of this.

We give our male ferals a full 48 hours for recovery and our female ferals a full 96 hours for recovery.  We sometimes wonder if that is enough time.

We want to be sure that these neighborhood cats be fully recovered from sedation as well as eating and drinking again.

I know that you are not cats, but if you have ever had surgery, even “minor” surgery with sedation, you know that recovering from the sedation and the effects of the surgery takes some time.  Why would it be any different for our neighborhood cats?

Next, I will tell you about our little, tiny, baby girl cat – Greta.

Head butts, love bites, and kitty kisses to all!