Cat Watch Wilts First Rescue Case Study: Mum Cat and Kittens
In August of 2019, a friend contacted me to see if I could help her work colleague. Her family had been surprised to discover that a mother cat with six kittens was living under the garden decking at her home in Laverstock and wanted to bring their plight to our attention. The family had initially contacted Cats Protection, who confirmed they were full and unable to take them in at that time. They stated they would return in October and ‘TNR’ (trap, neuter, return) the mum and kittens. However, in my opinion, this was an unacceptable time frame for such a young cat family to have to endure, so I endeavoured to learn all I could about the art of catching a very scared, timid mum and her almost feral babies.
I ordered two humane trapping cages online and set them up in the lady’s garden, using tuna as bait. Our first attempt went a little awry as I thought it might be best to cover the trap in case of rain, of course forgetting if there was a blanket over the trap the release mechanism wouldn’t work! There we sat in the kitchen, becoming very excited as we watched mum wander into the trap to eat; however this quickly turned into disappointment as mum polished off everything and casually wandered back out again. The next time I made sure to leave the mechanism free – err, who says you don’t learn new things every day?!
I left the traps for the lady to keep an eye on, and on the very first night I received a call to confirm we had a kitten in the trap, and within an hour we had mum and baby together. This was going so well (!), however, after catching all but one of the 6 kittens, one of them escaped in the lady’s kitchen. So they then set the trap in the kitchen instead of capturing the final kitten, who I am told was crying all night for his mother and his litter mates. Not to worry – they persisted and the following day, Sunday, managed to trap the final kitten! A fantastic result. I didn’t have a shelter built at the time, so I kept the mum and babies in a huge soft dog crate in my front room.
The following day, Monday, I took mum cat to the vets to get her neutered and disease-tested. The vets called me at lunchtime and confirmed they had not carried out the operation because during her scan, they discovered she had intestinal lymphoma, and in fact found it difficult to comprehend how she had managed to raise her SIX kittens to the age she had, as she most certainly would have been experiencing intense pain. I asked the vet to wait for me to get there before proceeding any further, telling myself all the way on the drive over, “I will remain professional”, by mantra. When I arrived, I was devastated to see the poor mite still under anaesthetic, and the vet told me the kindest thing would be to euthanise her. I cuddled and stroked her while she slipped away, after which my ‘professionalism’ swiftly went straight out the window, as I sobbed and cried like a baby. On the drive home, I reflected on what might have otherwise been their reality, realising that had I been unable to take her to the vets, she would certainly have died an excruciating death in the wild, whilst her poor kittens would have passed away, orphaned and petrified. The decking at the lady’s home had been situated less than 20 feet from a main road, opposite three schools.
The kittens were semi-feral as they were approximately 7 weeks old. I took them to the vets after removing around 20 ticks from them, where they were given a full health check, following which they were deemed to be all in good health. I arranged for their first vaccinations to be done at the same time. The vet’s opinion was that they were too feral to be designated as domestic pets, and I thought I might need to try to arrange a small holding or farm to take them in. In the meanwhile, I determined to try and raise funds to open my own cat rescue shelters in my garden.
The kittens were nurtured, cared for, played with and handled every single day. Despite working full time, having 16 cats of my own as well as two dogs, I made sure I took the essential time needed to help these little ones get a better start in life. My aim was to enable them to be brought up in a loving family situation, where they could be confident in a normal household environment, and where their health and development could be monitored and properly managed.
When the kittens were approximately 11-12 weeks old, I successfully found well-vetted and home-checked ‘forever’ homes for five of them. Only one has been difficult to home to date, little Psychobabble, due to the fact that sadly she remains quite feral, much more than her siblings. Happily, the other five have thrived and excelled in their forever homes; little Babble is slowly coming around and I will keep trying with her for as long as it takes.
It should be noted that no kittens from this litter will ever breed (having been neutered/spayed), thus reducing the number of unwanted cats being born and requiring re-homing.
Below is a list of fees which provide an approximation of Costs vs Income (a typical analysis) -