Tuesday Haikusday: Kitten Season

World,

It was requested that I discuss Kitten Season this week. And so I shall, in preparation of the coming births, mouths to feed, and opportunities to foster. Let’s get to it. Eh hem….

zen garden rock crepes 2016

 

Kittens will be born,

thousands of them waiting for

a permanent home.

.

Did you spay/neuter?

It’s the only solution.

Cats can’t fix themselves.

.

Spring: season of love

and overpopulation.

Foster if you can.

Love,

Crepes, a product of Kitten season 2011.

PS. What do you want to hear about next week?

Feral Fixers – TNR We Can All Help Manage

feral fixers

Outdoor cats that are intact, meaning not spayed or neutered, produce exponential numbers of new kittens each year. These kittens, when left on their own, become feral, meaning they are not very friendly towards humans. Often, the cats fight for territory, yowling and arguing, and in the process, they spread FIV to each other. When people call animal control services, these feral cats get picked up and, most often, euthanized because they are un-adoptable. (That’s what almost happened to me!) There is, however, another way to contain these feral colonies, without employing euthanasia, called TNR, or Trap Neuter Return. Today, we have with us Indigo and Jackson, cats affiliated with Feral Fixers, a group that specializes in TNR. Started in 2007 by Tammy McAuley and Ted Semon, Feral Fixers has neutered almost 5,000 cats so far! Let’s learn more.

 

Indigo and Jackson Wrestling

Indigo and Jackson Wrestling

Crepes (C): Welcome, Indigo and Jackson!  Explain to me a bit about TNR and about Feral Fixers. What is your goal?

Indigo (I): Well, MY goal is to have hugs and be petted all the time.  I would like to have a home with my new buddy, Jackson, that has no children, but adults that we can shower with affection.

C: Mmhmm. Excellent plug for yourself. I’ll be more specific: What is Feral Fixers’ goal?

I: Feral Fixers’ goal is that all cats have a home.  Until then, their goal is to reduce cat overpopulation and euthanasia thru TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return), using low-cost spay/neuter for ferals, strays, and owned cats in DuPage County in Illinois.

C: How many cats has Feral Fixers prevented from being euthanized?

I: Wow, that’s a hard question to answer, because you’re measuring something that didn’t happen.  We have neutered almost 5,000 cats.  If half of them were female and each of them had just one more litter of 4 kittens, most of whom would be at risk, you could say that we saved 10,000 cats from euthanasia.  Since those litters would have gone on to have more kittens and so on and so on, then 10,000 is a good starting number.

Jackson (J): I would have been euthanized.  I’m FIV+ and a few years ago, before people learned more about FIV, I would have been “put out of my misery.”  I am not miserable, I’m very happy and healthy.  I eat some special food – I’m a special cat for many reasons – but otherwise I’m just like any other cat.

Feral Fixers' 3000th Cat

Feral Fixers’ 3000th Cat

C: Your website offers information for people who want to become “colony caretakers.” Tell me, what is a colony taker, and in what ways does Feral Fixers support a colony caretaker?

I: A “colony caretaker” is typically someone who is already feeding cats, which is only half of the “care.”  In order to really and truly take care of ferals, you must neuter and vaccinate them and follow up with health care.  Feral Fixers loans traps, instructs in their use, and helps with low-cost spay/neuter – that includes vaccinations and a microchip.  If the cats need additional healthcare – wounds, worms, upper respiratory illnesses –  we help the caretakers find an answer for that, too.

C: Feral Fixers sounds like an excellent resource for someone who would otherwise not know what to do with cats they might find on or near their home. Is being a colony caretaker a difficult task?

I: It is long-term.  Neutered feral cats can live more than 10 years.  That means feeding at least once a day, putting out water even when the temperatures are freezing and watching for illness or new, unneutered cats joining your group. A big surprise to people are the number of cats that become friendly – like me and Jackson.

J:  I was a surprise?  How come?  Isn’t everybody just like me?

C: Jackson does seem rather friendly. Tell me, how did you curb his, shall we say, unwanted attentions?

I: Well, Jackson’s way of communicating that he wanted attention was to whap! and claw at his caretakers.  They were elderly and could not risk this behavior and asked for Feral Fixers’ help.  Jackson came to the “Tammy training camp” for new friendlies so that he could understand that the way he would treat another cat simply would not work for getting attention from people.  It took months but he was finally moved to a foster home.

C: Essentially, it sounds like caretakers need to pay attention to behavior changes and make plans for homes for their former ferals who want to come inside and be friendlies.

I: Correct.

C: Are you able to help support out-of-state caretakers, or can you help them set up a program in their own area?

I: We are contacted by people from out of state.  We usually connect them with other organizations in their area, point them towards some of the resources we used when we started, and share how we did it.  There are so many differences just in our own county, there is no one-size-fits-all answer for everyone who wants to care for one colony or start a larger scale program. There are national organizations like Neighborhood Cats, Best Friends, Alley Cat Allies, HSUS – all can be huge resources of information and can be slightly different, so its good to look at them all to get a good overview.

C: Do you do any sort of adoption assistance? What do you do with cats that you pick up that aren’t feral and are adoptable?

I: Almost 40% of the cats we encounter are kittens (tameable), strays who were in a home once and want to go back to that, or ferals who have decided the indoor life is worth a try.  We try to determine that as soon as possible to make a plan for the individual cats. We are always in need of more fosters for the kittens and the friendlies and have had to return some cats that would have needed just a few days or week of interaction to be placed in a home.   We are in contact with several shelters to give them cats for adoption and we do whatever we can to get the cats that want a home into one.

C: I heard you had a harrowing story yourself, Indigo. Tell me about it. 

I: My people were feeding me and saw that I had gotten covered with blue paint.  While they were trying to get me into one of those traps , I had cleaned all the blue paint off.  I was much happier!  My people contacted Feral Fixers, said how much I liked being petted, and asked if I could possibly go for adoption after being neutered.  I was at Tammy’s house, she took care of me after my surgery.  Boy, did I feel like crap!  See, there’s nasty stuff in paint.  Most of my hair fell off, I was drooling – talk about embarrassing!  And, I couldn’t control myself, I needed to be petted! So when Tammy would put me back in my cage, I didn’t know how else to tell her I needed more (communication skills improve with time), so I would try to bite her arm.  But  Tammy and other people who came to take care of me made it clear that that was unacceptable and I learned the right way to get attention.  And, thank goodness, whatever it was got out of my system and the drooling stopped!   But I still had no hair!  There was talk about food allergies. I got a new food called “duck.” So, my hair is growing back and I don’t feel crappy anymore, life is pretty good.

feral fixers

Indigo Without Hair

C: Hair is very important, as any lady will tell you. Your facilities were recently damaged by the flooding in the Chicago area. How has that affected you?

I: We don’t have a facility. The base of operations is Tammy’s home.  Cats going for spay/neuter are housed in her garage the night before and return there for recovery for a day or two after.  The water in the basement reached 6 feet, so a lot of stuff had to be put into the garage to work on the basement, which meant no cats coming and going from there.  One of our volunteers has been staging cats from her neighbor’s garage, and Tammy hopes to return to using her own garage after a thorough cleaning.

 C: Has it changed the way you operate?

I: The flood has changed our organization a bit.  We will be focusing more on getting the friendlies on to shelters sooner so that they do not come to Tammy’s house for foster, we now have off-site storage, we will be marketing harder to get fosters.  There might be a brick & mortar location in our future, a spay/neuter mobile clinic. We hope to work more closely with shelters to control the cat overpopulation problem as a whole.

C: What has Feral Fixers done so far that you’re most proud of?
I: It is so hard to pick just one thing.  We’ve neutered just under 5,000 cats in 5 1/2 years.  We’ve helped to reduce the number of adoptable cats euthanized at DuPage County Animal Control to just 5 last year when it was hundreds in previous years.
Indigo & Jackson... Love time, part deux

Indigo & Jackson… Love time, part deux

C: That’s huge!  Great job! What else?
I: The number of kittens coming into Animal Control has been drastically reduced.  We are working with many shelters on placing adoptable cats.  Several municipalities are working with us and embrace TNR as a cost-effective way to reduce complaints and conflict with the public.  Entire neighborhoods are working together on “their” cats.  Caretakers no longer watch kittens be born, just to die, not being able to afford the surgeries to control the number of cats.  So many more cats are healthier, will live longer and if they chose, are now in homes.  We are very proud of the big picture and the part we have played in creating it! I’d also like to add that I’m proud that I was able to stop biting people and now I have my buddy Jackson to wrestle with!
***
There it is! A story about amazing people doing good for cats out of their own homes and garages. It’s good to know that such kindness exists in this world. If you have questions about TNR, you can contact Feral Fixers directly or one of the other organizations they suggested, such as Alley Cat Allies, HSUS, Best Friends, or Neighborhood Cats. Or, as always, you can email me and I’ll point you in the right direction!
Love,
Crepes.

Tree House Humane – FIV, TNR, and TLC

Today, I’m doing a special interview with an organization that is very near to my heart. Without the kind people there, I would never have been placed into foster care with my FODs, nor would my brother, sister, or I have found homes. It is with great pleasure that I welcome Tree House Humane, a no-kill, cage-free cat shelter with two locations, and soon to be a third, in Chicago, IL. Tree House makes it a point to help people learn about and implement TNR programs in their local areas, as well as to educate the public on cats with FIV. Please help me welcome Tree House’s Antonia, an FIV kitty herself, who is here to speak with us today.

Tree House Humane

Tree House Humane Uptown Branch

Welcome, Antonia. Thank you for being with us.

Hello, Crepes. How do you do?

I’m well, thank you. How did you come to live at Tree House?

I had been living outside on the west side of Chicago for some time, when some kind staff members came out and rescued me. They gave some of my feral, meaning not socialized, friends some relief from their endless fighting, mating, and parenting by getting them spayed and neutered, and then returned them outside to be cared for by a nice lady who looked out for us. When Tree House scooped me up, I surprised them by giving birth to my litter of five kittens overnight at Tree House’s clinic! My kittens all found homes, but I’m still waiting. In the meantime, I’m enjoying life here, rolling around in the sunbeams on top of a cat tree, as well as chasing sparkle balls all over.

tree house humane antonia

The Very Eloquent Antonia

I find it hard to resist sparkly balls myself.  Tell me about Tree House’s mission.

I can tell you that I’m grateful to have landed here. After I arrived, I was so happy to learn that Tree House focuses on cats like me – strays who don’t have anywhere to call home. I discovered at Tree House that I have Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, or FIV, so I was extra happy to find out that Tree House makes sure to assist cats with special physical needs like mine.  This is a great place that, simply put, specializes in stray cats who have special emotional and/or physical needs.

How many special needs cats does Tree House have at any given time? 

I think I usually have about 240 roommates or so. The extent of the special needs varies greatly, but I’d say about half of us could probably qualify.

You mentioned that you are an FIV cat. FIV, which stands for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, is sort of like kitty AIDS in that it hinders the cat’s ability to protect itself from infections.  Correct?

Correct.

I understand that Tree House is a big proponent of placing cats with FIV into permanent homes. Can you give me an understanding of your message on that topic?

I’m glad you asked this question, because I feel like we FIV cats get a bad rap. First of all, I want to tell you that I am a healthy cat and I don’t take medicine for my FIV. I hope to live to 15 or 20 years, just like any other cat. It’s just that I have to be a little careful, because it’s easier for me to get sick because of this weakened immune system of mine. It’s important for me to get a good diet and regular vet care – but, how’s that different from any other cat? Sometimes cats like me have more dental or upper respiratory problems, but it’s really not a death sentence and can truly be managed well.

How do cats get infected with FIV?

Mostly through deep bite wounds from cat-to-cat, so FIV+ cats can live with cats who don’t have it, as long as they don’t get in those kinds of fights that draw blood.

Tree House humane

Kitties grow on Trees! And apparently in baskets.

I’ve heard tell that Tree House offers an excellent post-adoption program for FIV+ cats. 

That’s true! If I (or any of my FIV+ roommates) get adopted, we get a nice health contract through Tree House. This means one free exam per year, discounted medical care, and a waived adoption fee. What a deal!

That, like free food, is a hard deal to turn down. Speaking of free food, tell me about Tree House’s pet food pantry. How does it work?

I love that we have this program here, because I hear sad stories all the time about people giving up their cats because they can’t pay for the food to feed them. The way I understand it is that people who are receiving public assistance come to Tree House and pick up food every other week for their cats and dogs. Also, people come in and pick up food for outdoor cats. The people who work for me here are always talking about spaying and neutering, too, so I know they make sure the animals they are helping to feed are spayed or neutered. It’s always good to look out the window and see someone coming up the stairs with a big bag of cat food, because I know these donations will go to these cats who need it.

Let’s talk a bit about these outdoor cats, some of which are receiving food from the pet food pantry and are part of a TNR project. Tell me about what Tree House does with the TNR, or Trap Neuter Return, program in Chicago.

Tree House does so much for TNR! They educate, they rent traps to the public, they go into the community and help TNR, they support people who are doing TNR, and they have an amazing low-cost spay/neuter clinic that offers an affordable TNR medical care package for feral cats. I have been personally affected by this. The nice lady who cared for me when I was a stray took care of fifty cats outside. None of them had medical care. Tree House has a great TNR staff and volunteers and they came in and helped get all of these cats get the care they needed. The ones who wanted to be inside with people (like me!), were admitted to Tree House and the feral ones who didn’t want to be touched by any human being got fixed up and returned outside to be cared for. Awesome.

Agreed, or else I’d still be wandering around outside myself and my stump does NOT do well in the snow. According to Tree House’s website, the euthanasia rate in Chicago has decreased by 50% in the last ten years. How large of a part did Tree House play in that result? 

I don’t want to brag too much, but I think Tree House has played a big part in moving us towards a no-kill city. TNR is key in this process. Obviously, if fewer cats are born homeless and more feral cats are cared for outside, there will be fewer being euthanized. Also, education is so important, too! Tree House staff members are committed to educating the public on responsible companion animal care, as well as providing resources, such as behavior counseling and low-cost services, to help these animals stay in their homes.

Tree House Humane

Relaxing in the main room

Tree House is obviously very successful at what it does, with two locations operating currently and a third one under construction. What advice can Tree House offer to other organizations that want to help cats but might be doing so on a smaller scale? Do you have any suggestions that could help them grow? 

Get the word out about yourselves. Go to adoption events, have fundraisers. I hear our Facebook page is very popular! I know it was recently used to help raise money to get one of my roommates the surgery she needed. Everyone loves a good video, too – in fact, I will be featured on Tree House’s website soon, so check me out. The focus should be on helping as many cats as you can with the resources you have. Educating and reaching out to those in your community is a great way to go – that’s what Tree House did to help me get here!

Antonia, it has been an absolute joy talking to you about Tree House. Thank you for your time. It was amazing to get to hear all about this fantastic organization and only a few of its many efforts to help kitties in a humane, no-kill way.

My pleasure, Crepes!

Tree house humane

Antonia and her surprise kittens

***

There it is! My interview with Tree House. No doubt, I could have spoken to them for much longer, so perhaps we’ll have them back in the future to discuss other needs topics with us. Until then, please have a look at their website or follow their blog to utilize them as a great resource for helping yourself and those around you become more educated about many of the topics facing special needs cats today.