Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Chain Saw Massacre

First off, I love horror movies.  Second, I can imagine the craziest things in the mornings when I go out.  Hey, its dark, and its 4:30ish.  When I left Short Street, feeding Mr. Whiskers #2, Buttons #2, and the three others there, I turned the corner onto Sixth and saw a red fluffy kitty that looks just like my elusive Butters, and looks like Vanessa's kids Charlie and Pumpkin.  I immediately got out and set a bowl of food and water down in front of a boarded up house, as I do with every freaking single cat I see in the morning outside of one of my 14 locations that I have shelter and feeding stations at.  As I got out I heard this noise that sounded like a tree grinding machine - not sure of the name of those, the kind that tree companies grind up tree limbs and brush in.  I then heard dogs barking, sort of a muffled barking.  I got back in the car and drove ahead a little, got out and listened again.  A distinct loud machine was running, sounded like it was grinding something every so often.  I shined my headlamp into the back of this yard where the sound was coming from.  I saw pairs of eyes glowing in the back.  I crept slowly down the driveway, closer and closer to the back of the house, but not quite, all the while trying to figure out the sets of eyes, and the noise.  And watching for a human.  The house looked dark in front, but there was a light in the back.  I then got close enough to see some kind of generator running on the back porch of this house.  I could not get any closer, not knowing what was going on, and I also determined that the glowing eyes in the back were of dogs, on short chains, but dog houses for them.  Several of them.  They were not barking either, just watching me.  It was absolutely spooky.  I slowly walked back to the car, making note of the house number, and not knowing what to do.  Do I call the cops and tell them there is something odd going on there?  I didn't, but call me crazy, it was very odd.  I wish I had the nerve to report it.  What would you do?

For those of you not familiar with trapping, here are some very good instructions, ones I follow to a T.  Even if you ARE familiar with trapping, these are excellent reminders.  Even if you aren't interested, its interesting reading.  The highlighted portions are what I consider extremely important.
  1. Set-up and Prepare for Trapping. Do all of your set up and preparation away from the colony site—remember, feral cats are generally fearful of people. Trapping will also go more smoothly if you don’t disrupt the cats’ feeding area. Throughout the entire trapping process, clinic stay, recovery, and return, you should make the environment around the cats as calm and quiet as possible. This will help minimize their stress. 
    Twenty-four hours before trapping, withhold food, but always continue to provide water. This will ensure that the cats are hungry enough to go into the traps. Remind other caregivers and neighbors to withhold food as well.
  2. Prepare the traps
    • Line the bottom of the trap and tag the trap. Place newspaper, folded lengthwise, inside the bottom of the trap to protect the cats’ paws. If it is windy, secure the newspaper to the trap with tape—this is done so the wind will not move the newspaper and frighten the cats. Should you open the rear door, be sure to relock it before trapping. If your trap does not have a rear door, you can secure the front door open with a twist tie while you work and then remove it for trapping. You may need to have several different areas to set traps when trapping an entire colony; in this case, tag the traps with a description of the location so that you can return the cats exactly where you trapped them.
    • Bait the traps. First, ensure the trip plate is functioning properly. Place approximately one tablespoon of bait (tuna, sardines, or other strong smelling food—usually the ones in oil work best) at the very back of the trap, so that the cat will step on the trigger plate while attempting to reach the food. You may choose to put the food in a lid or container for this, but make sure that it does not have sharp edges that could harm the cat once trapped. Drizzle some juice from the bait in a zigzag pattern along the trap floor toward the entrance. You should also place a tiny bit of food (½ teaspoon) just inside the entrance of the trap to encourage the cat to walk in. Do not use too much food at the entrance of the trap for two reasons: 1) the cat may be satisfied before making it to the trip plate, and 2) cats should have a relatively empty stomach for at least 12 hours before surgery.
    • Set the traps. Place a trap on the ground and make certain it is stable and will not rock or tip—cats will not enter an unstable trap. Do not place the trap on a hillside or incline. If you are using multiple traps, stagger them and have them facing different directions. Try to place the traps where they will attract a cat and be camouflaged, for example, near a bush. Move quietly and slowly so your movements will not frighten cats away. On your already prepared trap labels, fill in the exact location where you are setting the trap. This will make return much easier!
    • Keep track of the traps at all times. Traps should never be left unattended. Check the traps frequently from a distance. Choose a location to park your car and wait where you are far enough away to give the cats a sense of safety, but close enough so that you can see them. 

      There are several reasons to make sure you always have an eye on the traps. Leaving a cat uncovered in a trap for too long will increase the cat’s stress and could lead to injury since they thrash against the cage. (You may want to place a sheet over just the back part of the trap—not the front—before you place the trap so you can easily cover the entire thing after the cat is caught. This could also encourage the cat to go inside the trap since it appears to be a covered, safe place.) When in a trap, the cat is exposed—and could be injured by other animals or a malicious person. Also, traps may be stolen, damaged, or sprung, or someone who does not understand your intentions may release a trapped cat. To be safe, take an exact count of your traps at the beginning and end of your trapping day.

      In larger colonies there may be multiple trapping locations. It is important not to leave any traps unsupervised, so consider bringing multiple trappers to help. If you are trapping alone don’t put out more traps than you can keep an eye on.

      Be prepared for the fact that you may trap cats that are already eartipped. If you do, it is sometimes best to hold that cat in the trap, covered, until the cats you are aiming for have been trapped.

      Trapping a feral cat may take some time, be patient. It may take the cat a few minutes to go into the trap, so make sure the trap is sprung, and the cat securely trapped, before you approach the trap.
    • After the cat has been trapped, spring into action. Cover the entire trap with a large towel or sheet before moving it. Covering the traps will help to keep the cats calm. Move trapped cats away to a quiet, safe area to avoid scaring any remaining, un-trapped cats.

      It is normal for cats to thrash around inside the trap. You may be tempted to release a thrashing cat because you fear that she will hurt herself, but cats calm down once the trap is covered. Remember, you are doing this for her benefit. If she is released, she will continue to breed, and you may not be able to trap her again. Also, most injuries from traps are very minor, such as a bruised or bloody nose or a scratched paw pad. 

      You should never open the trap or try to touch a conscious or semi-conscious feral cat. Behave appropriately around trapped cats by being calm, quiet, and not touching them, even if they appear friendly under normal circumstances.

      When an entire colony is being trapped from the same area, it does not make sense to take each cat from the location directly after the trap is sprung. This could disturb the area and scare the other cats away. Instead, when you are setting the traps out you can partially cover them to help calm the cats once they are trapped. Since they will at least have part of the trap that is covered, they can feel safe and you can keep the trap where it is. This helps reduce stress to the trapped cat and reduce the odds of other cats being frightened away.

      Keep in mind that these are guidelines and some situations will call for you to deviate from them. For example, if a cat is severely thrashing around you may need to go ahead and cover the trap and remove it from the area, or if you are trapping in cold weather, cats should be covered and moved to a warm location (like your car) as soon as they are trapped.

      During a quiet moment when no other cats are investigating the set traps, or if the trapped cats are making noise and deterring other cats from approaching the traps, remove the full traps and put them in the holding vehicle. Rebait any traps that have had the bait eaten but have not sprung.
    • You may be faced with particularly hard-to-trap cats. Cats can become trap-shy—frightened to go near or enter a trap, or trap-savvy—mastered the art of removing food without triggering the trap. Don’t be discouraged. There are several unique but straightforward techniques to humanely trap hard-to-trap-cats. Follow these tips to help with your efforts.
    • Count your traps again when you are finished to ensure you didn’t leave any traps behind.
    • Take the cats to a veterinarian or a spay/neuter clinic. You should have already made appointments for sterilization and vaccination before beginning to trap. Confirm that only dissolvable sutures will be used, eliminating the need for a follow-up visit to remove stitches.

      If your appointments are not the same day as the trapping, keep the cats indoors in their covered traps and make sure they are dry, in a temperature-controlled environment, and away from dangers such as toxic fumes, other animals, or people. Your trapping should coincide with the clinic’s ability to neuter right away—or the very next morning, so the cats don’t remain in their traps for long. (IMPORTANT: It is possible for a cat to die from hypothermia or heat stroke when confined in a trap outside. A simple guideline—if it is too hot or cold outside for you, then it is too hot or cold for the cats.)
    • Never move trapped cats in the trunk of a car or the open bed of a pickup truck—this is unsafe and it terrifies the cats. If traps must be stacked inside the vehicle, be sure to secure the traps with bungee cords or other restraints and place puppy pads or newspaper between the stacked traps. If an unsecured trap tips sideways or upside down, it can open and release the cat. If it seems precarious, it won’t work. Don’t take the risk.
    1. The cats should be returned to you in the same covered traps in which they were brought to the clinic, with clean newspaper inside. You will receive medical records, including rabies vaccine certificates. Be sure to save these!
    2. After surgery, allow the cat to recover overnight. Keep the cats indoors in their covered traps and make sure they are dry, in a temperature-controlled environment, and away from loud noises or dangers such as toxic fumes, other animals, or people. When the cats are recovering from anesthesia they are unable to regulate their body temperature. It is important that the recovery location is temperature-controlled to keep the cats from getting too hot or too cold. A basement or bathroom will usually do the trick.
    3. Put your safety first. Keep the traps covered to reduce the cats' stress. Never open the trap doors or allow the cats out of the trap. Do not stick your fingers through the bars or attempt to handle the cats.
    4. Monitor the cats. Check the cats often for their progress; keep an eye out for bleeding, infection, illness, and lack of appetite. If a cat is vomiting, bleeding, having difficulty breathing, or not waking up, get veterinary assistance immediately. Ask the clinic before the surgery how to reach them if there are surgical complications. If a cat is vomiting while still unconscious, her head should be turned to avoid choking. Sometimes this can be achieved by gently tipping the trap to no more than a 30 degree angle to change the cat’s position. Be careful when tipping the trap so that you don't harm the cat by jostling her too much.
    5. Feed and provide the cats with water after they regain consciousness.Wait eight hours after surgery before feeding adult cats. Kittens can be fed shortly after waking from anesthesia. When feeding the cats, lift the back door of the trap very slowly and allow only a small gap—one-half to one inch at most—to open. Slide a plastic lid with a little bit of food on it through the gap without putting your hand inside the trap. You may want to purchase or borrow a device called an “isolator” or “trap divider” for this purpose. An isolator can be very helpful, especially if you have a trap that does not have a back door. Always relock the trap door. (If you don’t have an isolator device to keep the cat in the back of the trap, and you feel you cannot even slide a plastic lid in without the cat trying to escape, then don’t feed them.)
    6. Hold cats until they recover. Cats usually need to be held for 24 hours after surgery, depending on recovery speed. Male cats and often females can be returned to the trapping site 12 to 24 hours following surgery, as long as they are fully awake and do not require further medical attention. In some cases, females may need 48 hours of recovery, depending on their specific circumstances. You may return nursing mothers as soon as possible, once they completely regain consciousness so they can get back to their kittens. Make sure all cats are fully conscious, clear-eyed, and alert before release. If a cat needs further care (longer than 48 hours), you will need to transfer her to a holding pen. You may also need to transfer cats to a clean trap in case the newspaper is soiled during recovery. 

      In order to transfer a cat from a trap to another holding device like another trap, pen or carrier, you will need an isolator. Begin by putting the front of the covered trap and the front of the new device facing each other. Make sure the new device is covered. Next, insert the isolator in the middle of the trap where the cat is, forcing the cat to the back of the trap. Once this is done, open the front of the trap and the front of the new device. Make sure that the two fronts are touching and will not separate. Then lift the isolator and remove the cover. The cat should go toward the new covered device. As soon as the cat enters the new device, make sure the door is locked.
    7. Return the cats. Release the cat in the same place you trapped him or her. Open the front door of the trap and pull back the cover. Or, if the trap has a rear door, pull the cover away from the back door, pull that door up and off, then completely remove the cover and walk away. Do not be concerned if the cat hesitates a few moments before leaving. She is simply reorienting herself to her surroundings. Sometimes a cat can “disappear” for a few days after she is returned. She will appear eventually. Resume the feeding schedule and continue to provide food and water—she may eat when you are not around.
    8. Thoroughly clean the traps with a nontoxic disinfectant when the returning is complete. Whether the traps are borrowed or your own, they should be cleaned before they are stored. Then they will be ready for the next trapping adventure. Even traps that appear clean must be disinfected—the scent of the cat previously trapped may deter other cats from entering.
    9. Trap the remaining members of the colony if necessary, after a short break of a week or two, and complete the colony’s Trap-Neuter-Return effort. Be prepared for the fact that you may re-trap cats that are already eartipped. If you do, it is sometimes best to hold that cat in the covered trap until the cats you are aiming for have been trapped.
    10. Relocation of the cats should only be done as a last resort. Alley Cat Allies does not recommend relocation; it should be done only under extreme circumstances when the cats’ lives are in eminent danger. In that case, be fully prepared by reading our Guidelines for Safe Relocation of Feral Cats.
    Here is what they say about hard to trap kitties - I need to reread these so that I can get The Twins:

    Tips for Successful Trapping of Trap-Shy Cats

    Cats can become trap-shy—frightened to go near or enter a trap, or trap-savvy—mastered the art of removing food without triggering the trap. Don’t be discouraged. There are several unique but straightforward techniques to humanely trap hard-to-trap-cats.
    • Get the cats used to eating out of the trap. A short break can reduce a cat’s fear of the trap. During this time, keep feeding that cat and others in unset traps for about a week or more before trapping again. Feed the cats in the same place and time as always. Load the trap the opposite way you normally would, so that the food is in the front of the trap and the front door is closed, because you do not want the trap set. Take off the back door or tie it securely open. Place the food by the entrance of the trap, then inside, then over a period of days gradually move it closer to the back. Feed in the same place and time as always. Monitor the traps while the cats eat to ensure traps are not stolen or a cat is not accidentally trapped. The cat will see other cats eating inside the traps and will likely try it as well. When you are ready to trap again, withhold food for 24 hours.
    • Try using a larger size trap. Some cats may be more comfortable entering a larger trap, which has a taller opening and wider sides.
    • Make the trap more enticing. Consider using the following smelly treats as bait:
      - Bits of jarred baby food (not containing onions)
      - Catnip
      - The pungent herb valerian. Make a strong-smelling broth by boiling Valerian Root in water, and then douse the trap with it.
      - Other types of bait, depending on what you originally used, such as “People tuna” in oil, mackerel, canned cat food, sardines, anchovies, or cooked chicken.
    • Use distraction techniques to help coax the cat onto the trigger plate. You may be able to guide some cats into a trap with a laser pointer. You can use a pointer from quite a distance away, too. Another distraction technique is to hang a piece of cooked chicken from a string above the trigger plate. The cat will likely need to step on the trigger to reach the chicken.
    • Place the trap in a more secluded location or camouflage the trap. Moving the trap to a quieter or more protected location can raise the cat’s comfort level enough to enter. Or, you can try to blend the trap in with its surroundings. First, hide the trap under a bush, under a leaning piece of wood, or in a box so the cat feels like he is entering a dark hole. To further disguise the trap, cover it with branches, leaves, camouflage material, burlap or other natural materials. Even simply covering the trap with dark cloth or a towel can do the trick. Be sure that the coverings you use do not interfere with the trap door closing.
    • Withhold food for up to two days. For a particularly trap-savvy cat, you might consider withholding food for up to two days, but do not withhold food for any longer. Never withhold water.
    • Spring the trap yourself. It is possible to manually spring the trap. You can do this by propping the trap door up with a piece of wood or soda bottle and tying a pull string to it. When the cat you want enters, simply pull the string to close the trap. Be sure you practice first.
    • Use a drop trap. If you are still unable to trap a cat or if the cat has learned how to steal bait without springing the trap, consider using a drop trap, which does not rely on a trigger plate to close the trap door. Drop traps allow you to catch a cat without having to force him into a confined space. These traps are generally large, mesh covered squares that, when triggered by you with a rope, fall down over the cat. All drop traps allow you to easily transfer the cat from the drop trap to a regular metal trap. Using a drop trap is often a last resort, because it either requires you to build or purchase your own or find one to borrow. Also, using a drop trap is cumbersome enough that it normally requires the help of another trapper. Read these instructions for building a drop trap. Purchase Alley Cat Allies' Collapsible Drop Trap.
      Take a break from trapping. If a cat will not go into a trap after repeated attempts, take a break for a week or two (except in the case of an injured cat). The trap-shy cat needs to be reconditioned to not be afraid to go in the trap. It is important to stop trapping until you have trapped the trap-shy cat. Continuing will most likely result in the cat becoming increasingly reluctant.

    Gemma is still missing from her home in the city.  I am very upset by this - I cannot begin to tell you.  Then again, if any of you has ever lost a cat, I am sure you know the feeling.

    The Twins were at their spot on Parsells this morning, along with the fluffball boy that is always there waiting for me.  He now allows me to pet him, he is so happy to see me with the wet food.  The girls always wait on the steps.  I was so mad at them for not taking the bait from my two trappers the past three days.  So mad! That one is pregnant and I need to get her before her babies are born on the street!

    Meow and Chow Fundraiser will be held on July 18th!

    Have a nice day.


    1. Have Gemma's family made fliers and given them to every single house in the neighborhood? And they need to put a BIG sign in their front yard with her picture and a phone number with a reward. I can make them a sign if needed. This will greatly help in finding Gemma. Let me know what I can do. -Kristin

    2. Great TNR info Janine, sorry for lost Kitty, what the heck ! She does not know that neighborhood does she, it's very upsetting for me too

    3. You ask what we would do had we encountered strange noises....I'm here to tell you my friend I would run like the wind in the opposite direction! -carol

    4. Have Gemma's family put food out, preferably at night when it's quiet. Put out a sheet or blanket that she has slept on, with her scent. I used dander from my vacuum cleaner and sprinkled it around my yard. 8/9 days later my guy came back.

    5. The big sign in the yard is a great idea, Kristin! I hadn't thought of that one, nor would I have thought of the dander from the vacuum. Good info!

      I hope the Animal Cops investigate that house. Leroy Jethro Gibbs says to always trust your gut! And I agree. :)