Pam's TNR Blog - Week of 1/3/10
There was no Tempe clinic on 1/3 due to New Year's. It was now 1010 and 7,796 cats had been sterilized in 2009. What a way to end the year. Now it was time to charge ahead, to fix even more cats in 2010. With kitten season looming, it would be critical to fix as many cats as possible before kitten season begins.
One of our vets had said he could take a lot of ferals on 1/4. Due to the holiday they only had a few surgeries scheduled and were looking for business. What an opportunity! So on Friday, Suzie and I looked at some possibilities for filling up the clinic. I called a caregiver in the West valley who had been waiting for help since June. She was feeding about 13 cats and the neighbor across the street was feeding 40 cats - a total of 53 cats. The vet said he wanted cats so we looked at each other and said; "let's go for it".
I filled my vehicle with 28 traps and Suzie packed in 25 for a total of 53 traps. We figured we could double them up if there were a few extras. Our caravan headed West to Surprise driving to an address almost the White Tank Mountains. It was a perfect trapping night. We kept driving and driving thinking it must be at the end of the road...and it was!
Upon arrival Suzie started trapping at the first caregiver's place on the E. side of the street. I started at the caregiver across the street. These cats were really all part of the same colony as many went back and forth looking for the most tasty dinner. When I pulled in the driveway there were more cats than I'd ever seen in one place. The photo gives some idea of the numbers but one had to be there to really appreciate it. Clearly there were more than 40 cats. With the help of the caregiver I started trapping with lightning speed. At least five cats were in the front seat of my car trying to get the tuna. This was a trapper's nirvana. When Suzie arrived after catching about 6 cats across the street I had already had filled up all 28 of my traps. We started baiting her traps and within a half hour or so her traps were also full. We then started doubling up cats. That night we trapped 63 cats before running out of smaller cats to double up. I hated to double up a couple of big tomcats so the rest would have to wait until the next night.
I texted the vet tech from the clinic that wanted lots of cats the next day and she confirmed that "a lot of cats" only meant 25 cats maximum. Well, we had 38 cats too many and there were six other cats scheduled for that clinic already. the new plan was for me to take 31 cats to Tempe, Suzie to take 22 cats to N. Phoenix and the caregiver to drive in 12 cats to one of our West side clinics.
I drove to Tempe very early to deliver 31 cats. I picked up the second batch of 20 cats later in the day and Suzie picked up the other 12 cats. We drove to Tempe together pick up the 31 cats. After unloading all 63 of the cats in my garage we headed back out for a second night's trapping. This time we went together in my vehicle with only 24 traps underestimating once again just how many cats there were. After doubling up again we ended up with 32 cats! These would go to three vets in the morning. The logistics of this was getting interesting. The cats we trapped had to be left there overnight along with a couple of traps we manged to free up by doubling cats. Since we were coming back in the morning to release the 63 cats we'd be able to them up. I knew ALL the traps would be filled and and we still saw cats!
We headed back to Phoenix, stopping at Suzie's so she could get her car. Our plan was for both of us to feed the cats at my place. When we got to my place we decided to load the cats up in bother vehicles after feeding them as we knew we would be too tired to do this in the AM.
After a few hours sleep I met Suzie and we both drove out to Surprise with 63 cats. Between the ones trapped the night before and the ones trapped overnight we had a total of 33 cats. After releasing the 63 cats we loaded up 19 cats in Suzie's vehicle to go to one vet and 13 in my vehicle to go to two vets as one of the three already was at capacity. If this was not enough I had received a call at 6:00 AM and the resort in Phoenix had another trapped cat. This one would have to wait until I dropped off 7 cats needing to be at that vet by 8:00 AM. I picked up the one cat in Phoenix and headed to the second vet with the six plus one for a total of 7 cats.
All cats were picked up and brought back to my garage once again. After that I had a trapping job nearby for about eight cats which I caught pretty easily that night and overnight. Those were left in the car overnight.
I released the resort cat very early...then took the cats in the car to the vet before setting out again for Surprise to release the second wave of cats. This time we had enough room for the drop-trap to go after some of the cats still alluding us. Before releasing we drop-trapped for several hours and caught four more cats including the calico on the E. side of the street. These cats would have to wait until Thursday to go to the vet. We took as many dirty traps back as possible but left the drop-trap for the next morning.
I took the third wave of cats to the vet in the AM after releasing the previousday's cats from the other caregiver. I can hardly remember much of what happened that day. We were approaching over 100 cats not including the other ones I'd trapped at other places. I know I managed to set traps at the nearby place that night but caught no cats and I aftercared the third wave of cats.
We headed back in the AM to release cats fixed on 1/7. We had left the dropper there and planned on trying again for a few more. This time we caught only two cats making a total of 101 cats total. This was the largest single colony I'd ever trapped. I'd trapped 110 cats over a 4 day period in a trailer park in 2008 but cats were at several different locations. It took a total of seven days from start to finish as these two cats would need to go to the vet late on Friday and would not be ready until Saturday morning (thanks to one of our wonderful vets who took them late and held them overnight for aftercare).
Suzie picked up the last two cats from the vet and released them in the morning. We'd have to swing into action that night to try to fill up the 1/10 Tempe clinic as once again there were last minute cancellations. At least we had a day to wash traps. There were several more out there including a dilute tortie we could not catch. The caregiver also had 21 tame cats in the house we'd be going back for in a month or so - with the drop-trap to catch that tortie! One breeding tortie can cause a LOT of damage and she needed to be caught.
The sad part of this story was that nine cats out of this colony had to beeuthanized. When colonies are allowed to get this big, even as many (or few) as 30-40 cats, there is a lot of inbreeding and disease. The cats were well fed and the caregivers truly cared about the cats. However, things quickly got out of control until the point where they did not have the resources to fix them. Being well fed allowed them to breed prolifically while all the while the colony was "trying" to stabilize. The result was a lot of suffering. This is why I cannot emphasis enough how important it is to fix the cats before this happens. It is also important to fix ALL the cats and to continue to monitor the colony for any new unsterilized cats. Also, do not look for cats to feed. Unfed, truly wild cats, produce fewer litters and have fewer kittens per litter. One is not doing cats a favor by feeding them and not fixing them - in my opinion this is animal cruelty and I saw it first hand. This is the way nature works.
Please consider a tax-deductible donation to our TNR program to help caregivers in need. Our vet costs are higher this time of year due to in-heat and pregnant cats. We need your help. Visit our website at:
Next week - More trailer park tails!