I still remember the first time I heard about TNR (trap, neuter, return). It was twelve years ago and it was very clinically explained to me by a woman who did cat rescue. I later learned she didn’t have much compassion for cats. She would trap, neuter/spay, return most of the cats, even ones that could have been socialized (due to their age or due to the fact they were friendly cats who had been outdoors a long while and needed time to adjust). The kittens came to me and got homes, but in my heart TNR never sat well with me because I’m a softie. I don’t like to see cats outside, filthy and starving, or worse…but TNR is the only effective way to compassionately care for feral cats and many of them, who have a caretaker, do great. We've had as many as four feral cats in our yard that Sam and I cared for and we loved them dearly.
I get it. Some cats are going to live outside and there are plenty of things we can do to keep them safe and healthy, at least to a degree. Maybe we can’t medicate them or keep them away from predators completely but we can do better than turn our heads and hope someone else will do something for them.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. How many cats do you see in this photo?
Over the years, too, I’ve accepted the fact that I’m good at some things about rescue and not so good about other things. I’m not a trapper. I’m better at being a nurse to the sick. I can do a bit of fundraising. I can educate people about nutrition or cat behavior so cat’s can have a better life.
The good news is I finally figured out that I don’t have to do everything to rescue a cat because if I can find a good team, between all of us, we can find a way. It always takes a village to rescue a cat.
That’s why a week ago I decided to offer my help when I heard about a colony of over 50 cats in the neighboring town of Waterbury. Normally, this is not something I can take part in, especially a group this size. I decided grant some funds and to help raise more. I knew it would cost a great deal to vet these cats, but it had to be done. With no one doing anything about it, the colony size was exploding.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Everywhere I looked there were cats.
So I raised my hand and thankfully, so did many other people. People who run rescues, who volunteer, who love to trap cats, who don’t mind driving a truckload of trapped cats to the vet. Some offered room to take on the friendly cats, if there were any. Most of these people never worked together before, but because of their dedication to these cats, they’re trying to put aside any differences and focus on the alarmingly huge task ahead.
What’s also amazing is the location is next to a very large manufacturing plant and warehouse. While there is a nuisance aspect to having so many cats on their property, most of the employees love the cats. They just don’t know what to do for them. A few of them even adopted previous litters of kittens. It’ll make our job a lot easier to have their support and permission. In return, I realize we need to educate them and leave them with resources so they know what to do when the next feral cat shows up at their door---and it will happen.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. This is where I started to get scared I should have stayed home and hid under the bed, but I couldn't give up on these cats.
The main contributing factor to our job is the enormous apartment complex right behind where the cats are living. It’s very clear to me due to the wide variety of cat colors and patterns that many of these cats were dumped. There’s no way they are all inter-related. It makes my blood boil because none of this had to happen, and certainly in not such gross numbers, if only their former families had spayed or neutered their cats. Now we’re the unpaid volunteers who will deal with this situation, spend many long hours and drink too much coffee while waiting for traps to snap shut.
The first time I walked the property it reminded me of being on a ride at Disney World; the one where you ride a boat around a lagoon. You turn left and an alligator pops up out of the water, then right and you see a monkey swinging out of a tree, towards you on a vine. At the lot, it was almost as if the cats appeared on cue. As I opened pouches of food, they slowly walked towards me. I’d see one sitting on the hood of a car, then realize there were really three cats there. They blended in to their surroundings so well my eyes had to adjust to seeing cats everywhere I turned.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Getting ready for snack time.
Within a few minutes, I quickly counted twenty cats. I was told that the rule of thumb is to double the number you see in the daytime because many more come out at night. The workers had told us they counted up to 63 cats, but until we start trapping we won’t really know. We just know it’s a bad situation even though the cats are being fed every single day by a very very wonderful lady who works across the street from the lot.
Of course, as I looked at each cat I had to fight off the urge to try to pet them. They came close to us, but did not solicit attention. Some of them were fairly dirty and a few looked like they had a slight upper respiratory tract infection. One had lost a good deal of her fur, another had a slight limp. I expected to see things like this, but I was not prepared for what I saw next.
I was standing next to a flat bed trailer, opening more pouches of food. I looked down and what I saw made me gasp in horror. It was a small black and white, long haired cat. At least I think it’s fur was long, but it was so seriously matted and filthy it must have given up grooming itself months ago. In contrast to the other cats in the lot, this cat was in dire condition. It still had lovely crystalline green eyes and a sweet face, except for the band of thick, ropey mucous or maybe even pus, coming out of his mouth. He moved very slowly. I could tell he was skin and bones and in a unimaginable amount of pain.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. My first glimpse of pure heartbreak.
He or she walked past a pile of kibble. I doubted he could smell it. I happened to have some fish flavored canned food and he could smell that. He came over and greedily tried to eat turning his head to the side, then scooping small mouthfuls out of the side of his mouth as fast as she could.
Most of the other cats had enough weight on their bones, but this one did not. He needed to get to a vet as soon as possible, but without a trap it was going to be tough to get him.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. She looked even worse in person.
I had to fight the urge to try to scoop him into my arms and race to the vet, but it was vital he eat something. If I took a step too close he would back away. I stood as still as possible so he could focus on trying to get food into his mouth. As I stood there my chest tightened and my eyes burned as I fought off crying over this poor animal. I’ve seen lots of very sick kittens in my day and I’ve had to humanely euthanize some of them, too, but I’ve never seen anything this bad in my life and it was ripping my heart out to see this sweet kitty suffering.
I called over to my associates and told them about the cat. We all agreed he had to be the first one we trapped. Though we did try to coax him into a cat carrier, he was too timid. I almost got him, but he was still strong enough to know to stay away from us. We knew if we didn’t act fast he’d die.
It broke my heart to leave. I didn’t sleep much that night. I kept thinking about that cat and all the others, trying to find a warm dry place to sleep, most probably full of parasites or fleas. What a lousy life.
GOOD NEWS! The next day, I was thrilled to learn that the cat got trapped. It took all afternoon before it was found, then trapped. But shortly thereafter we realized we had to quickly figure out the answer to the “now what do we do” question. We had this cat, but we didn’t have time to do a fundraiser for the spays/neuters that needed to be done, let alone an emergency vet visit.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. That discoloration under her nose is a great deal of mucuos.
I offered to cover a some of the costs through my non-profit, Kitten Associates, until we could fundraise, but it was a Friday night and the vets were all closing.
We also had to have a depressing conversation about what would cause us to tell the vet to humanely euthanize this cat. First, could he be saved AT ALL. Were we already too late?
Would we put him down due to costs? No. Would we put him down if he was positive for Feline Leukemia. No, not right away. We would re-test a positive result and honestly, I think as long as he had good odds to recover we’d find a safe placement for him. If the vet said there was no chance to save him, then we agreed we’d have to let him go.
Now began the long painful wait to get answers on this cat’s future.
Trapped! A good start, but are we too late to save her life?
None of us wanted to start this mass-rescue by killing any of the cats, especially since I had to make the painful choice to put Lady Saturday down just a few days before. Her age and failing kidneys had caught up with her. There was no way we could help her other than to let her go with peace and surrounded by people who loved her. I couldn’t face that again, even if it was with a cat I didn’t know.
One of our teammates got the cat to her vet. It was late and they couldn’t do much for the cat until the next day, but right away they got her on antibiotics and pain meds. They only had time to shave her behind so they could tell that we did have a SHE and not a HE.
It took another day to find out the answer to the big question: did she have FIV or FeLV? Thankfully, the answer was NO. She was clear of those diseases.
Waterbuy 1's view of the world as she begins her life version 2.0.
The cat needed to be groomed to cut the filthy, smelly mats off her. She appeared to be 3 to 6 years old, but it was too tough to tell because one way is by looking at her teeth and her mouth was in one of the worst conditions the vet had ever seen. She has such severe stomatitis that it’s amazing she could eat at all. She also has ulcers on her tongue, too. It must hurt like Hell.
ALL OF HER TEETH HAVE TO BE REMOVED if she is to have any chance at a comfortable life.
It’s a painful, long procedure and quite expensive, but in the end she should be able to live a normal life, with one big exception.
SHE CAN NEVER GO BACK TO THE COLONY. She would not survive without her teeth and she’d freeze without her fur. She needs a safe, warm place to recover from her procedure, then a forever home. We need to sort this out, but right now we need to get her dental done ASAP.
The good news is we’ve already raised $800. The bad news is we need to raise about $800 more and that’s just to cover this cat’s dental care. We also need to raise funds beyond the $800, to spay/neuter the remaining cats and based on the two other sick cats, funds to help them, too.
It's hard to read but the estimate is basically $1000-$1600.00. Our vet's info is below where you can confirm with them or make a donation.
If you’d like to help give this feral kitty a chance to have a pain-free future, here are ways you can make a big difference.
The kitty is named Waterbury 1, but we'll give her a proper name soon.
DONATE: DIRECTLY TO HER VET-A special fund has been set up for her with:
Dr. Kristine Matz
"c/o Kitten Associates and Waterbury 1"
Animal Medical Care of CT
490 Cornwall Avenue
Cheshire, CT 06410
DONATE: TO KITTEN ASSOCIATES and we'll provide the funds to the Vet. Any left over funds will go to our spay/neuter needs or to vet care for another sick cat from this colony.
Use these quick links:
To donate $5: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/5
To donate $10: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/10
To donate $25: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/25
To donate whatever you wish: https://www.paypal.me/kittenassociates/
To mail a check, make it out to: Kitten Associates, P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354
Your gift is tax deductible. Kitten Associates is a 501c3 non-profit. Our EIN Tax ID is 27-3597692. PLEASE PUT A NOTE ON YOUR CHECK: "Waterbury Ferals" or "Feral50" so we can direct the funds appropriately.
TO HELP SPAY/NEUTER CATS DONATE DIRECTLY TO NUTMEG CLINIC. Please add a note that it's for KITTEN ASSOCIATES, WATERBURY CATS/Feral 50
THANK YOU for loving and caring for cats and their well-being. We can't do these rescues WITHOUT ALL OF YOU.
©2017 Robin AF Olson. Already in love with this sweet baby, I've got everything crossed that she will be okay one day. We're off to a good start.
UPDATE: Waterbury 1 is stable and I will have news about her condition shortly. Stay tuned for more news...and news about a few other kitties who have just been trapped! 8 cats trapped and a bunch more to go (including, dare I say it, the newest member of my family?).