Friday, March 31, 2006

Helicopter and Tranquilizer Gun Resolve Feral Cat Problem.


Divided we fall...

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"You have been banned from this group by the group moderator (Yahoo! ID banned: wildrun2). You may not join the group XXX."

Huh. Okay. Whatever you say. Don't know who you are, what I said to tick you off (or where I said it), but I'll just click over to Google News and search for "feral cats" for my feral cat news, instead. Thank you, and have a nice day.

Saturday Post-Note:

The above was posted last night when I was too tired to comment intelligently. I actually knew I was banned from that list a long time ago when I tried to join. I re-tried when I received an email from a person who tried to post ONCE to the list. Their post was rejected, and they were immediately banned. They asked me if I had any experience with the listserv. So I went to check my status, and to be tickled pink again about being banned from anything.

I am generally considered to be a pretty milk-toast type of person (in public) To be considered edgy enough to ban is actually kind of sweet.

I haven't posted much on listservs for about two years but I used to be quite active. My occasional "post of spirit" (ummm...rants) were generally in response to people, on either side of the cat debate, who insisted on stereotyping all cat people as "animal rights activists" or "cat wackos" or the alternate: condemning animal control and biologists as "murderers."

I'm not a big fan of black and white reasoning and about the only thing the drives me off the deep end are people who have never even tried to manage a cat population (by any method) who issue blanket condemnations.

Listservs are wonderful things and some evolve into very special, vibrant communities. By their nature, they become a hierarchy...there are the small community of people who post regularly (these people change over time)...those who ask a question now and then, and those who lurk.

Good listservs are strong enough to survive when people leave. I check in on the listservs I really love, and you know what? They are doing just fine without me posting regularly. It's good for players to change.

Each list has an owner or moderator. Some moderators stay in the background and may not participate at all. Others quietly admonish or remove serious troublemakers and abusers. Some are quite active in their online community and may be a strong part of the lists personality. Some moderators are so "present" that the listserv is basically just them, posting information (which can be fine, if that is what the list is for).

I'm not a very good moderator. First, you need to stump for your list and get people on it. That's some serious work. With a blog, if you are happy with just a few readers, that's fine. With a listserv, you need a fairly large community to have a vibrant list. I was never very good at stumping. I had two national lists that did OK and one local listserv that was a real flop.

Rarely, I come across a listserv that is basically trying to act like a blog. It is a cult of personality for the moderator: "I like you, so you can stay. I don't think I will like what you will say even if you are polite about it, so I'll ban you." To me, that seems somewhat counter to the point of a listserv, but before blogs, there really wasn't another tool for people who wanted to gather a community of "people who think like me and come here just to read me me me me."

If you aren't there to specifically serve the online community and encourage dialogue, then it's not a listserv you want. It's a blog, where your readers choose YOU daily, you can link or not link to others, and your regular visitors will be people who want to read what you have to say.

Of course, the problem with having a blog is that people are free to criticize you on other blogs. (smile...surprise!). And even if you ban someone from leaving comments, you can't usually ban them from reading your blog. And people who have problems with control don't like that much.

Listservs can develop into closed enclaves. This is fine for groups that are in fact closed (a membership, a working group). The enclave mentality isn't so great, however, if you are claiming to be the source of information for the wider community.

Either you are one person or small group holding forth (a blog) or you are a promoter of interactive open dialogue intended to create a live personality of its own, distinct from you (a listserv moderator).

If someone is trying to do both, perhaps there is a little something going on with power issues.

There you go. I'm off to trap some kitties now.

(and maybe buy some pansies..)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Houston, we have a problem.

Notice. This is not. cat. related.

Do me a favor and Google Jeffrey Williams. Pardon me, but am I the only one who thinks that, had he been launching off an American spacepad, we'd be hearing whole lot more about this?

(I know I'm not).

He's an AMERICAN. He launched into SPACE. No matter what country he is launching from (and perhaps, even more newsworthy because this is a cooperative venture) this is brave, brave, brave. Brave, romantic...and all those newsworthy adjectives. Where was the countdown? Where was the breath-holding until we knew he was safe?

God Bless. Stay safe. And I hope every American media outlet not adequately covering this tonight or tomorrow has a lousy night's sleep. Because this is one of our major problems in the good old U.S of A. If it ain't all about us, it ain't worth covering. Even when it's about one of our own citizens. Why isn't the International Space Station more of a story?

Because it ain't all about us.

Interesting info here

You are a true cat person...

...if you know the answer to the question, "Why would you spit on your hands before petting a cat?"

(I just saw my husband spit on his hands...HA! He's a convert!)

Is it spring?

Before.... Posted by Picasa

After. Let's hope I'm not looking stupid in a week with a flower banner and eighteen inches of snow all around. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

From the "senior cat" line...

...there is Sammy, of whom I can't get a decent shot to save my life. He has great huge eyes that reflect my flash, and he constantly looks straight at me. I can't distract him for a side shot of his head. However, he loves his wet food! Sammy is doing really well, although he doesn't like coming out of his cage. He purrs, rolls, and headbutts. He eats like a champion and is a nice weight. He does drink a lot (a reflection of his early kidney disease). He is a sweetheart. Posted by Picasa

Instead of a feral cat rescue...

...we are becoming the "Spencer Home for Aging Cats." This is Miles. He is one of the two cats I accepted from a neighbor today. He is fourteen or so, quite friendly, and he needs a bit of dental work. Posted by Picasa

This is Gunsmoke. He is a passionately friendly cat...with a serious ear problem. I thought at first he just had crinkled up ears from old hematomas. I'm sure that's what his caretakers probably thought as well. But when I got a closer look at them, I could see he has a long-term ear mite infection that has caused infection and thickening of the ear. The crinkle will be permanent and there may be fluid in there that needs to be removed. Those mites need to go, and I can't do it myself. I usually like cleaning ears (it's pretty satisfying to help them shake that junk out). But this is beyond me. He's going to need to go under anesthesia for a vet to take a look down there. When I tried to gently flush one ear, he let me know in no uncertain terms that he wasn't putting up with any of THAT, thank you!

They have settled in pretty well, and both have found their purr.

I still haven't seriously made arrangements for my cats if something should happen to me, or to both Mark and I. I should probably put out feelers and compile a list of friends and past adopters who might be willing to take one cat should something ever happen. My own family is pretty much at cat-capacity. I've agreed to take my mom's cats should she be unable to care for them, and of course I would take my sister's in an emergency. But neither one of them can take 24 cats if something should happen on this end.

Fast Food Feral visit

I miss my downtown cats. There is no way I can get there to feed them everyday, and I'm so glad that I have volunteers who can manage it for me. Once a week or so I go down and fill the food can. Because the cats have often already been fed that day, they usually aren't around when I arrive. Their food bowl is still full so there is no reason to come out when they here me crashing around. But now and then someone is hanging out on top of shelter. Sunday, Vannie was watching, and even let me get close enough to take a photograph of her. She is about four years old now--perhaps five. She's such a pretty thing, and there isn't a friendly bone in her furry chubby body. I keep this blog probably more so I can return to scroll through the photos than for any other reason. Posted by Picasa

Sometimes I go into town and completely space about bringing a bag of food...even though that is why I am actually going in. Time like these, a coupon like this comes in handy. There are generous individuals in town who have, in the past, made these available to me, although they were told to stop, so I may not be seeing more. I keep them in the glove box of the truck, and when I need food, and I'm in a bind, I can redeem one for a free 16 pound bag of Purina One, which is a decent food. It's better than most pet cats get, let alone street cats! True to form, Sunday I forgot a bag of food, and I dug out my last one. I'd best not forget the food again!

On a very sad note, a neighbor passed away, and two of her cats are coming to us tomorrow. They are senior cats, like Sammy. I will post their photos, and new ones of Sammy, tomorrow.Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 26, 2006

I believe...

I believe in trap/neuter/return.

However, I come from a traditional animal control background, as well as wildlife control, and there is a stubborn part of me that is a skeptic. I believe that TNR works if it is managed aggressively...but really, how many people do it right?

If you don't get every cat, and for some reason the caretaker walks away, all it takes is one unfixed cat, and it's all going to go right down the tube, drowned in new kittens.

But consistently, colonies come along that prove the skeptic in me wrong.

It happened again today.

A friend of mine was injured this week. He was found by a farmer who had been plowing fields. Two years ago, at the request of the local SPCA, I had captured 32 cats for that same farmer for spay/neuter. There were a few cats still left unfixed when the access to free spay/neuter ran out. I meant to return the next year to fix more and remove any new cats and kittens. But my life intervened, and I put it on hold, meaning again and again to get out there.

When I was told this farmer had, in essence, saved my friend's life, I drove out today, determined to take my punishment for delaying a return trip. I was going to have to start all over again, I was sure. There would be kittens in the hay (actually straw) stacks, and new cats galore.

I was sure of this. I went prepared to come home with kittens in tow. Not only that, the previous cats would all need rabies boosters.

But this farmer had stopped to help a person in need. It is possible other people may have gone right by. He deserved a kitten-free barn. That was what I had promised him two years ago.

When I drove up to the huge hay barn, no one was around, so I took it upon myself to trespass. Posted by Picasa

This fellow greeted me, curled up the in loose straw just inside the door. Two other cats were startled into running. They were all sporting left eartips that meant they had been fixed and vaccinated. Posted by Picasa

In fall, this vast barn is filled with hay and straw. These stacks have nooks and crannies that are perfect for cats to hide in and stay protected and warm. The bales are loaded up on tractor trailers (and yes, the whole tractor and trailer can actually be driven into this barn) and shipped out for sale over the winter. Posted by Picasa

At this time of year, while there are still thousands of bales left, the barn is mostly empty. It is large enough to store the haying equipment. Posted by Picasa

In this shot, I'm standing in the same place as the previous shot, but looking left. The tires on that tractor are taller than I am. Down at the end is the remaining hay from last growing season. And there is a lot of hay down there. This barn is vast. Posted by Picasa

The windows and doors remain open to provide ventilation so the straw dries out. The cats leap out the back windows to hunt the hundreds and hundreds of acres of field. I leaned out to take a look around, and saw five cats working the land. I zoomed in on this fellow.

Look! Left eartip. So far every single cat was tipped.

I walked back to the hay, and cats who had been tip-toeing across the tops of the bales melted away into the darkness. When I came outside, this guy was caught trying to zip away from me, not realizing I was on my way out in the same direction Posted by Picasa

I remember him! He had been a kitten-of-the-year at the time I had been trapping. Most of the cats were solid grays, blacks, and tigers, but four had been gray/white and black/white. Posted by Picasa

When I got back to my truck, I noticed there was a truck parked next to me. I had expected that once someone noticed me poking around, someone would show up. I went to the egg packaging room and yelled a hello. The farmer cheerfully said "Hi," and I went on in. He was opening canned cat food for the cats.

Someone has been eating pretty well. Posted by Picasa

He talked to me about the cats who were milling around, waiting for their dinner. The tubby black female above had been hugely pregnant when I'd been there last, and had her kittens in a bare cardboard box before I could catch her. I took the kittens, and got her fixed. The cat who had been hopping on three legs was still around and was now walking fine.

The farmer was pretty sure they still had most of the cats they'd had two years ago. A few had disappeared, but not many.

"You still think you still have around 30 cats?"

He said yes, he was sure.

"And how many kittens since then?"



Not a single kitten in two years, since almost all the cats were fixed. "And we've had two silver tabbies dropped off," he said, "But they haven't had any kittens."

So instead of facing a spring of fixing a failed TNR colony, bottle-raising kittens that I fished out of the haybales, all I had to do was capture cats for revaccination (which could be done inside the trap, in the parking lot at my vets) and get the two new cats fixed.

That's it.

TNR had worked far beyond my own expectations.

I then mentioned to the farmer that the real reason I had gotten my butt in gear to stop by after all this time, was because he had helped my friend. I shook his hand and thanked him for all he had done, and assured him I would be back to start catching cats.

He seemed pleased and surprised that the world was so small and things like this came full circle.

And so was I.

The ghosts of the business highway strip...

Last year when I attended this conference--at a different hotel--I went out to my truck the second morning to find a feral cat crouched beneath it. This year, I went out the second morning, and a bedraggled gray and white cat was sniffing around this storm drain. He slipped away before I could get my camera set, and I ended up with just this this furry shot of his head looking back at me as he trotted off (two ears and gray and white face are all you will see here). When I walked across the parking lot, he was gone. I left some food where I had seen him, but that was mostly to console myself, rather than the cat. Given the large number of Canada geese stalking around, it's more likely they found it before the cat returned on his rounds.

These ghosts are on every business strip, in every town. If they are lucky, someone will say "You are my problem," and take the area under their protective wing, getting the cats fed, fixed, and where possible, homed.

The problem of evil

I don't think I've mentioned on this version of my blog that my education was in philosophy. A question examined in early-level philosophy is the problem of evil.. In 20th century layperson lingo, this is translated as When Bad Things Happen to Good People.

I am an atheist, and the "Problem of Evil" is usually addressed as a question about whether or not God exists. But even atheists rail against this reality: How come it seems like the people who do the most good in the world, often get struck by the greatest adversity?

We can say "Hey, it has nothing to do with how good a person is. Illness can befall anyone."

Yet we are creatures who believe so solidly in fairness. In karma. That those who do good, should received good in return. Even if reject the idea of supernatural power, there is just something in the nature of the human community that wants to see good people rewarded with similar goodness.

I have some friends--good people. The very best of people. The kind of people you don't often get to meet in your life. One of them has fallen very ill, and indeed, his life was just saved the other day by another generous soul...a person who stopped when he saw someone in trouble, and didn't just drive on by. I'm not going to write about the situation because it's not my place.

But it disturbs me. No, damn it, it pisses me off! I stamp my foot like a child: "Not fair! Not fair!"

And then the question becomes: What can I do to help? And if there is nothing I can do to help them directly, what can I do to fill in, to help do what perhaps they now may have to put on hold? It just feels like there should be some karmic balance: If they must take some time to concentrate on themselves for awhile, shouldn't others who care do a bit more good in the world, to make up for what they are unable to do, now?

I am sure readers have similar friends who have faced similar suffering. What did you do to help or honor them?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Fighting oppression...

In the insidious malaise that has struck America, where we watch freedom chipped away from us bit by bit, and protests are ignored by our administration, this is the first real strike on the side of freedom that I've seen in the last three years.

I'm jealous

Dogma gets to visit The Cat's House. Click on the righthand kitty to see their new photos!

I will be headed to New Jersey to the AWFNJ Conference late tomorrow. Alden can't take care of the cats as he normally does when I'm traveling, so Mark will be watching the clan. I probably should bring him back something other than just a T-shirt.

I'm not minding the drive too much. After all, last year when I went to this conference, I drove home in this.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Periodic reminder...

...Don't forget to visit the most beautiful blog in the world.

New chair! Dibs! Dibs!

I got this from a yard sale last fall for $30. It was pretty filthy, but in great condition, and I've been hiding it in the "off limits to cats" room after scrubbing the heck out of it. I pulled it out this weekend when Mark's parents came over for coffee and tea, and the cats were immediately fascinated. Two days later, it's old news, and Squeak spent the entire day asleep in it...alone. Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 20, 2006

Keep your fur on, kitties!

We just got linked by Thank you, Franny! And welcome, visitors.

Visitors make a difference

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Saturday when I was delivering Rocket to her new home, Jen and Sam came out to visit, and I got the greatest email from them today (don't worry, I always cut out any personal/embarassing stuff when I post my friends' email to the world):

I just had to tell you how sweet the cats were on Saturday. Ben and Tiger Tom were cuddly as usual, but Perci was much more affectionate than she's ever been towards us. She was nuzzling her head in when we pet her (even when we had no babyfood).

Wings was rubbing against our legs and rolling on his back at our feet for us to pet his belly. We got to see Kid's personality for the first time. What a sweetie! She
hopped up in the window and wanted to play with the feather toy, so I brought it in the cat room and she played and pushed into my hand when I pet her, cuddling her head in. I had never gotten up close and personal with her before. She's absolutely gorgeous. Aside from Tiger Tom and Ben, none of them had ever really sought out our attention before.

Even Pinky didn't run away when we came in. He was sitting on top of Sammie's cage at first, and after a while, he came a little closer. He even let me stroke his face a little, but didn't push into it or take any babyfood. We stayed
longer than usual. Sam brought some reading that she needed to get done. I think we'll do that next time too, because it was nice to hang out with the cats for a couple of hours and really have time to play with more than just the usual 2 or 3 that come out when we visit.

I've been spending a lot more time with the cats, now that work is a bit more under control. And of course, Alden comes to visit now and then. And he or Jen and Sam come to visit, I can really see the difference in them. All it takes is just a small amount of quality time to really make these shy guys shine. Even with normal, outgoing pet cats, just a few minutes a few times a day with a toy will turn them into something other than the couch potatos we often let them become.

With the "formerly feral" cats, it's even more important for them to have quality time with different people. There aren't a lot of people I can trust to just give a key to and say "come on in whenever you want." With Jen and Sam I just had a gut feeling it was OK.

It's always laundry time

It was a laundry weekend. While towels are regularly getting washed, there is always at least one weekend a month where everything gets ripped down, ripped off, and washed, all at once. The problem with cat laundry is that, once it's "all" done, these clean towels go down on the cat beds, and the towels that were on the shelves and in cages, go into the laundry basket. And then the laundry needs to be done all over again, otherwise those towels will sit around for another week Posted by Picasa

Shelves with fur-covered towels.... Posted by Picasa

...get nice clean towels... Posted by Picasa

...which leaves another big pile of dirty laundry to be done today. Oh well! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 19, 2006

While in Syracuse, I called my sister, who has a house near Cooperstown but has a room in Syracuse as she recently was awarded an orchestral position there. She has adopted two cats from me over the years, so we met at a Wegman's Cafe (hey, it's big and easy to find) and then headed on over to see Sylvie and Harley. I bottleraised Harley, so of course (as the cat who SHOULD have been the tamest) he hid under the bed and refused to be seen. Sylvie was a feral kitten until about 18 weeks of age, and he was lounging in some serious relaxation, and even let me walk over and pet him, until he smelled Rocket and strange houses, and rolled off the bed to hide. Harley was born in a big flowerpot in an Ithaca College greenhouse, and Sylvie was rescued from a mobile home park in Newfield. It appears they've come up a bit in the world since then. Posted by Picasa

Rocket's doing fine.

I got an email from April today. Rocket's doing OK in her new home. She's unsure of the kids and the dog, but she came out and played (which is the realm of feral cat adoption, is pretty much a miracle). To see a friend after...ummmmm....twelve years...was great. Twelve years? I really need to get back into life, you know? Their kids were really sweet, and I'm sure Rocket will grow up being someone's special friend. So April and family, thanks for giving Rocket a great home, and Mark and I look forward to getting together with you the next time you are in Ithaca. (P.S. Send pictures!). Posted by Picasa