Monday, February 1, 2010

Fixing the Nation, One Cat at a Time

We have a problem, a cat problem. We have become the Crazy Cat Ladies on the block, thanks to the dozen or so feral felines that have made our backyard and front yard their outdoor home. Thank goodness we're tucked away on a cul de sac, at least.

Yes, I feed them. And I provide fresh water. Every day.

"Don't start," I had told Domestic Partner a couple of years ago. He was putting some of Cleo's dry kibble into a Styrofoam party bowl outside.

"It's just a little," he protested. "I feel sorry for the kitty - she's so cute."

Just a little. "That's how it starts," I replied.

Flash forward to 2010. Cleo disappeared a year ago, never came back. We knew it was a risk, allowing him to be an outdoor cat. Our new kitten, Sabina, is almost full grown. The runt of the litter (and abandoned by Backyard Mama cat), she and her four siblings are about five months old, now. Her sisters and brothers - Brownie, Callie, Fluffy, and Lucy - stay close to the house, in the backyard. They are old enough to no longer need Backyard Mama Cat's care or milk, but we still see her, too.

Siamese cat and Gimpy cat play with the babies and snuggle with them at night. I see them in the morning sometimes, clumped together under the bush by the garbage cans, surviving another chilly night in one big, multi-colored fur heap.

I know: Don't start naming them. That just exacerbates the problem by allowing me to get emotionally attached, even if only a little.

We like having the cats around but they are messy. Domestic Partner replaced the front lawn's grass with pebbles and palm trees. The backyard has been transformed into a large square beach of gravel. On either side of the beach are beds of mulch that used to be one of the trees in our backyard.

It's one giant kitty litter box.

And our dogs eat the cat poop. Sometimes Moxie pug has worms in her own poop, which makes her ravenously hungry. It's easy to fix with two or three doses of de-worming powder added to her food. But there's nothing to stop the dogs from eating more cat poop during the day while we're at work.

So, it's a problem.

Domestic Partner has run out of patience. The gardening of both the back and front yards is his hobby, his relaxation on the weekends. And he is over the cat poop. He has been after me to do something about the cat population for a while.

I could stop feeding them, but I feel guilty about cutting off the food and water supplies after making all current cats dependent since birth. I called our local animal shelter to see if they could refer me to a trap-and-release program that would spay and neuter feral cats. They referred me to Fix Nation, a Los Angeles based non-profit group that provides free services in their Trap-Neuter-Release program.

They seem like an excellent group. They care about the welfare of strays and feral cats. They are very particular about using humane traps. They are specific about using humane carriers and making sure the carrier is covered by a towel when a frightened cat is being transported. And they ask that you have a quiet laundry room or bathroom that you can hold the cat in, post-operation, before releasing it back into the neighborhood.

It will take some work. First there is an application to fill out and submit. Once approved, the organization is willing to lend out traps if you don't have any (I don't). But I have to do the trapping myself, and drive the imprisoned kitties to Fix Nation's location. And not in the back of a truck or an open air vehicle, as also specified in their application. And if I trap more than one cat at a time, I must be willing to borrow/use a carrier for each individual captive.

It seems a bit daunting, but I must halt the cycle of two new litters a year, even if I have to trap and transport one cat at a time. Already, I saw Front Yard Mama Cat this weekend, surrounded by Siamese cat (her offspring) and three other males. Gimpy cat was on her back, the scruff of Mama's neck between his teeth.

And Tuxedo cat, the Biggest Male that only returns to our yard when someone is in heat, has been yowling around outside, again. We are very familiar with his yowl. It's a tentative and meek cry, a mismatch to his huge tom cat size. It's his gentle way of announcing, "I need me some kitty lovin'!"

I hope I can trap him, as well as Gimpy cat and the two Mama cats. Wish me luck!