Fixing Ferals

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At 6 a.m. I tumbled out of bed, fed the alcohol cats breakfast, pulled on some clothes, and left my apartment. In the blue winter light of Boston I walked, through the Public Garden, down Arlington Street, to the animal shelter. We covered the floor of the vet clinic in sheets of plastic and gathered all of the supplies that were carefully boxed and labeled from the previous clinic. At 8 a.m. the trappers arrived. We tagged each cage with a number and surgery card, surveyed the cats to make sure they were not sick or injured, and lined them up in the heated garage.

One by one, each cat was brought into the welcome area of the vet clinic where they were sedated, weighed, and given Genteel (a Vaseline-like gel that protects and moistens their eyes). Most cats, let alone feral ones, aren’t super happy about getting poked with a needle, but Deb was swift and a couple cats jumped back, completely unaware that they were about to be given an injection. For the more difficult ones, a pitch-fork–like instrument  kept the cat to one corner of the trap, making it easier to get at them. Continue reading “Fixing Ferals”

Cat Food on Lockdown

Bacardi lounging on my bed this morning.

It was that dreaded time of year again—time for Bacardi to go to the vet. Just for his annual checkup of course, but again I’d have to witness the stern look on the vet’s face as I’m told that Bacardi is overweight, and I should do more to take control of it.

The thing is, I have a lot of control over Bacardi’s (and Smirnoff’s) food. Yet they manage to eat a lot anyway.

I should also mention that Bacardi has food allergies. He’s on a novelty protein, limited ingredient diet. Currently, he eats Blue Buffalo Basics for his dry food and Natural Balance L.I.D. for his wet food. (The Natural Balance dry food was giving him diarrhea for some reason, and the Blue Buffalo wet food is just too expensive, about twice the price of NB, which is already pricey.) Smirnoff eats the wet food with Bacardi in the morning, but their dry food is eaten separately because Smirnoff is on Science Diet w/d dry due to his tendency to get urine crystals.

It sounds complicated, but it’s really not. Each morning, my cats split a 6oz can of wet food, which they eat side by side. In the evening, they get 1/4 cup of their own dry food, which I feed them in separate rooms, usually in a food puzzle. Treats are minimal, because any training I do, I do with a few bits of dry food. (My cats are that food motivated.)

So everything should be under control, right? The problem is, both cats love food. They’d do anything for it. They wake me up every morning at 5am for breakfast, bolt toward the kitchen any time I get up, and demand dinner from about 6pm through 10pm (even if they’ve already eaten it). They are also thieves.  Continue reading “Cat Food on Lockdown”

The Not-So-Stray Cat

Cat Owners, Take Note
I’m sorry in advance that this is a bit of a lecture, but if your cat isn’t microchipped, it should be. Whether it spends its time outdoors, indoors, or some combination of the two; whether it’s young or old; whether it wears a collar and tag or not. Microchipping is relatively cheap (a one-time cost of $45, on average), takes all of two minutes to do, and is no more painful than your cat getting its vaccinations. And if you need some statistics, a microchipped cat is 20 times more likely to be reunited with its owner than one without a chip, about 40% versus 2% of lost cats (source: HomeAgain).

There are many stories of microchipped cats finding their way home months, or even years, after they were lost. But I’d like to share this story not from an owner’s point of view, but from a finder’s.

The Stray Cat
As a shelter volunteer, I’m always on the lookout for stray cats. It’s sad, but many owners allow their cats to venture outdoors in a city, despite the cars, busy streets, rough terrain, disease, etc. I know Boston is a much smaller city than most, and not too far from downtown there are many more trees and parks than one might expect, but that doesn’t stop Boston from being a city. Not only that, but in the lower socioeconomic neighborhoods (and some higher ones, too), pets are often abandoned as owners move away, lose their homes, or become unable to afford the cost of an animal. So I’m always watchful for cats on the streets, because there are plenty of unowned, stray cats wandering among the owned, indoor/outdoor ones. Although it’s often difficult to tell which is which.

Case-in-point: I recently moved to a new neighborhood, to a quiet street where a bunch of outdoor cats live. As soon as I arrived, my eyes landed on an all-black cat, which appears to be a stray due to hair missing from its back (in a pattern that looks like flea dermatitis, although I haven’t been able to really look at the cat up close), and a couple times it strolled right past me on the sidewalk, giving my outstretched hand a wide berth. I’m currently keeping tabs on this cat whenever possible, just in case it really is a stray, and in case it needs some medical attention, which it may or may not.

One night last week, while walking home, I glanced in an alleyway and saw the black cat (it was dark, so it could have been a different black cat, I suppose). I slowly began to approach it when another cat—a tabby and white one—approached me and started meowing. He was clearly friendly and was rubbing his cheeks against everything he could, including my hands.

And as I continued up the street, not wanting to accidentally instigate a cat fight between the two, the tabby and white followed me. He followed me all the way into the stairwell of my apartment. Continue reading “The Not-So-Stray Cat”