Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Tree Family: Part Two

This is the second installment in "The Tree Family" series. We will be running their story over the next few days. Their story is an example of dedication and perseverance, and we hope you enjoy it.

By Tom & Mary, Feline Rescue Volunteers

We never intended to become cat rescuers. All we wanted to do was to clean litter boxes at the shelter, and for several months, our plan seemed to be working perfectly. But that all changed the night we came back from work and saw Miss Fluffy in our yard.
At the time, she had her face buried in a can of cat food. Our neighbor explained that the cat was a hungry stray. He had gotten her some food while he tried to determine if she was the one whose owner had posted lost-cat signs about in our neighborhood. (Not the same cat, it turned out, and our neighbor had no plan for taking this cat in himself.) She was downing the food rapidly, and the can would soon be empty. We had to make a decision quickly: Pick up a cat we had no place to keep ourselves, or let her finish her meal and wander off into the night?

OK; so there really was only one option. Soon Miss Fluffy (a “placeholder” name we never meant to become permanent) was safely kenneled. It was the evening of April 8, 2008: Day One.

Miss Fluffy seemed content in her new home. She was very friendly, the kind of rub-against-you-and-purr cat that wins human hearts in an instant. We don’t know all that much about cats, but we can tell when one is happy. She was eating well and taking good care of herself, remarkably clean for a cat apparently living outside.
On Day Four, one of our more experienced colleagues got a good look at Miss Fluffy and delivered some important news: Miss Fluffy was a nursing mother, and we had kept her away from her kittens for about two and a half days at this point.

A decision was made quickly to try to find the kittens with Miss Fluffy’s help. We brought her back to where we’d found her, letting her out on a harness and long leash and hoping that she’d lead us to her family. No such luck. After leading us on a cat’s-eye tour of our neighborhood (around houses, through several bushes, and under a couple of porches), she slipped from her harness and escaped.

We were devastated. Not only had our inexperience deprived kittens of their mother, perhaps dooming them, but now we had lost Miss Fluffy as well. Our Feline Rescue mentors assured us that there was yet a chance the kittens had survived her absence, and that we should try to feed Miss Fluffy where we had last seen her.

Soon we had a regular schedule of putting out food under the porch of a house on our block in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, close to where we had last seen Miss Fluffy. We hadn’t really met these neighbors, a bunch of college guys, before now, but they were thankfully supportive of our project. By Day Five, it was clear that someone was eating the food we were putting out, and on Day Six, we thought we caught a glimpse of Miss Fluffy from a distance.

On Day 12, it was decided that we should capture Miss Fluffy again to see whether she was still showing signs of nursing. We were glad to try to get her off the street again, though we feared that we’d find she’d had no kittens left to go back to after our earlier separation of her from her family.

Our mentors outfitted us with a live trap, and we placed it under the porch that evening. The food we had been putting out was disappearing so regularly (and so fast) that we figured it was a sure bet we’d nab her on the first night.

Running a cat-trapping operation is not as simple as we had originally pictured. The trap itself is rather big and awkward, and the space under the porch was not very large. Placing the trap was dirty work, and we wanted to minimize attention from others in the neighborhood, not an easy thing to do when you are sprawled out under a porch that faces the street. Once the trap is in place, you really want to monitor it frequently to avoid having the cat stay in the trap too long. Since the food we’d been placing was being eaten only at night, this meant getting up every few hours overnight to check the trap next door. When we did sleep, we dreamt only of cats.

Miss Fluffy did not allow herself to be trapped the night of Day 12. Or Day 13. Or Day 14. Or Day 15. Or Day 16. Nights of interrupted sleep were taking their toll on us. We had no more sightings of Miss Fluffy to even assure us that the food that continued to disappear was being eaten by her.

Finally, close to midnight on Day 17, our flashlight was met by glowing eyes in the trap, and we saw Miss Fluffy’s distinctive black-and-white face for the first time in nearly two weeks. She was angry, hissing at us as we transferred her from the trap to a carrier, and much dirtier than before. Otherwise, she seemed to be in pretty good shape, exerting herself with great strength and even having put on quite a bit of weight.

The next morning, we awoke after six hours of uninterrupted sleep, jubilant at our accomplishment. We had begun to worry that our colleagues had been losing faith in our ability to capture this cat, and we felt relieved, even vindicated. We rushed in to get the verdict on whether Miss Fluffy was still nursing
......to be continued...click here for the next installment.

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