Category Archives: TNR projects

Cloyne TNR Project, Part 1: The trigger

Cloyne is like many other villages and towns in Ireland, inhabited by a sometimes invisible population of feral cats.  I had rarely came across any feral cats in Cloyne, although I knew there were some, hiding in gardens and probably coming out at night.  Of course, this was something that was at the back of my mind and I had discussed it a few times with Sinead Falvey, our local vet.  However, the fact that I could not see the cats made it a bit less of a reality.

Last winter though, I encountered one of these invisible cats, Little Tom.  Little Tom and I only met for a very short time, but his memory will stay forever with me.  I remember holding his sick body against me; it bear the marks of human indifference.  No cat who would have been a little cared for would have ended in such a state.  He was put to sleep the very same day he was found as it was too late for him.  On that day, I also decided that I would do something for the Cloyne Community Cats.

Little Tom

At the time, I was working on the Ballycotton Feral Project.  This project proved to be very successful.  It was entirely funded by the community and we neutered 40 cats.  I knew it would take time before I would get around to organise a similar project in Cloyne, but I also knew it would eventually happen.

We often hear from people that these are not their cats and, therefore, nobody wants to take responsibility for them.  In fact, these cats are part of the community, they provide a service in keeping the rats and mice away in exchange of a bit of food and shelter, and should thus be everybody’s responsibility.  Being responsible means that we have to get these cats neutered because there is such a problem of cat over-population in Ireland and every year too many kittens are born and die in suffering.  Others might manage to grow older, but will eventually end up like Little Tom, dying alone on a car park.  By having the cats neutered, we can prevent the births of many unwanted kittens, but also the spread of disease amongst feral, as well as our own domestic cats.

The Cloyne TNR Project was born on the day Little Tom was picked up on the car park.  A few months later it is finally becoming concrete and I hope the community of Cloyne will be receptive to this project.

Make a donation to support the Cloyne TNR Project.

Behind the Veil

Yesterday, we took 5 kittens to the vet. There were 2 Tabbies, a smaller, younger one, and a larger guy. There was a Tabby and white. A Black and White, and a Black. These little creatures were nearly all that remained of group of 20 kittens we had discovered during the course of a TNR job. We had trapped these 5 waifs the night before. Well, trap isn’t the right word, we picked them up off the ground from around the empty food bowls that lay strewn by the back door of the house. These 5 kittens really did not have the strength left to resist because of the hunger induced illnesses that had ravaged their small bodies. Gaunt, bony, ragged, matted fur, big eyes in small pinched faces, runny noses, these unfortunate animals were a picture poster for deprivation and neglect.

The adult cats sharing a few scraps

We brought them home following their capture and put them into the overnight cages. Generous quantities of food, warm dry bedding, and fresh water, were provided for them, yet they cowered at the back of the cages, big eyes staring, terrified, at their human captors. The smallest Tabby caught our eye. In a better place, perhaps on another planet where empathy with all living things is the norm, this little guy would have been a stunner. But this was here and he was dying slowly, and badly, because of sheer human indifference.
In the morning we collected our kittens and transferred them into transport cages. There had been an outbreak of diarrhoea during the night and the holding cages were destroyed in faeces. They had to be scoured clean before we left because of fears of cross infecting our own cats, big, sleek, over fed monsters, who preened around the house, as well as our foster kittens and a couple of patients we were nursing. We loaded our kittens into the car and set off for the vet.
We arrived at the veterinary practice and were greeted warmly by our friend, Leslie, a veterinary nurse with years of experience in dealing with cats and who has, herself, saved hundreds of kittens from death. We informed leslie that we had a group of VERY sick kittens and she immediately understood the inference. Kevin, the vet, was summoned. The situation was explained. A quick surgical exam was conducted and sentence was passed. With extreme speed all 5 kittens were put to sleep. The last kitten to be PTS was the little Tabby. He sat and stared out of his cage, eyes still frightened by these strange surroundings, wondering where his companions had vanished to, and waited his turn. He was damned by the fact of his birth. He was damned by a society that cared for nothing outside of itself. He was damned because those onto whose property he was born, despite their obvious wealth and material possessions, didn’t consider a tiny, frightened, Tabby Kitten, worth a bowl of the cheapest food.

Most of these kittens have died from starvation and cat flu

It is a tribute to the humanity and the competency of the vet Kevin, and nurse Leslie who comforted each and every kitten as the fatal dosage was administered, that the little creatures suffered no great trauma in their dying. There were 4 of us in that surgery and not one of us wanted to be there. As each kitten was injected one of us held them in our arms, holding and cradling while awaiting the end to come. They all went quickly, the starving bodies unable to resist the powerful drug for even a minute. Then all 5 bodies were laid out in a row while we inspected them for any signs of life. There were none. Kevin showed us the signs on their bodies where the constant diarrhoea has stripped the fur away from their legs and burnt the very flesh beneath.
When we started this TNR job there were 20 kittens alive. These were the survivors of the 50-60 that would have initially born before the lady called us to deal with her ’cat problem’. We had our plans in place to deal with these survivors when the lady of the house rang us to say she was going on holidays and she didn’t ‘want us around’ while she was away. Of course no cat was fed while she was off sunning herself. 11 more kittens died in the interim from deprivation. By the time we resumed there were 9 kittens left. Now there are 4 remaining survivors and they are in our care where they will be fed, doctored, made well, and rehomed.

We brought the pathetic corpses back to the lady to show her. She glanced briefly, then quickly averted her head. She called ‘one of the boys’ to come and remove the dead kittens in a potato bag. Maggie placed a little bunch of fuchsia into the bag. A mark of respect but also a sign of her anger and despair at the sheer, utter futility, of some people’s existence.

One of the survivors

We have to move on. There are TNR projects everywhere that need our attention and fast! But we left with the images of this last one, in particular the Little Tabby for whom we could offer nothing. A scared little kitten, one of the estimated hundreds of thousands, who die through human indifference and neglect every year in Ireland.
That little Tabby, his anxious little face staring out through the bars of his cage as his companions were put to sleep, will haunt me for a long time to come.
God Damn that women for having put us in that position.

The Adventures of Marco and Polo in Brianland, part 3

The adventures of Marco and Polo in Brianland  seem to be never-ending!  That’s what happens when you have someone caring; the word goes around… 

In last episode, we left Brian as he was trying to socialise Marco, Polo’s brother.  The little family seems to have found its equilibrium.  Although Marco is still wary of Brian, he has become great friend with Polo.  As for Mom, she seems happy to live outside where she has her box to sleep.  She stays around and will make sure to remind Brian if he is late for dinner.

Marco and Polo enjoying life in Brianland

And then, another cat started to show up for food.  Brian had already seen him on previous occasions, but he thought he was a neighbour’s cat.  However, Brian realised that he might also be a feral and very possibly Marco and Polo’s dad.  Engine Dad, or Ed, as he calls him, began to be more regular.  However, unlike Mom, he would never hang around.

Engine Dad

Although Ed was not really a garden resident and would not even come every day, he started to come more regularly.  Brian thus decided to borrow the trap again and chance trapping Ed.

It wasn’t too much of a challenge as Ed was trapped on the second night of trapping.  Ed was neutered and checked at The Cat Hospital before being returned to his environment.  He’s kept his habits and comes whenever suits him and Brian obligingly gives him his dinner…

Engine Dad’s release (video)

The whole family seems now to be living in Brianland, although sporadically for some, and they have all be neutered, are fed and are living a better life than many ferals thanks to Brian.  I bet you that if you had told that to Brian six months ago, he would have probably laughed at you!

The Adventures of Marco and Polo in Brianland, part 2

In last episode…  Brian rescued Polo from his car engine.  Mom and her other kitten then moved in his garden.  Although Mom was trapped quite easily to be spayed, it took more efforts to trap Marco…

Mom and Marco having dinner in the kitchen

Brian tried to set a routine for Mom and Marco to come to eat.  They eventually ventured in the kitchen, but that didn’t mean that Marco could be caught.  Brian borrowed a trap and after much effort, victory was his and Marco walked into the trap.

Marco unsure of his new home

He was brought to The Cat Hospital for neutering and for his first shot.  Brian gave himself three weeks, when Marco would be due his second vaccination, to try to socialise Marco.  Every morning and night he sat with Marco in the bathroom.  There were some ups and downs.  At times Marco would seem to be making progress, but then he would go into hiding mode again.  However, Brian did not give up.

Marco finds his hiding spot... behind the loo!

Marco forgetting to hide

Although Marco seemed to relax at times, he would still not let Brian go near him (except with food).  At times, he would even cry when he was aware of Mom’s presence outside.  Brian then decided to introduce him to Polo, thinking that if Marco saw Polo going near Brian, he would do the same.  In fact, Marco was still nervous and Polo’s excitement would even make him hide away.

Marco and Polo get to know each other

When the three weeks were up, Brian considered releasing Marco again, but he was afraid that Marco and Mom would not recognise each other.  Brian adopted a different strategy and left Marco free run of the house, thinking that the contact with Polo might help to socialise Marco.  This strategy caused Brian a few frights like the time when Marco went to hide behind the boiler and stayed there for quite a while.

Marco getting free run of the house

Although Marco and Polo began to become great friends, it was another story with Brian.  Marco would still be shy.  He would sometimes forget about it while playing,  but then remember that he is supposed to be a feral.  He certainly enjoys the comfort of the house, but is still uncertain about his human.

Marco and Polo becoming best buddies

Sometimes, he takes a lot of time to socialise a feral kitten, and they may never become the pet you hope them to be.  Brian, though, certainly has the patience and tolerance it requires…

A video of Marco and Polo

The Adventures of Marco and Polo in Brianland, part 1

At the beginning of December, I received one of the usual enquiries: “I’ve found a kitten, what shall I do?”

Polo just after being rescued

As he was going to the shop that morning, Brian found a kitten in his car’s engine.  A found listing was posted for good practice, although we suspected the kitten to be feral and probably abandoned by his mother.  Nobody claimed the kitten and Brian decided to adopt him.  Polo was brought to the vet and spoilt by Brian.

Polo enjoying the comfort of his new home

A few weeks later, Brian contacted me again: Mom and the other kitten had moved in his garden.  Brian wanted to get more information about TNR.  His plan was to get Mom spayed and adopt Polo’s sibling, whom he had named Marco.

I thus called in with the trap and within 10 minutes, Mom walked in.  However, Marco was really shy and refused to move from his hiding spot behind the bushes.  We left a feral box there so that he could protect himself from the elements.  While Mom was at the vet for her operation, we kept trying to trap Marco, but unsuccessfully.  TNR requires patience and Marco certainly tested ours.

Mom after her operation

On the day Mom came back from the vet, Marco was nowhere to be seen.  We had set the trap in case Marco would be around and, relaxed by Mom’s presence, would walk in the trap, but Marco wasn’t around.  When we released Mom, we released a transformed cat.  Instead of running away, the way ferals usually do when released, Mom decided to enjoy a big meal before going to look for her kitten.  She even let Brian approach her for the first time and we had to stop her from walking into the trap again!

Brian kept feeding Mom, slowly gaining her trust.  His patience was rewarded when Mom finally accepted to be fed in the kitchen.  However, there was still no sign of Marco.  As Mom would only come around for her dinner and then leave, Brian suspected that Marco was hiding in a different spot.

Mom in the kitchen: she'll come into the kitchen for food but won't eat from my hand. She'll tolerate me standing up and moving around the kitchen though.

Polo chasing poor Mom out the door! He's not that impressed at all that Mom comes to visit. Although, he's getting a lot better about it... his tail isn't nearly as spiky as it was the first day.

Just a pane of glass between them, Polo and Mom enjoy dinner "together".

Yesterday, the good news came in and I received a text from Brian: “Marco is back!”  And Marco was not only back in the garden, but he also ventured in the kitchen, joining Mom for dinner.  Today, Marco even ate from Brian’s hand and licked the sumptuous chicken-tasting hand!

Marco joins Mom in the kitchen!

Marco no longer has to hide behind Mom

Polo checking on the new arrivals: Marco and Mom were in the kitchen again, Marco explored a little but Mom was a bit more nervous. Polo wasn't helping to give an air of calm acceptance, the kitchen door was shut and he was in the hall, crying like I had a secret kitty torture chamber, but he just wanted in to check out the new arrivals (and chase them out of his kitchen).

Close-up of Marco

It looks like Brian will have his own little family pretty soon…

The world would be a much better place if everybody were to act like Brian.  What does it take?  A bit of compassion, love and patience…