Well, I had *quite* the weekend. It’s not everyday you drench your laptop in water, causing a terminal failure, and drop your iPhone, killing that too.
And it’s definitely not everyday that you go foraging at the back of your lock up and find three teeny tiny kittens staring up at you…
Finding the kitties
I rent a lockup in an underground garage from Camden Council. There is no lighting, and it’s packed full with all sorts of work kit, hanging rails, shelving units and piles of boxes. I generally only penetrate into the first foot or so to grab things on a daily basis but on Sunday I was there to collect my ice cream maker which was on a shelf at the back. Maker duly found, I went back in a final time with my iPhone torch looking for something that I had dropped.
I had a sense that there was something there, maybe rats (groo), so I swung the torch left – and there was a tiny white kitty, with black splodges, about the size of my hand, crawling out from under a steel trolley, blinking in the light. It was closely followed by two more, one a little smaller, and all very sweet. I didn’t touch them in case their mother worried about the smell and, to be honest, I couldn’t get down on the floor to check as there was a big box in the way and I was worried about scaring – or squishing them by knocking over something.
The garages in my unit all have up and over doors, and mine has a gap of about four inches. Apparently this was enough for the pregnant mama cat to limbo under to find a safe, dry place to give birth. Thank goodness.
Working out what to do next
I immediately rang the RSPCA advice line whose recorded message advised leaving them there as it’s very rare for a mother cat to abandon her kittens, but didn’t give any more suggestions. I was pretty sure that the mama cat was in the vicinity, and I felt terrible because I had shooed her off when she got close to the door last week because I knew a cat has been weeing in there. It was the first time I had seen her, I think, because unusually I didn’t have Lettice with me, who hates cats.
So then I posted on NextDoor, the neighbourhood app, and the very helpful people on there had all sorts of suggestions, most importantly, that I left water and kitty bic (for the mother because it’s high nutrient) because she must be desperately hungry and thirsty nursing three kitties.
Then on Monday I rang the local Cats Protection League who gave me advice I thought frankly unhelpful and also wrong – they told me that the kitties were past saving as beyond two weeks they are unsocialisable and that I should leave them to become feral. This was, frankly, a load of bollocks. I am the first human that those kitties have seen and they were a delight – trusting, curious and eager to come out to see me. Anyway, a two week old kitty is going to be basically glued to its mama so I don’t see how it could possibly be socialised by then.
So enter the kitty saviour…
Karen who runs the Mama Cat Trust. Based in the U.K. they rescue animals daily here, including urban foxes, and also carry out work with feral and street cats in the Cambrils area of Spain.
Their aim is to promote responsible and humane treatment of all animals and the implementation of neutering programmes focusing on feral and stray cats.(* more info at the bottom of the post on their vital neutering programme.)
Karen’s view is that, for outside-born and feral cats past 8 weeks of age, they are more difficult to tame but in that case they can still be homed as feral outside cats on farms. She is adamant that anything before 8 weeks is no problem at all but that it is imperative that they are brought in so they have a chance of a normal life in a loving home.
Karen found my post on NextDoor and very kindly came to see the kitties on Tuesday afternoon with me and Holly. I was astonished when I went into the lockup to see not just the kitties but mama too. She had also eaten the enormous bowl of bic Holly left for her overnight.
We had planned just for Karen to do a recce but, as mama was there too, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. A humane cage trap was baited with pilchards (apparently these are nursing cat crack) and we waited. Mama was way too canny and developed a habit of sitting just beyond reach, I swear, sticking up a paw at us.
I had to go back to work but Holly and Karen stayed on, and eventually decided to leave the cage in place, and Holly would check it each hour. Then, around 8pm, success! One captured mama cat. Karen came back, and the kitties were scooped up, reunited with their mother, and brought round to Holly’s living room.
Holly was going to foster them but the kitties kept sliding through the cage bars and the sausages were going berserk with longing out in the garden, so St Karen is fostering them for a few days before they go off to be re-homed.
Dispatches from Karen
“The mummy cat, Gilda (!) and her lovely babies are now settled in a big run and she is completely chilled. Ever since she arrived indoors, she seems to be so delighted with it all – the luxury of food on tap and the realisation that she doesn’t really have to do anything except sleep and look after her babies has made her purr non stop. She loves strokes and tickles and was even rubbing round my legs last night – she must have just been on a constant sense of high alert for ages, bless her. I’m so glad you found her-she is so lucky!”
*Trap Neuter Return
Unspayed feral/stray female cats spend the majority of their lives hungry and pregnant or nursing yet more unwanted kittens. Unneutered tomcats roam to find, and fight to win mates, often suffering debilitating and potentially life threatening wounds in the process. Most kittens born in feral colonies do not survive their first year. This is a miserable life where it is a struggle to survive without veterinary treatment.
The solution is the trap, neuter and return method where cats are caught in a specialised and harmless trap. They are then given a health check, neutered and treated for any other problems. They are then returned to their familiar environment where they can live a longer happier, healthier, and less anti-social life. If the area has become unsafe, for example in cruelty or poisoning cases, an alternative habitat is sought. Where possible, loving homes are found for kittens and tame cats but there are always more kittens and cats than there are homes.
After sterilisation each cat is given an internationally recognised ‘ear tip’ which is a simple and completely painless procedure carried out under anaesthetic where the tip of the ear is removed. The type of ear tip does vary in different countries, sometimes a notch is removed from the side of the ear. An eartip identifies the cat as neutered and prevents further retrapping and an unnecessary operation.