Tuesday, July 14, 2009

North Las Vegas Cat Tales

There are three more kittens outside on our property, a half-acre of land in a shared cul-de-sac. I caught a glimpse of the kittens the other day as the homeowner next door pointed them out to me, “Got 3 more for you,” he said, which means it’s up to me to capture the little ones and take care of them. Taking care of them means devising a method of capture, usually by stealth and quick hands, but sometimes with the use of a cat trap. These kittens are so little a trap will probably not work. That means I’ll have to try and corner them among the construction material in which they are hiding, where black widows and cockroaches and dark spaces lurk. Just six months ago I did the same thing and grabbed two kittens, but not the mother cat that is popping out these babies twice a year.

When we moved onto our North Las Vegas property four years ago I noticed a number of cats roaming about. There were pregnant females, juveniles, kittens, and one big male whose fat cheeks and roughed-up look was evidence of his status as alpha male. For months I worried about the welfare of the cat population. I could hardly afford to get all of them spayed or neutered, but inaction was so much worse. According to the Humane Society of the United States, it is possible that a pair of breeding cats and their offspring can exponentially produce over 400,000 cats in 7 years. Luckily, I ran into Sandy, a volunteer with the local humane society (LVVHS). With the help, guidance, and the extreme generosity of this flagging, yet dedicated organization, I was able to have dozens, I mean dozens of cats “fixed” so they could no longer breed.

Nothing is more satisfying to me then knowing I have helped in preventing the suffering of an animal. The process goes something like this:

1) Trapping– set up a humane trap, place enticing food inside, cover with a towel and cross your fingers that one of the feral cats is hungry enough to go inside, step on the trigger that closes the door.

2) Capture by hand – here’s a piece I wrote about a recent experience:

Tonight I caught another cat that had been discarded by some careless, heartless owner. This guy is a big, white cat who has been hanging out on my property for a few weeks, hiding under vehicles, stealing mouthfuls of food before the other cats we own or me deigned to disturb him. He was wary and cautious, never letting me get more than a few feet from him before he bolted. I wanted to reach out to him; I just knew at one time he had been loved and knew what affection was. Tonight, I succeeded.

It took careful planning. He was too smart to enter the trap baited with the food he so desperately wanted. I set a bigger trap, however, getting him to go inside our storage shed, getting the door closed before he realized what I was up to. Once inside he tried to hide from me. I cornered him and then sat with him, talking in a soothing voice, inching my hand toward his snarling, spitting face. Finally he let me lay a finger upon his head. He had gouges in him, the dried blood stark against his pink nose and white fur. I was soon allowed more liberty, I pet his entire coat. He ate from a can of wet cat food. I then had to betray his trust, but just for a while. I grabbed him around the neck. Carefully I pulled him from his hiding place. Having no other container to secure him, I placed him in a plastic bag once used for a large comforter.

Holding the bag tightly closed I trekked the quarter acre across my property to my house. Once inside I put the cat in the bathroom reserved for the many feral cats we’ve caught over the years. He gave in to me. Once out of the bag he allowed me more liberal pets. He discovered the cupboard under the sink to hide. I placed fresh food and water out, ran to the store and got more cat litter. He can sleep in peace tonight, free from defending himself or scrounging for food; he will be warm and safe.

3) Set up the appointment – contact Sandy with the LVVHS and find out where and when I can take the animal in for its procedure. Sometimes I have to wait several days until a feral cat clinic takes place. That means either leaving the poor thing in the small trap (veterinarians will not handle feral cats outside of the trap until they are anesthetized), or take the animal out, secure it in a small room, provide food, water, and a litter box, then recapture it to place it in the cat trap. Sometimes scratches and bites are my reward.

4) Drop the animal off at the designated veterinary clinic before 8:00 am.

5) Pick up before 4:00 pm.

6) Keep the cat/kitten overnight to ensure all went well with the surgery. Provide food, water and a litter box.

7) Release the animal onto the property and continue to provide food and water (thank goodness there is plenty of land around us that works as a litter box) for the remainder of its (or my) lifetime. Or – try and find a loving home if the cat is a kitten and able to be tamed and placed. The trouble with this is that they are rarely caught early enough to be tamed, OR there are no more people willing to offer a home.

8) Hope that Animal Control doesn’t stop by for a visit and see countless numbers of cats roaming about. Hope that no harm comes to the animals as they encounter more and more strays either born on the property or that find their way here (happens more often than I’d like to admit).

9) Start the process all over again.

I sit here contemplating what to do about the three new kittens outside. I’m tired of catching them and going through steps 1-9. Our pet food bill probably exceeds our household food budget.

Yet, I can’t relax knowing that they are out there in 110-degree heat or that if I don’t act they will grow up and have babies of their own. I have tried and tried to catch the mama cat but she is too smart to get trapped. So I guess my lot is to keep capturing her offspring until she is too old to produce – probably not for a few years yet.

As I close this tale of my cat woes, I urge each and every one of my readers to make a donation to either their local humane society, or better yet, to the Las Vegas Valley Humane Society. They have, in my case alone, spayed or neutered cats for a cost of well over $2,000. I have only had to pay a few times. Now THAT’S dedication to the cause. They deserve recognition and help in their efforts. The address to donate is Las Vegas Valley Humane Society, 3395 S. Jones Blvd. #454, Las Vegas NV 89146 or link to their donation page.

Thanks for reading this lengthy entry. Wish me luck as I brave the elements and the bugs to rescue a few more.


Vegas Linda Lou said...

Oh, Lisa--could we be any more different? I love you anyway! XOXO

Lisa Gioia-Acres said...

That's what makes us so close, we compliment one another!

Joanna Jenkins said...

YOU ARE AWESOME!!!!! What a kind, caring and GREAT thing for you to do!!!! I take my hat off to you.

Lisa Gioia-Acres said...

Thank you Joanna, but it's a purpose I do gladly, no matter how frustrating. I LOVE it when a cat finally realizes I can be trusted and they let me pet them and give them the affection they never had. It is a joy. Thank you for the kind words.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, you have a wonderful gift! You were meant to rescue animals and help the helpless.

I too, rescue animals. It is very rewarding when you help an animal live a better life, to not be trapped by the cycle of endless birth. I too, have caught feral cats for spay & neuter and have worked with several animal rescue groups.

We are kindred spirits!

Anonymous said...

Lisa, do you know about the new feral cat ordinance that passed in 2008? It protects a "caretaker" of a feral colony who provides food and shelter for feral cats, as well as the cats themselves.

Log on to www.clarkcountyferalcats.org and read the oridinance and register your small colony to afford them the protections under the law.

All the information is there for you to learn more and to help spread the word.

What you do for the cats is very wonderful.