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Quite A Morning

So as some of you know, there's a couple of feral cats that's been visiting my garden and eating my birds and my frogs.

This displeases me greatly, since I didn't design this garden to be an ecological sink, like some kind of horrible avian Roach Motel, and I have been trying to live-trap the damn things with no success.

Had to stop trying to trap for the season because it's gotten so hot that if they're stuck in a cage outdoors for hours, the cats may well expire of heat exhaustion, and while I have no qualms about taking a feral to the pound, I have a lot of qualms about it dying one of the more unpleasant deaths at my hands. So the cats are back, although they run like hell when a human comes (so I'm pretty sure by now that they are ferals rather than strays.)

Went out in the garden this morning to fix the soaker hoses, not thinking about much of anything, and there is an explosion of fur as one of the cats, who has been lurking around the birdfeeders, takes off at a run...and hits the chain-link fence like an idiot and runs its damnfool head into the fence and is then stuck.

I grab my gloves and run up to discover the cat is in the process of strangling itself in the chain-link. (I've heard of this happening with wild animals on fences with a good run up, but it hasn't happened here in over a decade--everything is undergrowth and trees and vines and you generally can't get a good enough run at the fence to get stuck. But the cat managed.)

Well, now I'm sunk, because I can't pull the cat back out without probably breaking its neck, I can't go and get the wire cutters and cut the fence open because it will kill itself before I get back--its tongue is already hanging out and things are Not Going Well--so I do the only thing I can think of and grab the fence and try to haul the wires apart and hope the cat's got enough presence of mind to go back instead of forward.

(If you're familiar with the construction of chain link, you're aware that this was just this side of useless--I couldn't get my fingers hooked through the wire around the cat's neck, all I could do was haul on the wires near it and try to compress them enough to give it a quarter inch or so more to work with. This had my hands awfully close to the cat's head and I figured if it got loose, there was a 50/50 chance I'd get a really spectacular cat bite, which would be an exciting trip to the E.R. for the rabies shot and the really good antibiotics.)

Well, luck was with both of us. It got loose and my gloves protected me from any random flailing. I had a vague hope I'd get enough time to grab the damn beast before it got far--it probably injured itself, and I still hope to get it off the streets--but it was out of there like a shot, over the gate and into the woods. A ninja could maybe have caught it, but I am nobody's idea of a ninja.

The cat is NOT in good shape, incidentally--leaving aside any neck injuries it may have just sustained, it's nothing but fur and bones and there's some kind of huge scar or mat along one leg that I didn't get a good look at--and I would very much like to trap it, both for my birds and so it can get either medical care or a good home or a better end than nature will provide.

If you must have outdoor cats, people, for the love of god, spay and neuter them. This sort of thing is unconscionable and it's entirely the fault of lazy-ass humans and swear to god, it's things like this that are going to drive me to start drinking before noon.

ETA: Appreciate the thoughts, guys, but we're actually very well connected with our local rescue groups. Kevin volunteered with them for years. All of our cats were local rescues. We've got live traps, we know how to trap, we're cool. But they're also going to the pound once they're trapped. They estimate there are 50,000 ferals in my county, the rescue groups are overrun, there are flyers on every noticeboard begging people to take barn cats, and the websites all tell you, in so many words, that if you drop a cat off on the doorstep, it goes to the pound because they are completely out of cages. Yes, I am aware the cats will be put down. There are currently no other choices available, because somebody, a few years back, was an asshole who didn't spay their cat and now those of us who don't like animals dying slow and miserable parasite-infected deaths get stuck with the grim clean-up duty.

I say again, spay or neuter.

ETA2: Apologies, cleaning up after a troll a lot today--hopefully will not continue to be an issue, if it is, drop a line and I'll get to it ASAP.

Just as a reminder, regardless of one's stance on the issue, personal attacks are not allowed, and if you're going to make them anyway, we DO appreciate paragraph breaks for ease of comprehension.

I'm sorry to hear about this traumatic experience. You are a good person.

I totally agree with you about spay and neuter.

I have a colony of ferals/strays that keeps growing. Pisses me off no end that people don't take care of their animals & the animals are the ones who suffer for it.

I have had success with moth balls as a deterrent.

Also, look for some type of rescue/stray/feral program that might be able to help out. The vets should know of any, or the humane society. A feral taken to the pound will be killed outright.

Or you could feed them...

Good luck.

I am already feeding them. I am feeding them BIRDS. I'd like to stop.

I'm okay with the ferals being shuffled off this mortal coil humanely at this point--our area is utterly overrun and none of the no-kill shelters have any openings. The websites all say outright "Leave a cat on our doorstep and it goes to the pound, we are out of cages." There's just nothing more that can be done--people have made a hellish mess of it and the ecology is horribly outta whack. There is no longer a happy solution where everybody gets a good home--we're on to grimmer things.

One of my favorite techs at the shelter has a saying for all of the people who say "but we tried really hard!" when it comes to their pet-related fuckups: "Trying really hard is spaying and neutering."

This explains a few things in the Hidden Almanac. But in all seriousness, I would try talking to local shelters and animal rescue leagues. They may have humane traps you can use, or can assist in luring out the cat and getting it help.

As for keeping them away... oddly enough, they sell concentrated wolf urine which might help. It will certainly keep grazing animals away.

Heh. Kevin was super active with feral rescue for years--we have five. (Down from nine!)

They've got no room, no cages, no nothing. We've got all the humane traps and we know how to trap cats, it's just...a mess.

Would you mind re-posting this on your Tumblr so I can reblog it? A lot of the small reptile and bird blogs would love it too.

Seconded, pretty please?

Trap*, Neuter, Release is a good way to manage ferals. When you just take a cat out of the environment another cat will move into the territory. I don't have any advice for protecting your birds and frogs and such, though, I'm afraid.

* If you can get them trapped.

Mmm. Having watched people try it in our town, it really hasn't helped the situation. You have to keep it going for decades, AND keep people from dropping off cats AND keep neighborhood cats from being attracted AND catch every single one of them and spay/neuter them, or the colony keeps going. It's a good idea in theory, but in practice, at least locally, I have not been impressed with the results.

Oh, goodness. That sounds like quite the ordeal for every creature involved. I hope you are all right, and I hope the cat is all right. I'd say "I'm praying for you", but I'm an atheist. You get the idea, I hope.

Thank you for not only not wanting to kill the ferals but for actually saving one! I hope you can catch some of them and that there's a local group that might spay/neuter them for you. I assume you want them "returned" elsewhere - maybe there's a barn cat adoption program in your area? I use "area" loosely, as many rescue groups/programs will drive hours to help cats in need.

You have my sympathies. I have been a crazy cat lady (of the good kind, I hope!) long enough that I have (intentionally) scared off interested suitors by informing them that one of my guiding principles in life is "you feed it, you fix it.", and I'd take that approach to anyone spending enough time in my territory. I have managed several colonies over the years, helped with a few others, and... yeah, there just aren't enough resources. Not everywhere can handle a colony, not every person who wants to help can take up management of ferals (although, for the love of all the big and little gods, don't feed if you can't foster or fix!), and not every shelter can take just one more. Most shelters can't. There is so much need out there, and not enough help.

You will do what you can. If what you can do is protect your birds and give the cats a more humane end, I would say that's still a kindness. As Granny Weatherwax would say, soft hearted doesn't mean soft headed.

THANK YOU. God, I get so frustrated, just...well, you know. Probably very well, if you're involved in cat rescue. Thank you.

I totally understand why you need the cats out of the territory now. And why that means taking them to the pound to be quickly and painlessly killed.

I've had 3 cats in my life and every one was spayed or neutered first thing. I love cats and want them to stay healthy.

I'm glad the feral didn't hurt you when you saved it. I hope the weather cools enough to catch it soon (which probably means September, but one must Make Do.)

*chuckle* I'm glad it didn't, too--I really didn't want that rabies shot!

It's just so maddening, all around. I want to find the people responsible and shake them violently.

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Amen. I could no more not neuter my pets than I could not wear a seatbelt in the car. My life's been saved by a seatbelt on three occasions. I *cannot* not wear a seatbelt in the car.

Oof. If I thought either you or Kevin had the skills and stomach for such a thing, I'd suggest that at this point a bullet may be nearly as kind as that one-way trip to the shelter, but either way I commend you for doing the right-but-difficult thing and doing your damnedest to keep your tiny ecosystem and the greater local one functioning properly. People who do not spay and neuter, or who drop off cats in the country, are indeed epic levels of horrible, and should perhaps have to spend some time attempting to trap and then put down feral cats themselves.

I will totally give you hugs when you arrive in Pittsburgh. At my height, this may mean faceplanting in your cleavage, but you get hugs nonetheless.

It takes a heck of a sharpshooter to put a bullet in the right part of a ninja cat. Most shooters can't do it in a deer.

fifty thousand?!?!


Also, I wish people wouldn't think "awwww, kittens are so sweet, I want to have some!!" Even if they don't set them feral, cats are exponential.

Clearly we need to add exponential cats to the internet cat memes so everyone can start knowing the cats grow exponentially and before you know it they will go fractal on you.

RE "trapped feral cat dies of heat exhaustion before you get to it" - is there no way to provide shade and a water source sufficient to last a full day? (I genuinely don't know.)

But yeah. We just adopted our fourth (and final legal) cat. He was a stray, but obviously not a feral - ~8 years old, super-gentle, well-behaved and litter trained, found outdoors delirious, hypothermic, and ataxic in a Canadian January. He made a full recovery, and stole our hearts at the local pet store. When nobody adopted him after a month, we did.

I see people defending their decision to not spay/neuter their animals on reddit all the time, and most of the time, when questioned, it's a male animal and "they don't want to take his balls". Sigh.

And that's where I go into frothing incoherence...