It seems cats have a radar that helps them find other cats. So when you have a whole colony of cats, others will inevitably find their way. On the first year of a new decade, not one but four big kittens found my feeding station.
My Cat Colony
I caught, neutered and returned my first feral cat in 2017. The year after I found out that a whole colony of cats were living in the neighbours barn. So I continued my TNR work and sat up a feeding station for them. However, several of the female cats were already pregnant and so a lot of new kittens were born in the summer of 2018. This became a very busy year for me, but I managed to catch them all. Since all cats were now neutered, we had a nice quite 2019. There was 3 male cats who found there way to the colony in spring as they were looking for potential partners. I TNR'ed them as well and only one chose to stick around. But the peace did not last long as four new faces showed up on the very first day of 2020.
These newcomers were definitly not fully adult and three of them had a long coat. They seemed to get along just fine with the rest of the colony and they stopped by the feeding station a lot. In the begining I only saw them on camera, but one day I ran into one of them. It hissed at me and ran away as fast as it could. Same thing happened next time I saw one of them. I couldn't get close to the newcomers, so I had to trap them, in order to figure out more about them.
Let the trapping beging
I set out the trap, without activating it, to let the kittens get used to it. So every night I filled it with delicious treats. The curious kittens went in and out of the trap with no hesitations. But I had some other challanges.
I don't like to set the trap and then just leave it overnight. Especially not during the winter. Cause that would mean a cat would sit trapped outside for many hours. That would be too stressfull and cold. So normally I will try and trap a cat during the evening and if I succeed, the cat will stay in a barn overnight. The next morning I can take it to the vet.
But these new kittens only came by in the middle of the night in the begining. Making it very hard for me to find an appropriate time to set the trap. A lot of other cats are out there and they might go into the trap instead.
It also rained a lot in the begining of January and my trap does not work when it's wet (the door won't go down). Then I had to concider the schedule of the vet of course and my own schedule as well. On top of that a close family member was suddenly hospitalised and I broke a rib. So there was a lot of challanges in catching these newcomers. It took almost 3 weeks before the stars would align just right.
Meanwhile I enjoyed watching the big kittens on trailcam.
A great catch
The big kittens finally started to show up at the feeding station during the day and the weather got better. I took the chance one afternoon and bingo!
I got not one, but two!
They were obviously scared as I approached, but I noticed that they didn't growl or hiss as most cats will in this situation. When the vet got a hold of them, she said they were shy and scared, but seemed tame. She could pick them up without sedation. It was a male and female at the age of 4-5 months. Their long fur coat were very tangled and had big knots, so they would not be good as free community cats. The vet felt that there was hope these guys could be good pets, so our local cat rescue organisation started to look for a foster family.
I started to collect funds for the vet bills and within 12 hours we had enough to cover all four vet bills! Thank you so much to our devoted followers, who supported us.
Walther and Vanilla
I named the first two kittens Walther and Vanilla. They got neutered, chipped, ear tattooed and vaccinated. Walther and Vanilla were very close and cried whenever the vet had to seperate them. They moved into the vet clinic temporarely, while we were looking for a foster mom.
Two more in the trap
The next day I had more luck with the trap and got the last two kittens! That they all went in two and two says something about how attatched they are. Again we had a brother and sister and I named them Woody and Willow. Woddy is the only one in the litter who has short hair.
The two got the same treatment at the vets office as their siblings. The four were reunited afterwards and were very happy to reconnect. The vet told me they were all cuddling together. Meanwhile a foster mom volunteered to take in all four cats! She even wanted to give them a forever home.
Not all four kittens made it in their new home. Willow was sadly found dead the first morning. Her foster mom took her to the vet who did an autopsy. She found out that Willow died of volvulus. It's so sad that no one knew she was sick. But I'm happy she died safe inside with her siblings.
I thought my work with this litter was done, but I was surely wrong. Cause in February another long haired kitty shows up on my recordings? I was so confused, as there was never more than four kittys on the tapes at a time.
So I go through all my old footage and I only have one recording of this fifth kitten, together with her siblings. So it turns out there were five kittys all along. I name her Mambo and now I need to bring her in. But Mambo doesn't come by the feeding station often. At one point I don't see her for weeks and think she is gone. But around springtime she finally starts to show up again. I find a place to feed her in the trap and it works. But it's April before I catch her.
It was lucky I caught her in time, cause the vet found that she had a hernia. Since her siblings were still very timid in their foster home and they hadn't seen their sister for months, it was decided to give Mambo her own, experienced, foster mom. That way there would be no set back for the other three siblings and no extra stress on Mambo.
Mambo was ready for adoption in June. Look how big she has gotten!
Where did they come from?
This is the big burning question. How does five adorable cats suddenly show up at my feeding station? Unfortunatly we will never know and can only guess. If it was only one cat, one would think that it was a lost stray. But it would be very rare that five cats escaped at once. Besides, no one was looking for them? It would be quite easy to recognise these guys on a "wanted" post online.
If they were born in the wild, like the rest of my colony, they shouldn't have been as cooperative at the vet as they were. They probably wouldn't have behaved as well as they did while in my trap either. So it would seem that they had at some point been with humans? Which leads me to believe that they were dumped somewhere. Probably in the woods, which is just across the road from my feeding station. So it's not unlikely that the little ones smelled the cat food or sensed the other cats. Here they found shelter and food and decided to stick around. What a good choice that turned out to be.
All the best to Walther, Vanilla, Woody and Mambo.
More guests by the feeding station
We have had other guests at the feeding station. One of them is a Maine Coon who first appeared in October 2019. I was sure that he was lost and managed to bring him to the vet. As expected we found a chip and got in contact with the owner. To my surprise he was not lost, but lived a couple of kilometers away. He is an outdoor cat and he had recently lost his brother. After that he started to roam more. Maybe he is looking for cat company, cause he hangs out at my feeding station and seems interested in the other cats. Not all of them are comfortable around the big guy though! I never got his real name, so I call him Dean Coontz. To this day, 5 months later, he still comes by now and again. So he is a regular.