When I started putting Ronja and Victor's leftovers outside in the winter of 2016, there was a lot of cats out there. They kept in hiding as well as they could, but you would see them cross the fields from a distance or see them walk by the house from the window. It's not really a big surprise as I live out on the country on an old inn and farm, so there has always been cats around here. The two last generations of adult humans that have been living here, haven't been feeding the cats, but the generation before them did. So there's decades of feral cat here and in the spring I sometimes see young cats walk in groups.
When I first put out a wildlife camera I caught quite a few of them on camera. Tommy was on one of my very first recordings too. He looked big and well fed though, so I wasn't too worried about him. I focused on what became our first TNR Little Poul. She was coming by every day and when I made the shelter, she was the only one using it. Tommy came by now and then, but not nearly as often as Little Poul. So there wasn't anything that pointed to Tommy necessarily being a stray or feral. Though I live somewhat out on the country there are other houses near by, so he could've belonged there. Here's a video from January 2017. Tommy is cat number 2.
Becoming a regular visitor
Months went by and though I caught Tommy on camera now and then, I never saw him with my own two eyes. He did a very good job hiding from me. I named him Big Boy back then. But then something seemed to change when the cold came in November 2017. Suddenly one night, he was sitting by the shelter where I put out the food, as if he was waiting to get served. I instantly recognized him even though it was dark. He started showing up almost every night and often I saw or heard him run out of the shelter, when I came around the corner. So it no longer seemed like he belonged anywhere else. He didn't seem used to humans and always kept a safe distance between us. He always waited for me to back off, before going for the food. If I came too close he would run away. I renamed him Tom which quickly changed to Tommy, as it's a lot easier to call out.
Caught a cat
Since I was now regularly feeding Tommy, it was my responsibility to get him checked by a vet. First I needed to know if he was lost and someone was actually missing him. If he was a feral, as I assumed, he needed to be checked for diseases and bad teeth, to make sure he wasn't suffering and possibly spreading diseases to other cats. Lastly I needed to get him neutered, so I wasn't indirectly causing more homeless kitties in the area. When I was sure he was visiting on a regular basis, I borrowed a cat trap from a local cat caring organisation called Nordsjællands Kattehjælp. First I just put out the trap next to the shelter and then I started to but food in there. That way he would be used to the trap once I needed to catch him.
The night came where I needed to get him in the trap and I got some delicious salmon for him. I put it directly on the plate that trickers the trap and walked around the corner. I turned off my light and stood as still as possible. Then I hold my breath, waited and listened. It did not take long before I heard the trap go off and Tommy was caught. Of course he wasn't happy about it and tried to get out. He quickly stopped struggling though and I carried him inside.
The barn I put him in wasn't very lit, but it was the first time I saw him in a light other than my flashlight (he only comes out at night). He was even more impressing in size than I had figured and quite handsome. In Denmark we use ear tattoos to identify cats and he had none of those. He growled at me if I came too close to the cage or moved around more than he liked. But other than that he handled it very well. Some cats go bananas, but he was sitting calmly and very stoic, keeping a close eye on me. Even though he kept calm, he must have been very nervous of course, and I let him be by himself for the night.
Trip to the V-E-T
Early next morning we took the short trip to the vet. The vet was also impressed by the size of Tommy and he was weighed to be 5,8 kg (about 13 pounds). Look at the size of his dirty paws!
He wasn't at all overweight though. The vet said it's all muscle! As expected he had no chip and he probably have been a feral all his life. He was estimated to be around 4 or 5 years old and was in good health. His teeth looked good and he was tested negative for both cat aids and leukemia. They didn't even find a single flee on him! But I do put tablets in their food to prevent flees and tics, so it's not too surprising.
Then he got his fancy ear tattoos and of course he got neutered. He was still woosey from the sedation when I picked him up, so we let him sleep it off in the cage. He also ate a bowl of wet food before we called it a night. When it was (very!) early the next morning I let him back outside. Once I opened the gate of the cage, he didn't hesitate to run back to his freedom.
When I released my first TNR back to "the wild" she let me wait a gruesome 14 days before she showed up again! So I was very happy when Tommy showed up the very next day. He doesn't fully trust me though and he stays even further away from me than he used to. He won't move an inch closer to the food till I'm completely out of sight. But I'll take that punishment if it means that Tommy will stray less and fight less and not put anymore kittens into this world, that will never have a home of their own. Tommy can stop chasing the ladies and focus on himself.
Luckily for me my two TNR's seem to get along just fine. One time I caught them sitting in each their shelter waiting for me. And here's a video from the summer of 2017 where they even share a bowl of food together (date and time stamp is inaccurate).
I'm very thankful that there's organisations out there that will help financially with these TNR projects and that there's vets that offers discount for this sort of thing.