There’s a stray outside

Although the weather is still a bit cold, soon spring will officially be here and the stray cats will come out of their winter nests and start searching for food in earnest…

Stray and feral cats are described by many labels: doorstep cats, porch kitties, bush dwellers, stray cats, feral cats, fractious cats. Feral cats are commonly thought to be disease-ridden, troublesome, pests, a nuisance something that needs to be eradicated. When truth be told, most “feral cats” are stray cats with feral tendencies.

Cats that lurk around homes and businesses become easy prey for the darker side of humanity. If they are lucky, where they have hidden themselves, they can scrounge daily for food and water. Cats skilled in survival conceal their presence well. Anywhere they can find a space that will not touch the outer tips of their whiskers, they know they can get inside and be safe. So adept are they in hiding, that there is currently no accurate count of how many stray and feral cats there are in the United States. There is just speculation.

Stray cats scavenge for food in dumpsters, behind restaurants and fast food places. If they are lucky, they find a kind soul who will not only feed them, but also trap neuter and rehome or release them into the wild. Without kindly benefactors these cats are left to survive the elements, predators and diseases on their own. Perhaps long abandoned on the streets by clueless owners or dumped out into the middle of nowhere by heartless humans for not being the “perfect cat,” former house cats’ memories of warm houses soon fades, replaced instead by their feral tendencies.

Tomcats roam looking for intact females and submissive males. Slowly, the cats find each other, fighting for dominance the group determines their pecking order, an Alpha takes over as leader, mating begins and the group grows. The cats begin to colonize especially around an easy food source.

Setting dry or wet cat food outside on a regular basis is a sure sign that a cat or two will soon appear. Feeding the stray cat in your yard, though admirable, only creates more of a problem. The cat once realizing that food is plentiful will start to spray your bushes with a pheromone alerting other cats that the house is “safe” for other kitties. This marking of your home or property identifies your home as a easy mark, a place of food.

The cats in the immediate area and over a mile away will pick up on this initial scent by using their Jacobson’s Organ (an organ located inside the mouth just behind the front teeth). As more cats arrive to the feeding bowls, more pheremones are sprayed. Soon, one cat becomes two, then three then ten. Unaltered cats and sadly most strays and feral cats are not neutered will stay near the food source and begin to fight and mate.

If you don’t spay and neuter the cats on your property, soon they will be breeding, fighting for territorial rights. The tomcats will be screaming in the middle of the night as they confront each other and fight for food, the right to mate and challenge the alpha of the group. Alphas are not always surprisingly the males. Females have been known to effectively achieve the level of Alpha in a group.

Cats are fierce predators. Cats teamed with humans when we began the agricultural part of our existence. Farmers feeding livestock grain, soon became overrun with rodents. Cats, realizing that living closely with humans increased their chances of getting a good meal of prey began to seek out human contact, lurking in barns and keeping the rodent population down. The barn cats of today still maintain this predatory role, while their cousins the housecats enjoy a life of being pampered and fed inside the home.

If you feed feral cat, you should also do what is known as TNR (Trap, Neuter and Release). Trapping is not always easy to accomplish. The best way to trap a large colony of cats is to have multiple traps set up all at once to trap as many cats as possible. Once the cats witness other cats being caught in traps, they will begin to steer clear of any trap making trapping difficult.Withholding food 24 hours before setting the traps makes the cats hungry to go in and eat the food that is set out for bait. The traps should be scrubbed out after every capture with an enzyme remover such as urine-off or Zero Odor. Cats, when they are stressed will be spraying the wires with urine. This urine tells other cats to “stay away.”

Some cats do not like the feel of the wire under their paws. Using a thin layer of newspaper to pad the front part of the trap, or once the trap is in place using kitty litter will also work. Just don’t impede the trigger.

For the hard to catch male stray cats, try using a little bit of soiled cat litter. Sprinkle it towards the back of the trap near the trigger to lure them in. They will catch the scent of the strange cat and move in to cover it.

There are several types of traps to use. Hav-A-Heart is a humane trap, they make them in several sizes, including kitten size. The Tomahawk Company out of Wisconsin also makes humane live traps. Traps can sometimes be rented from Animal Control, Animal Shelters, some veterinary clinics, feed stores, and pest control services.

There are drop traps you can build if there are two of you that will be trapping. Alley Cat Allies website has instructions on how to build one.
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You want to place the trap in a secure location that is not out in the open. If you are trapping at a shopping center, your best bet is to place the traps near the dumpster where the cats will typically go to gather food. Please monitor these traps if at all possible, for someone can come along and steal the trap and the cat inside. Have a dark cloth ready to throw over a trap once a cat is caught, as well as something to weight down the top of the trap, for the cat will repeatedly throw himself against the wire in a frantic effort to get out. The blanket or dark cloth you place over the trap, will help to calm the cat quicker than leaving it exposed. It is best, once a cat has been trapped to remove the trap quickly to another area so the other cats don’t become spooked and run away.

Bait: You want smell to bring them into the trap, so mackerel, tuna, stinky cheap fish food, sardines or smelt all create an odor. Dribble the juice of the fish around the inside of the trap and on the trigger, and place a small amount of food in a large jar lid or a plate or a saucer, but not a bowl. The cat needs to see the food, and not just a bowl.

Once you have set the trap in place, carefully place the food at the very back of the trap beyond the trigger, and set your trap. Remove yourself from the immediate area, but check the traps about every two to three hours. Remember patience is key.

You can get creative, and start feeding your cats inside a large cardboard box that is flipped over on its side. Once they get used to going into the box, add a trap and go for the capture. You can also use what nature has provided to camoflague your trap. Pine branches, wood bark, leaves, wedge the trap between two logs, it all depends on where you are trapping.

If you are feeding a large colony of cats, keep a journal (and try to get photographs of each cat) that way you will have a record that you can refer to and be sure that you have trapped all the cats in the group. Record any type of distinguishing mark, color, sex, etc..

Persistence and patience is key here. Once you have the cat in the trap, get the trap to a vet that is familiar with handling feral cats. Don’t call and make an appointment without letting them know that your cat is feral. That is hardly fair to the vet and the vet techs. If you are using a spay day on a spay mobile, make sure you have enough dark cloths to cover each trap while the animal waits for his or her turn. There are a lot of cats on a Spay Day and the more you can reduce the animal’s stress, the better for everyone involved.

According to Lisa Doyle, cat rescuer and volunteer of AzCat the following items are essential to have with you while trapping large colonies:
Humane Traps
Can opener
Cover for each trap
Dish or lid to hold cat food
Tarp or plastic for under traps when transporting in vehicle
Coffee, blanket, radio with earphones (if you are going to stake out the area and watch the traps)

2. Set the traps around the area where the cats are used to being fed. You can also set up in areas where they are seen. In general cats like to be up against walls, etc. so you are more likely to catch them there.

3. Potential Trap problems: Be sure that the trap door has a full, unhindered swing. If you are using the brown traps with the side chain attached to the trip plate (thing that they step on) check to see that the chain is not twisted or jammed when you set the trap.

If your trap is one with a back door look at how it is secured when you get it so you know how to correctly close it. If you do not close it correctly the cat may be able to escape.

4. Put newspaper, folded in half length wise, in the bottom of the trap and put a small amount of smelly food on a lid or other small item in the back of the trap against the door that will remain closed. Sprinkle a very small amount of the food along the newspaper in one or two places. Never put any food outside the trap itself. Suggested food: Tuna fish; sardines; Fancy Feast salmon or other smelly cat food.

5. As you trap the cats and move them be sure to look at the ground. Sometimes the tuna or other food you use for bait will spill onto the ground. Pick it up immediately if you have not yet caught all the cats you are trying to trap. You don’t want it to be eaten by the other cats you are trying to trap.

When a cat is in a trap:

1. Immediately cover the trap completely with a towel or sheet then take the cat away from the area. (Careful as they can move back and forth quickly in the trap and catch you off balance.)

2. Always check to see if the left ear of the cat is ear-tipped. The tip of the left ear is cut straight across so that the tip is removed. That means that the cat was previously trapped, altered, and returned. It can be released. If you have sufficient traps, hold the cat in the trap until you are done trapping, and then release it.

3. It takes a while for other cats to come back in the area after a cat is trapped so be patient. It gets harder to catch the remaining cats with every trap they see or hear go off.

4. Do not feed the cat in the trap you risk escape and the cat is having surgery the following morning and should have nothing in its stomach. (The exception is kittens that are small but big enough to alter. Kittens blood sugar drops when they do not eat causing added risk during surgery so the recommendation is to feed them a small amount of MOIST cat food right up to a few hours before surgery.)

5. Put the trapped cat somewhere where it will not be too adversely affected by the weather and where it will be safe from people and other animals.


1. LEAVE THE TOWEL OR SHEET ON THE TRAP THE CAT IS IN THE ENTIRE TIME THE CAT IS IN THE TRAP. If the cat pulls the cover into the trap get another cover to put on the trap. Cats in traps must be covered.

2. You should put a tarp or other waterproof covering in the vehicle (for example, an old shower curtain.) The cats may urinate or defecate.

3. MAKE CERTAIN THE TRAPS CANNOT ROLL OVER IN YOUR VEHICLE. Gravity-operated (brown) traps will open if turned upside down. If you must stack the traps on top of each other make certain that the handle is not sticking up on the trap that is on the bottom and that the top trap is secure so that it will not tip on either side.

Holding the cat overnight and releasing the cat:

1. Hold the cats in an area where they are safe from predators and protected from the elements. After surgery, cats cannot regulate their body temperatures the way they normally can, so their holding area cannot be too cold in winter or too warm in the summer.

2. You should give the cats water and a little moist food, use extreme caution so the cats cannot escape from their traps. Using the same door you used to put the bait in the trap, lift the door up no more than necessary and never so far up that the cat can fit through the door if it suddenly decided to bolt forward. (The door should come up only a couple inches.) Be sure to secure the door correctly as well. If a cat is very groggy or unsteady, wait. You do not want to risk having the cat drown in the water or choke on the food.

3. Hold the cat a minimum of 24 hours after surgery. If there is continuing bleeding or other problems do not release the cat. Follow the instructions given by the veterinarian.

4. To release take the cat to its usual secure location preferably where there are bushes or other things in which it can hide, open the back door, pull the trap cover back, and stand at the opposite end of the trap to wait for the cat to go out. If it is near an area where there is vehicular traffic wait for a time when there is no traffic because the cat may make a panic run directly into oncoming traffic.

Follow up:

1. Clean the trap with a bleach solution. Bleaching traps helps prevent the spread of any diseases for future trappings.

1 gallon of water to 4 ½ oz. of bleach
2 gallons of water to 8¾ oz. of bleach
3 gallons of water to 13 oz. of bleach
4 gallons of water to 17 1/4 oz. of bleach
5 gallons of water to 21 ½ oz. of bleach

2. Wash the towels or sheets that were used as trap covers. Use bleach.

If you are only trapping one cat, this becomes easier. However, if the cat is older and trap savvy, he may not enter the trap readily.
Once the cat is trapped, transport him to the vet clinic. Be sure and call the clinic first to let them know you have a stray cat in need of a neuter. While the cat is being transported, be sure and keep the trap covered. This calms the cat down, though you may still hear him rush against the sides of the wire in a frantic attempt to get away. This is normal for trapped cats to feel such panic. You also need to prepare yourself for seeing some blood once the trap is uncovered. Many cats slash open their nose or face while attempting to flee captivity. If possible, keep the cat in your car in the covered trap until the vet is ready to see the cat in his treatment room (weather permitting). This decreases the amount of stress the cat is subjected to, shielding it from the other stess pheremones from the other animals waiting to be seen.

Initial Vet Visit

Any cat that isn’t used to being handled is considered feral to the vet and the clinic. This cuts down on the amount of injury to the staff and the cat as well. If the cat is brought into the clinic in a covered trap, the office girl will take down all pertinent information.

The cat should be tested for the prevalent viral diseases in the area. This testing will be undertaken once the cat has been sedated. What tests are taken should be determined by the vet and the owner. The cat is then carried back to the kennel area. His trap is then inverted upright (vertically) instead of horizonally. This minimizes the injuries he can cause himself.

At the clinic, they have an apparatus called “metal fingers.” This is a series of long metal rods that can be inserted into the main trap. The tech’s hands are outside the cage, holding on to the special gripper handle. The metal fingers are then worked through the bars of the trap, forcing the cat down into the bottom of the cage. The fingers, hold the cat securely in place while the vet administers the sedative. Different clinics use different drugs; Telazole, Rompum, Ketamine, Torbugesic or Xylazine are the preferred drugs of choice.

Once the cat has been sedated, he is removed from the trap. If ear tipping has been requested, the vet will surgically remove the bare tip of the left ear. This ear tipping is performed if the cat is being re-released back outside. Then all routine exams are performed, bloodwork taken to test for viral disease. If the cat is healthy, he will then be neutered, returned back to his trap or a waiting cat carrier if the owner provides one.

This type of treatment, no matter how gently it is carried out by the vet and the staff, only proves to terrify a stray cat more. Used to being able to escape in all directions, the cat wakes up in discomfort and on edge. It is imperative that when transporting the cat home, you keep the carrier or the trap covered at all times. Pain patches should be applied to help with the level of pain the cat will experience during the recovery process.

Because you have trapped this cat, cut off all access of freedom for him, you move quickly in the cat’s eyes from “rescuer” to predator. He is not going to trust you for sometime and may even do you great harm. Handling him right off if you don’t know what you are doing must be done minimally, especially if your goal is to just release him back into the outdoors.


It is the start of Spring Break and this morning while walking to the barn, the ground crunched underneath my feet. The surrounding mountains show a light dusting of new snow in the background. Canadian Geese honk overhead as they search in vain for the wetlands that once existed down the road apiece, now replaced by a modular home tract.

They circle the pasture several times honking their dismay. Then, they notice the creek at the back of our land and diving down from the sky; they end up settling near its banks. It is called Little Creek, but this time of year, it is swollen with rain water and run-off. They should be able to find food because the small fishes hide in the grasses below the water. I feel sorry for them. The farmer down the road recently passed away, and his land was sold, instantly grabbed up by developers. Deciding that apple, pear and plum trees have no merit in today’s world, the orchards were quickly cut down. The large pond where the wildlife met daily, they drained and filled with gravel and sand.

It was a man-made pond. We would see the farmer and his boy out there every summer fishing from their small boat. Now, cement foundations wait patiently for the resurrection of more houses. More money into developers pockets, all in the name of progress.

The horses are spirited this morning. Perhaps sensing a change in the weather is imminent. Tired of slogging through the mud, getting stuck at times- wanting their itchy winter coat to finally be shed so they can play in the sunshine and sleep in the dry grass, they paw at the gate impatiently for their food.

When I open the barn door, I see to my dismay that the last of the winter hay has vanished. Today’s offerings will be only the loose hay that has fallen from the loft- still; it makes a sizeable meal for them until I can order more bales today. It has been a cold winter- the hay didn’t last as long as normally it would. But at least, because of the cold snaps, the breeding season of the strays were halted. Now, there will be some relief for me until the kitten season starts up again in a few months.

Shimmer leaves soon for her new home. Her infection of her spay site has healed nicely. I am thrilled that she is going to be an only kitty in this lovely home and be cherished by the entire family. All the kitties here deserve to be an only kitty. The halls are quite crowded now; Mike says I am running a boarding house for runaways! I suppose if you think about it, I am.


Now that I have returned to work, the Miller kitties have planned reprisals. After all, how dare their human who has taken care of them 24/7 for what has been their life here, desert them and leave the house even for a few hours without returning with goodies for them.

This morning (which is my day off) I was cleaning the pet fountains out only to discover the lid to the one upstairs missing. Hunting high and low in all the hiding spots that are in the two rooms netted me zero results. The lid to the reservoir was clearly missing.

Puzzled, I went downstairs and resumed my search. I found the lid, cleverly wedged inside my furry slippers (which were also missing from their accustomed place.) Which kitty carried this plastic top downstairs and hid it in my slippers is a mystery (as there are no witnesses) none that are talking at any rate. But my bet is on Charlie.

They have also decided that mom doesn’t get to sleep in any longer. If I have to leave them and I do, because there are vets to be paid.) Then they will wake me now at 5:00 a.m. in order to spend more time with my grogginess.

Chaplain and Oliver make up the first feline assault team. Vaulting on the headboard in true combat style. Chaplain searches for an exposed hand or finger to bite, while Oliver concentrates on the exposed skin of my face. Almost in synch they launch the attack. Oliver dives for my cheeks and Chaplain grabs my hand. One or the other succeeds in their action and I spring awake. Not the best way to wake in the morning but for them, it serves the purpose. I am now awake.

They have also decided that the computer corner, where I spend the majority of my time when I am home is the best place to hang out. Figuring to thwart them from resting on the top of my printer, we put up a large wooden barrier. But who am I kidding? These are cats and they love to climb. God has equipped them with the perfect carabiners (known to them as claws.) If they happen to slip during the ascent, God has given them wonderful shock absorbers (foot pads.) Although the barrier is high, Trump, Shimmer and Charlie manage to scale the top and win the prize-a snooze on top of my HP C5140 Can’t win for losing around here-

Kodie Update

Kodie has gone through yet another surgery. She now has a line of stitches on the side of her neck and the center of her throat. They have removed the manibular gland, the salivary gland and the pirroted gland. She looks like a Frankenstein dog right now. Poor girl.

I am sending photos of her to the man we suspect put her into this predicament in the hopes of relieving the mounting vet bill ($800.00) for these surgeries. It may seem to be a desperate measure, but my hope is he can’t sleep at night because the vision of her keeps invading his sleep.

I have a new kitty- well, a cat. She is 10 years old and has no teeth. No one really wanted her so I said I would take her. Eddie, the gal I got her from has been kind enough to find a home for Shimmer in exchange. Shimmer leaves here on tax day. Her new home is in Washington and she will be an only kitty. I’m sure she will love being an only kitty- she is a sweetheart and I am sure with some consistant attention she will bond with her family quickly.

When a plan comes together

Just learned that a feral cat who was adopted out to a loving home last year is now appearing on Stuff On My Cat. Not a website I am a fan of I am afraid, because some people get a bit carried away piling “stuff” on a cat- but here is Buzzby. He stayed with us for 4 months before Rachel adopted him. This photo is the day he arrived. Here is today:


Room Service

Motel 6 developed a quaint little slogan for their motel chain some years back; I’ll leave the light on! For the stray cat soon to be occupying a corner of your home, the same amenity should be offered to him. Leave the light on.

Make this light inviting for the cat, so Stray Willy feels welcomed. Remove light bulbs that produce harsh glare and replace them with lower wattage bulbs. Indirect lighting works well, night lights can create a calming effect on a stressed out cat in captivity for the very first time.

Cats are unable to see in pitch darkness. Instead, they see with their noses, ears and whiskers. Cats have touch receptors located in various places on their body, but the most intense concentration of receptors is located in their whiskers. The whiskers are tuned to respond to anything touching them including air currents. If a cat is stripped of his whiskers and placed in a pitch dark environment the cat is visually handicapped. Three blind mice could pass right by him and the cat wouldn’t be able to find his prey.

Using a night light or other indirect lighting sources becomes beneficial in helping Stray Willy acclimate to your home. Being in semi-darkness will help him feel less exposed and vulnerable. When exposed to lower density light, the cat’s pupils enlarge allowing in more light. A cat can see with a sixth of the amount we ourselves need.

Kid & Pet Free Zone-
At Motel 6 kids stay free. In this new sanctuary for your cat, your kids should also stay free. Free and clear of the room! Especially toddlers who can be so enchanted with the prospect of a new kitten- that pudgy hands smelling of food and other enticing odors pushed into cats faces often get bit.

Assign one maid for the room. Her responsibility will be to see to the comfort of the new resident and hang a Do Not Disturb Sign outside. Instead of carrying out dirty towels and emptying waste paper baskets, her job will be emptying out the litter pans, providing food and water, general housekeeping and furnishing companionship.

Running the vacuum would make Stray Willy head straight up the wallpaper, but there will be mistakes to mop up. The new boy is going to be stressed. The target organ for stress in cats is the kidneys says Sharon Forster Blouin PhD DVM of Corvallis Cat Clinic. You can bet if your cat is stressed, there will be little (or big) puddles of proof on the floor, or the wall, or the ceiling depending on how old and how accomplished a sprayer Willy is.

Motel 6? welcomes pets. In Stray Willy’s sanctuary, other pets should not be on the welcome waggin. Keeping the new cat away from the resident cat(s) family dog, or even your child’s hamster will help ensure that Willy’s stress meter doesn’t get pegged in the danger zone. He needs time to adapt to the new smells, sights, sounds, vibrations in the house before being exposed to more smells which will just serve to raise his stress level.

Music for the Ears-
When you check into the motel there is a card by the phone offering free HBO and ESPN. Willy, not a NASCAR aficionado, and I am willing to bet that if you bounced a basketball anywhere near his presence, he would perform a jump shot that would make Michael Jordan drop his Haines, you CAN make your guest more comfortable by offering him music.

Although Ted Nugent is a good singer, Cat Scratch Fever is not the music the doctor ordered. Transport your kitty into the mellow world of harp music. Diane Schneider J.D. Ph.D.,offers a veterinary edition of the Harp of Hope CD; a unique recording of therapeutically sequenced harp music that addresses symptoms of fear, restlessness, tension and sleeplessness in animals. Set Willy up with his own personal CD player, one that offers the function of continuous play. Place the unit in a secure spot- Willy might decide to try out for the Cat Olympics when first released from his carrier/trap into the room. If necessary, use bungee cords to strap the player down. Put the volume on low. He is blessed with almost super-sonic hearing. Even if you can’t hear the harp music playing, it’s a sure bet he can. No matter where he is in the room, Willy’s ears can rotate to 180? thanks to thirty special muscles located in his outer ears. Before you let him loose in the room for the first time be sure the CD is playing.

Only the Cat should be Wired-
In every room at the motel there is a data port. This allows easy connection to data machines, fax machines and other electronic devices. These devices serve to make your stay easier. If the room where Willy is staying has electronic equipment, be sure and keep the wires up and out of sight. There are several easy ways to accomplish this task without resorting to the use of spraying liquid cat deterrents on the wires, cords and cables. Measure the cords that are hanging loose. Cut a flat piece of board to fit. Lay the cords on the board and tape them in place with duct tape. Flip the board over and secure it to the wall. Walla! Willy’s temptation has been averted.

You can also visit a RadioShack and buy some flexible tubing. Slit open the tubing, insert the wires, cords cables then duct tape the tubing closed. This will stop Willy from getting the shock of his life. Another useful product to stop shocking encounters can be found here: Stop Shock

Or, take a trip to the local Home Depot and buy an economy package of paint roller covers and duct tape. Unplug your devices, thread the roller covers through the cords and secure the roller covers together with duct tape until the cords are completely covered. Willy may play with the roller covers, but he won’t have to be rushed to the vet because of burns in his mouth.

Unlike guests staying at the motel Willy doesn’t need complimentary coffee in the morning. He may be so buzzed when you let him loose in the room that he might appear to look wired, but he is running on fear. Because cats are fight or flight animals when they are scared they do one of two things. They stay and fight with what scares them, or they get the heck out of Dodge.

To help alleviate this response Farnum Pet makes a product that has become this households staple. The Comfort Zone Room Diffuser with Feliway for cats. Feliway is a synthetic reproduction of the feline facial pheromone known as the happy pheromone. When cats rub their faces together, this is their friendly way of greeting each other. Cats have facial glands located under the eyes, on the chin and below the ears. When they rub against something, they deposit this mark on the object marking it as theirs. The first time Willy head-bumps you, he is giving you a sign of acceptance by this act. That feeling is going to be worth all the trouble the two of you have traveled to arrive at that moment. The Comfort Zone Room Diffuser plugs into an outlet. The pheromones drift into the air, working their subtle magic into calming a stressed cat. These scents carry with them hidden messages that only cats fully understand.

Cave In to His Needs-
Although cats can’t see in the dark, they draw great comfort from being inside a dark area. Willy, like his wild ancestors needs a cave. Someplace he can feel secure. Where he can see the world, and be assured in his kitty brain, that the world can’t see him. When it comes to cat caves, you can go cheap or you can go wild!

Cardboard boxes are an ideal (and inexpensive) kitty cave. Set them on their side with the top open. Put some soft rags for bedding in one corner- leave the other corner bare (Willy may not be able to comprehend padded living conditions). Take a towel or a blanket and drape it over the open end of the box, allowing enough space underneath where Willy can slip into oblivion should he choose to do so. Weight down the box with a book or other heavy object.

Other cave possibilities are: cupboards, a section of closet, an old file cabinet with the drawers pulled out, an empty dresser drawer (just be sure that Willy can’t get from the drawer down under the furniture). If there is a park or wooded area near your home take a walk and look for a hollow log. Bring it home and wash it down. Let it set in the sun for a few days to get all the bugs out of it. Then put it in Willy’s room. Are you near a beach? Check and see if the driftwood is protected. If not, you can find some nifty pieces and build a cave from them. You can buy pre-made kitty caves online or at local pet supply stores.

Boys and their toys-
If your cat is a true feral cat, or a stray with strong feral tendencies, there is a good chance that store-bought cat toys will be completely ignored. One toy that never has been ignored in this household by any cat is Da Bird. Da Bird takes some coordination on your part, but you can manipulate this aerodynamically designed cat toy to mimic the flight of a bird. Even kitties in hiding will jump out to play when Da Bird drops by for a visit. Like any toy on a string, Da Bird needs to be supervised play only. Cats are fascinated with string.

My private belief is the long, slender string resembles a mouses tail and triggers an intense prey response. Always be careful when playing with your cat or kitten with string, yarn, shoelaces or rope. Swallowed string can cause obstruction, constipation, diarrhea, and even death.

After any intense playtime session (generally 10-20 minutes of interactive play is good) give Willy a nice meaty treat to wind him down and store the toy in a closet or cupboard. Though Da Bird is always a hit, I can’t say the same for felt mice, catnip socks, and balls with bells in them or pom toys. I have had luck with small pebbles ( big enough the cat can’t swallow them) miniature pine cones, long blades of grass, feathers (peacock feathers work well) empty spools of thread, ping pong balls and small twigs or strands of hay. Catnip with some stray cats can bring on aggression, so let the kitty taste-test it first. Put a small amount of loose leaf catnip on the floor and just watch what Willy does.

Bringing the Outside-In-
Willy is going to be on-edge for awhile. Any encounter he has had with humans up to now has probably not been pleasant. Entering into this world unwanted by humans, perhaps even his mom abandoned him. He is only comfortable in the world he knows, the outside world. Now, his world has been completely changed. He has gone from having many escape routes to living in your home and whether that place is a spare bedroom, a bathroom, or even a garage, you may as well have dropped him off on an alien planet.

He will be looking for things he considers familiar and not finding them. He has to switch his privileged potty spot from dirt to sand. He loses the security of a bushy shrub where he could effectively hide from predators for the underside of your furniture. His outdoor climbing tree permit has been permanently cancelled. There is no live prey in his world to stimulate him (except for you). Perhaps you want him to be grateful and crawl into your lap purring his gratitude. The reality is, this rarely happens and if it does, then consider yourself lucky. Your stray cat has turned out to be someone’s neglected pet, or a cat who got lost.

For the most part, Willy is going to look at you as one of the largest predators in his immediate world. You want him safe and happy. He wants back out into the world he understands. So to prevent him from charging the door every five minutes in an attempt to gain his ticket to freedom, bring the outside world in. You want a playmate, he wants a preymate!

You can’t bring a live tree into his room, but tree limbs are a good substitute if they are handy. Cat trees are a must for any cat, but especially for Stray Willy who is used to scratching his claws on the trunks of trees, running up the branches in pursuit of insects or other prey. Scratching posts wrapped in sisal are good substitutes. Giving him carpeted scratching posts will implant in his mind that carpet, no matter where it is, is okay to scratch.

He is accustomed to drinking water from gutters, puddles, streams, or wherever he can find it. Water bowls need to be glass with colored rocks or marbles, or ball bearings something covering the bottom; anything that will show this kitty there is water inside. Aquarium rock works well. Remember whatever you use, make sure you wash the objects well. Pet fountains are wonderful. Drinkwell’s latest model is so quiet; the noise shouldn’t bother him at all.

Much to my husband’s consternation, I have been known to lug large rocks upstairs to the cat room so that kitty has a place to hide. I bring in big leafy branches of trees when I know the leaves are not toxic to cats. On the prey front, renowned Cat Behaviorist Pam Johnson- Bennett in her book Think Like a Cat has this to say about transitioning an outside cat to an inside cat:
“Unlimited prey (or at least potential prey for the less than top-notch hunter) and the other temptations of a dynamic environment can make your newly indoor cat feel as if he has just been sentenced to Kitty Alcatraz”
To lessen the sentence in a kitty’s point of view, consider installing a bird or squirrel feeder outside the window. Put up Hummingbird feeders, or place plants that attract butterflies or bees: Mosquito plant, Butterfly Bush, English Thyme, Gomphrena, Purple Horse Mint, Red Clover.

Of course if Willy’s reservation is in the dead of winter, then your bird feeder would be a better option.. Ace Hardware carries Perky Pet Feeders. Perky Pet comes in different combinations, where you can attract butterflies and hummingbirds, squirrels, or birds.

If there isn’t a tree nearby to hang the feeder on, they make the type that sticks directly to the outside of the window. Be sure and either have a cat tree or a cat perch near the window. Otherwise Willy might make full use of his claws in order to get a better seat for the show. Your walls, wallpaper or paneling may never be the same again unless you provide him a front-row seat to enjoy the show.

Prey Do Tell-
Even the most die-hard cat lover would find it difficult to present Willy with a live mouse or a bird for his eating enjoyment. But thankfully, there are other options. Not as lovely as leaving mints on your pillows, or a special shampoo in the basket in the bathroom is one way to keep Willy satisfied… Virginia Grant runs Mice on Ice supplying zoos and other establishments with parasite-free mice. The frozen mice are dropped into a bucket of warm water until they thaw, then you just lay the rodent on the floor and let Willy discover this delectable treat for himself. The mice are also disease free. They are a useful tool to turn to if Willy decides that Kitty Alcatraz is not his style and stages a hunger strike.

If you are feeling squeamish about now oh gentle reader, may I remind you that mice are part of a cat’s normal diet out in the wild. However, wild mice carry fleas; fleas carry tapeworms and blood-related diseases. Sometimes Outdoor Ollie has the misfortune of eating a mouse that has been poisoned. Then Outdoor Ollie’s Outdoor Privileges are revoked in a final fashion. You do not want Stray Willy to feast on wild mice.

You can set up a lizard cage in the room. Your kids will love that, and Willy will be equally enchanted. Be sure the top is securely fastened down and able to bear Willy’s weight, because he will be leaping up there to investigate the critter inside.

Be Prepared-
Be a boy scout and be prepared. If the room where kitty is housed is big enough, take a large covered Rubbermaid® container. Place inside; dry food, canned food, can opener (if needed) extra water bottles (I use empty and washed milk jugs) Rescue Remedy, Feliway Spray or refills for the Comfort Zone Room Diffusers, an enzyme cleaner such as Zero Odor or Tuff Oxi for Pets, extra litter, rubber gloves, leather gloves, extra food dishes (don’t feed from bowls, use a flat surface like cookie sheets or paper plates) flashlight extra batteries and plastic utensils. You might also tuck a first aid kit in there. If the bathroom is small and the only room available, then store the box nearby, where you can get to it easily. Place a few heavy towels over the top and seal the container.

You need a broom, dustpan or small vacuum to clean up kitty litter. Speaking of litter, use only unscented clay litter, give this new cat two litter pans (three pans are ideal). I learned a long time ago that “standard” cat litter pans fall below the mark for stray cats. For Willy, the world was his oyster and that is a big toilet seat. Large, low-sided Rubbermaid containers are ideal for him. I use the type that slide under the bed, the ones that you store blankets and sweaters in.

Using regular litter pans (unless the newcomer is a kitten) causes litter pan accidents frequently. Don’t place the litter pans together, spread them out. In the wild, Willy would travel a great distance from home-base before he did his business. He would pee in one spot, cover it well and then move off to another spot before pooping. This is a survival skill to keep predators away from his nest.

You also want to be sure to have a large can of PAM Cooking Spray™ Use this to coat the cleaned litter pans on the bottom. No more sticky, messy waste to deal with. The waste slides straight out!

Wear Protection-
As much as you want to protect this cat, you also have to give yourself the same consideration. Wear long sleeves, thick socks, and long pants. Be sure you have your tetanus shot up to date. Have a pair of goggles ready to use if you need it. Purchase a Handee Reacher. This tool, used for those with mobility problems allows you to reach for items at a safe distance. You can use it to move litter pans, food bowls, bedding and even toys if Stray Willy turns out to have a bit of a cattitude about him.

You can also make an artificial arm for first contact from a broomstick, a padded leather glove and duct tape. Take the glove (stuffed with soft batting) and secure it with duct tape to one end of the broomstick. Use this “arm” to get Willy used to being touched.

Sometimes it becomes necessary to have a protective shield. I use a large cardboard flap, cut two holes in the center. Then I take the duct tape and lay out a long strip, roll the strip up into a long thin strip that looks like a pencil, feed one end of the strip through one hole into the second hole and continue until there is a nice, multilayered handle. Place a piece of duct tape in the center of the strip on the front of the shield to keep it secure. This primitive shield has saved “face” for me many times when the stray turns out to have such deep feral tendencies that he decides launching a full frontal attack is the only way to go.

The Bare Essentials:
Working with stray cats, I talk to myself softly the entire time I’m in the room. I am actually talking to the cat, but he doesn’t know this because I ‘m not looking at him directly, even if he happens to be sitting in the middle of the room looking square at me. If the cat isn’t a hostile and attacking you or your feet work barefoot. This pays of in several ways. First off, our feet have 250,000 sweat glands in each foot. In 24 hours, our feet are capable of producing over a pint of sweat. Sweat is comprised of bacteria. Bacteria stinks. Stinky feet become your signature scent for this cat. He can smell you coming before the door opens up into his room. He can track you after you leave by following your scent around the room. A warning though, bare-feet can find puddles of urine fairly quickly.

While I am in the room, I also sing softly to myself, I talk about my day, running up an incessant amount of chatter without stopping to catch my breath often. My voice is carried clearly to the cat in hiding. Because the tone is low, even if he is on edge, my voice will help to soothe him over time.

Because cats are first and foremost predators, in order to be successful hunters, they come equipped with the ability to hear blades of grass rustling as a mouse moves across a pasture, or an insect digging in the dirt. Hearing in cats has fascinated humans for decades. In his book The Cat’s Mind -Understanding Your Cat’s behavior, author, Dr. Bruce Fogle says:

“Hearing in cats has been studied in cats, more than any other animal. Almost forty years ago, it was known that cats could hear sounds two octaves above what we can hear. Sounds consist of vibrations and these reach the ear as pressure waves of air; it is measured according to the number of vibrations or cycles per second. The higher the number, the higher the pitch, although pitch also depends on the size or amplitude of the sound.”

He goes on to say that we hear sounds vibrating up to 20,000 cycles per second. Studies show cats hear sounds vibrating up as far as 65,000 cycles per second. This is why, I keep my voice low. I also choose a favorite lullaby and sing it over-and-over while in his presence. Later, after he has been socialized and merged into general population, I will use that same song to comfort him, should he become ill or injured. Each cat has their own song that is their’s alone

Because, I choose to live in a home with several cats; I maintain a list of all my cats on my refrigerator. Next to their name, I print the title of the lullaby they will identify with. The truth is these days; my cat’s claws are much sharper than my own mind!

Ignoring your cat (avoiding directly staring at him even if he comes out of his comfort zone) is the quickest way for him to relax. If he is hiding under the bed, don’t go diving in after him to pull him out and force him to sit on your lap. Your lap may not survive the experience.

If his litter pans show activity, his food is being consumed and you see the water level in his bowl decreasing. Leave him be. This ignore factor does not apply with sick, injured or otherwise traumatized cats, pregnant queens, or bottle babies. Just with cats who have been to the vet, declared healthy and now have to get used to adjusting to an alien world.

Cat-Proof is Fool Proof-
For the room to be secure it must be cat proofed. Your assignment should you decide to accept it, is to lie down on the floor on your belly and look around. This is pretty much a cat’s eye view of the room. What do you see that could get Willy into trouble; any loose cords hanging (electrical as well as blinds or drapery/curtain cords)? Any small spaces that Willy could get into that might make him inaccessible to you? Are there any cleaning products out? Has the floor been swept good, or the carpet vacuumed?

Look closely then sit up. Now look again. Survey the entire room. Are knick-knacks and breakables removed from tops of shelves and dressers? Does Willy have access to high places like shelves and ramps as well as low-lying places he can just nap? Are there any plants in the room? Are they toxic, or do you know? has all the information you need.

Do You Do Windows?
How many windows in the room? Are they secure? Keeping them closed (especially during the warmer part of the year) is not a good option. Pet Proof Screening is tougher than regular screen, but trust me, when a stray cat wants out and starts working at the screen with his claws and teeth, he can get out.

So what do you do? You don’t declaw. Instead, visit a home supply store; Jerry’s, Home Depot, Lowes, or any nursery. You are looking for vinyl trellises. Measure your screen part of your window(s) Buy the vinyl trellis sheet with the small decorative holes, not the larger patterns. Large holes exist for a curious cat or kitten to stick his head into and possibly become stuck, or even wiggle through the entire hole and escape.

Ask the store to cut the sheet to fit your window. Once back home, you need four short screws, and a screwdriver. Fit the sheet into the screened part of the window. Secure a screw in each corner of the window frame, the sheet will bend to fit. Even if Willy is a polydactyl, he won’t be able to escape and you can leave your windows open all the time without fear he will get outside. If you buy the white sheeting, it won’t be so noticeable from the outside.

The Solid Facts-
The standard door to any room is solid wood. Over the years, I have found that instead of closing the door between the cat and the rest of the house, we construct a door to fit using chicken wire and wood (or PVC pipe). The door has latches in the center, but it also has two more latches besides, one at the top and another at the bottom. The chicken wire is small mesh.

The chicken wire door serves several purposes. Instead of shutting the cat away from the smells, the sounds and the pace of the home, it allows the cat to hear and see what is going on. Unless Stray Willy is carrying the plague of the century, if you have other animals, this door allows them to interact without the threat of war. Cats who tend to get over stimulated will simply hide a bit longer until they figure out that nothing but YOU ever come in the door.

You arrive every day on a set schedule to work with the cat, tend to his basic needs and do clean-up patrol. The chicken wire also protects Willy from the snapping jaws of the family dog, little kids prying fingers, excited visitors that just want to see the cat and other cat attacks. You are still able to shut the solid door as well when need be, because the chicken wire door acts just like a screen door does. I have found this system to be infallible for merging the new kitty into the crew. The door is accidently left open one day, kitty slips out, no hisses, no growls- just acceptance by all.

Another advantage, you can see where Willy is hiding before you open the door, preventing his attempt to reenact the Great Hisscape feline-style.

Check it out-
Before you go running out the door to pick up Willy at the vets, take a look at the checklist:

Is the room secured?
Are the windows locked and loaded?
Supply box handy?
two litter pans in the room with unscented clay litter inside?
Food and Water Bowls. Are they filled?
CD Player and harp CD
Enzyme cleaners/rags
Heavy gloves
Towels and more towels
Rescue Remedy
Feliway plugged in (extras on hand)?
Door Secure?

If everything is in place, then it’s finally time to bring Willy home.

What are you waiting for? It’s check-in time!

Welcome to My World

The wind picked up scattering the dirt at my feet. I peered up at the sky noticing angry black clouds beginning to gather overhead. Soon the rain would begin in earnest. Brushing the remainder of loose hair from my horse Racer, I glanced out by the creek. The ferns near the bank were rustling vigorously. Suddenly the fronds parted. Out stepped a cat carrying an object in its mouth. At first, I thought the cat might have a large field mouse in her mouth. But as she neared, I could tell she was carrying a kitten. I had never seen this cat before, but there she was heading across our pasture with a purpose. I could see her distinct gray and white pattern of her swirled coat. As she passed me, she started to run, heading directly for our shop a few yards away. Startled, I dropped the currycomb and followed her. She darted through the cat door located on the side of our knife shop. By the time I arrived at the shop door, she had returned out the cat door for a quick dash back to the creek. I opened the door to find my husband sitting in his shop chair with an amazed look on his face a beige-and-white kitten on his lap!

“Do you know her? Mike asked, his hand gently stroking the kitten. I looked down at the little bundle of fur that was frantically searching for mom’s milk bar. Grabbing a clean shop rag lying nearby, I wrapped the little one up securely tucking the kitten against my shoulder. “I have never seen her before. Looks like you are a daddy!” I added with a grin.
Amazed, he just stared at me. We both heard the flap of the cat door open. The cat again jumped up into Mike’s lap, this time leaving a grey-and-white kitten who favored her mom, before she jumped down and fled out the door. “What the heck?” Mike muttered, as he picked up the kitten and held it up. “Who is this cat?”

The strange cat made five trips from the creek to the shop; leaving behind on my husband’s lap each time a kitten. On the fifth trip, she laid down in the large cardboard box we had arranged for the babies. Stuffed with clean, soft rags, the box held enough room for the whole family. As the kittens began to seek her milk bar and find her teats, we picked up the box, family and all and carried the family into the house. I put them upstairs in the cat room, leaving food and water and several litter pans nearby for the queen. Going downstairs, I shut the specially-designed door at the foot of the stairs. The chicken wire door would keep the other cats away from the new family.

A few hours later, “Fern” (this is what we christened her) started creating a ruckus at the door. She wanted out, and by the insistence in her voice, she wanted out NOW! Mike and I talked about this new development deciding after a few minutes of her meows becoming frantic that we best let her out. It wouldn’t be the first time we had to raise bottle babies if it came to that. I opened up the door. Ignoring the resident cats, Fern quickly navigated herself around them, racing down the hallway and out the cat door. I followed her to the outside steps and watched her streaking back to the creek in the rain. Not knowing if we would see her again, I stopped at the outside freezer, grabbing containers of KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer) and a bag of bottles. If she didn’t come back, the kittens would need to be bottle fed.

Sitting at the table, discussing this strange turn of events, we heard a commotion at the cat door. Norton, my tuxedo alpha cat stood by the entrance growling. I walked over and picked him up. I put him in another room and shut the door. Returning to the kitchen I noticed Fern had come back. In her mouth, she had a huge gray-and-black striped kitten. He was so large, she couldn’t carry him so she dragged him! Gently, I knelt down, talking softly, I was able to relieve her of her burden. Cradling him in my arms, she followed me upstairs, keeping an eye on my precious cargo the entire time. I put the kitten down gently with his siblings, she jumped in with her new family and they began to feed. I could tell she was exhausted. I left the room.

Two days later when I went upstairs in the morning to do a check on the family, I found Fern lying very still outside of the box. She wasn’t moving. Fern had died sometime in the night. She must have known that her kittens would be safe with us. How did she know?

Cats use scent to signal other cats. Cat urine can be a directional aide, a secret message, an invitation to party, or a warning to other cats to stay away, the territory is claimed NO Visitors Allowed! When you start to feed a feral or stray cat outside on your property, not interfering with them in any fashion, they become comfortable. It is not uncommon to watch cats after they have eaten their fill, to saunter over to a clump of bushes, raise their tail up, shake their rear vigorously and spray the leaves. This spray alerts other cats that the area is safe. Much like the hobos, who at the turn of the century would make a primitive drawing of a smiling cat on the walls of homes where they found food. The scent (like the sign) attracts other cats into the feeding area. Pretty soon, one cat can turn into ten.

We started bottle feeding the six kittens who were added to our extended family. Now fifteen stray cats were inhabiting our home.

Over the past twenty years since I have been rescuing stray and feral cats, I have had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful creatures! My journey has been incredible, heartbreaking and rewarding. The lessons my cats have taught me will stay with me a lifetime. The same way as every cat that graced my life remains in my heart forever. I miss them all the ones adopted out into loving homes and the ones who have passed over the bridge. They are missed, and they are remembered.

Cinderella never had it so good!

I am spring cleaning early. Trying to get rid of clutter, polishing floors long crying out for a renewed look. Scrubbing on my hands and knees when I can. What can I say, I am getting old and my knees aren’t keeping up with the times!

I was in the kitchen on my knees scrubbing away, when Oliver decided this was a grand new game we were playing. He would back up a distance and watch the washrag, then, when he thought I wasn’t looking, he would pounce on the cloth. Good thing I wear rubber gloves or my hands would have holes in them instead of the gloves.

Then Charlie decided to get into the action and when he pounced, he went for a ride. Hanging on to my arm as I swished the floor back and forth. He must have thought he was dreaming and on an E ride at Disneyland!

Shimmer, always the curious one investigated the mop bucket and almost wore the contents before I saved her from diving head first into the water. Cinderella, eat your heart out!

The Lure of “Work at Home” ads

An ad crossed my desk the other day. Forwarded by a friend, the ad claims that I can make over $600.00 a week being a third party tracer for HUD/FHA…..


So, I decided instead of jumping at the opportunity, to do a bit of research first and this is what I found.

third party tracers not only don’t make any money, but they also find themselves in hot legal trouble for misrepresenting what they are doing.

They are apparently being told that the people owed refunds from HUD need to pay a fee to get a refund- but that is untrue. HUD pays out refunds without issuing fees.

Apparently the job offer doesn’t come from HUD but from another company picking up the opportunity to bilk consumers into investing $98.00 into this fraud for an “instructions manual.”


Life around here is in flux. Mike is procrastinating about what type of treatment he is going to go through, and he has decided to wait for three months before going ahead with any treatment. I am not sure how I feel about this. The specialist said that waiting three months is a safe waiting period, that prostate cancer when it does move it is moves fairly slow. But it is cancer after all, and one would think that if you had it inside of your body and you knew about it, getting rid of it would be first priority. But, Mike doesn’t want to do anything right now, so I think he is just processing everything.

I find that I get mad easily these days. I was talking with a friend of mine who also went through this with her husband Tom. I told her that I don’t think I’m mad at Mike, he really is an easy-going guy and he loves me. But I am mad at the disease and so I lash out in frustration. She said she understands completely. She used to do the same with Tom (who has since passed away) His cancer was in the brain stem.

So, I am trying to take things a bit easier and the cats help a great deal. I know that when I come into the room and they scatter from me, that my emotions are playing to close to the edge and so I pull back. They are my mood indicators, aware even before I am of how I am feeling.

Kodie has to have surgery again. The vet isn’t liking the drainage still occurring, the type of gunk coming out and how she is still swollen when she shouldn’t be. He pulled the tubes the other day hoping that the swelling would go down, but it hasn’t. Poor Kodie, I don’t know if she can handle any more stress- I don’t know if I can either.

Don called me yesterday. Of all people for him to call me! He is apparently getting married again and when he told me about his wife-to-be, my comment to him was he didn’t sound very happy about this upcoming event. He said that those around him are telling him not to marry her, and the people who know her are trying to bust them up. Smart people (sorry Lord, but they are) I just hope he treats her better than he treated me when we were married. He called pretty close to his birthday and seemed surprised when I wished him a happy one. But I do, what transpired between me and him happened a lifetime ago.

Our son would have been thirty-one years old this June. I wonder what he would have been like? I remember seeing him before they whisked him away and he had the longest legs of any baby I had ever seen. I remember his red hair, and then my last memory of my newborn son was him turning blue and the doctors putting me back under. See what you do Don when you call me? You dredge up past memories and make me wade through pain all over again. I hope you will be happy though, because so far, you haven’t been able to find whatever it is you are lacking.

On the cat front- Livingston is now a fully-trusting kitty. He even stays in the room now when the dog runs in, a triumph for this feral baby who was mauled by a feral dog many months ago. Because of treats from Plain Brown Tabby Livingston and I have formed a trust. He even allowed me to pick him up the other day and snuggle him quickly, then I had to put him down. We are keeping him though. I can’t trust anyone else with his welfare.