Luckily for all, when we purchased Hockhockson Farm we got more than we paid for. Their names are Dr. White Pants, Missy Gray, Greg, Tetley, Ernie, Queen Frostine, Steely Dan, Smith, Fleetwood Mac, Kaleidoscope, Marquerite, Malcolm, Mama Aspen, Helen, Hall and Oates.
While happy to make the acquaintance of this feral family of felines but we knew kitten season was approaching. If we didn’t get on top of things quickly our cat population was about to get a whole lot bigger. I reached out to Jane Hoffman, President of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals.
Jane put us in touch with Kathleen O’Malley of New York Feral Cat Initiative. We also enlisted the help of Laurie Tietjen of Mini Horse Heroes who put us in touch with Associated Humane and volunteers from Fur Friends In Need with Nancy Flint. Together we embarked on a Trap-Neuter-Return program.
Spaying and neutering feral cats is important for decreasing the spread of disease, eliminating behavioral problems and reducing overpopulation in neighborhoods. Trap-Neuter-Return programs are the most humane and effective ways of controlling these problems. I knew I was in for some hard work but I didn’t know how much fun I was about to have.
The New York City Mayor’s Alliance helped us find wire cage traps about the size of two bread baskets. We set them up around the property with the trap mechanism disengaged. We used zip-ties to make sure the trap could not close accidentally trapping a cat before we were ready to alter his or her lady or man parts. For the next week every time a kitty would wander into these traps they’d find delicious meals waiting for them without getting trapped. They started to love their traps and some would even sleep in them. During this week we prepared a barn that would act as our post-surgery recovery room where the cats could be monitored, kept off the ground, warm and fed. We also used this time to further educate ourselves about the do’s and don’ts of TNR.
THE DAY BEFORE TRAPPING
We needed our unsuspecting colony to be hungry so food was not given the day before actual trapping was to begin. It was now time to unhinge and activate the traps. On the day of the trapping we upped the stakes by serving an even more delectable meal inside the traps than had been served the previous days.
The minute the cats stepped inside the cage their weight triggered the trap to close. We heard the snap and ran over with blankets in hand, ready to cover the traps to help calm the cats inside and to ensure that no other cats nearby were aware of what was happening.
We started early in the morning and waited patiently all day until the sun went down. This is where the wine and friends came into the plan. We trapped 26 cats that day and held them in our warm, safe barn over night.
THE SPAY AND NEUTER
Associated Humane arrived with veterinarians and a surgery suite all housed inside a giant truck.
Each cat was photographed and given a number and a name. When it was time, the cats were anesthetized, sexed and given a small procedure to remove a 1/4” off the top of their left ear. Ear tipping is the universal sign of an altered feral cat. It is necessary to ensure that going forward, we can identify any new cat in the population that hasn’t been altered and find a way to perform TNR to keep the population down. Blood was drawn and vaccines were administered and then it was off to recovery.
BACK TO WILD
After their surgeries, the cats were kept safe and warm while they recovered overnight. When morning came, we lined up their traps and got them ready for their return. We had noted the location where each cat was trapped so we knew exactly where they would need to be returned. When everyone was in place, we released the hinges and the newly altered cats were free to go.