Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Cat houses. Not that kind.

I have cats in my backyard. Feral cats. I suspect the mom (a tuxedo with white back feet) is herself one of a batch of kittens we discovered in a box in the carport when we were first moving in, a year and a half ago. Sometime around mid-March this year, she had two babies. "Papa cat" has been hanging round quite a bit too, making a cute cozy family group out on the patio of an evening. Papa is a gray tabby with black down his spine and tail. "Uncle cat" is a gray whose tabbiness (stripiness) is less defined; he's around sometimes too, when Papa's feeling tolerant. The bold kitten is another gray tabby, with white back feet like mom and black spine like dad. The timid kitten is another tuxedo, with white whisker patches.

This is actually the third batch of kittens that has lived in our yard. Batch A, from the carport, disappeared for a bit, then began to be seen again, before disappearing around the time the kittens were weaning-age. Batch B, last summer-ish, was based both in the carport (which we don't use, for cars anyway) and in the fern jungle along the south fence. My brother tried to catch/play with them once in a while, and named the (relatively) tamest one Balthasar. Now we have Batch C, population 2.

I'm going to try to catch them tonight. (The kittens, and hopefully the mom, at least.)

I've been doing a bit of reading, and apparently the current best practice re: humanely managing feral cat colonies is Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR). You trap the feral cats without hurting them, take them to get spayed or neutered, and then release them back where you found them. This means that the cats (who, once they have grown up without human contact, are unadoptable) can live out their lives reasonably happily, but without multiplying. A colony, allowing for the occasional wandering new arrival, will over time shrink in numbers.

I poked around the web a bit and finally found a local group called TLC Adoptions that could help me out a bit with information* and a couple of loaner traps. Trying to make sure I'm doing everything right, and not forgetting anything, is stressing me out today not quite as much as being caught is going to stress out the kitties. I just wish I'd been more organized and got round to this sooner, when the kittens could have been young enough to be adopted. But hopefully they will have a reasonably happy -- though childless -- life around our backyard. Perhaps they will discourage any gophers from developing designs on my carrots.

*Some of the information was verrrry interesting: they were not unfamiliar with our neighborhood, indeed a particular house farther down our alley is apparently a sort of cat-multiplication Ground Zero. When kitten batches A and B disappeared around the time they got old enough to be weaned, it was probably because their mom (yet another tuxedo, now dubbed "Grandma"; she's started showing up in the yard again this last week, too) took them "home"... there.