Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Art of Cat Catching

I am trying to catch two cats at the moment.

The first is a kitten down the road that has been crying for a couple of days. Miguel told me about it on Sunday and tried to catch it, but it ran off into the bushes. Last night I heard it crying so went out and tried to locate it. It seemed to be in the long grass across the street from my neighbor.

I filled a tin with some dry cat food and walked over to the area where I thought the kitten was hiding. As I gently called to it, it cried, but then the dogs at the workshop came around and the kitten stopped crying. I wanted to just toss the food into the grass and hope it would find it, but I knew the dogs would just eat it. So I left.

Later I was walking down the road to the store and heard the kitten again - crying in the bushes across the road from the workshop. I stopped to try to coax it out and it kept answering me back, but it was dark and I couldn't see anything.

The young guy that lives at the workshop (and loves animals) came over and put down a handful of dog food. He said he'd caught the kitten earlier but he couldn't hold onto it. I told him if he catches it again to come to our house - we have a cage and will take it to the vet. "Defino?", he asked. Yes, Delfino - he will take care of the kitten (because I am NOT adopting another kitten, right?!).

I went back to the house and got the tin of cat food and went back to try to get the kitten to come out. Two other guys that hang out at the shop came over, and the one with shoes told the one without shoes to get in there and get the kitten (they could see it in the dark - I couldn't). The guy with the barefeet went as far as he could but he was stepping on rocks and finally told the other guy, with the shoes, to get the cat. The guy took one leap into the grassy area and the kitten took off (according to them, because I never did see the kitten).

So I threw the cat food in the general direction and hoped the kitten would come back and find it. I went to the store, but on the way back I heard a scuffle in the plants where I'd thrown the food, so I think the kitten was there and finally eating. I didn't hear any more crying last evening, we'll see what today brings.

The other cat I'm trying to catch is a neighbor's cat. They are away until January and I have been feeding her two cats, along with two other strays that show up whenever they aren't there. On Sunday I noticed that the grey cat looked like he wanted to eat but then he just laid down. Something about the way he held his mouth made me think he either had a sore throat or something caught in there. He had been in another fight as he had a sore on the side of his neck. I decided to see how he looked on Monday.

Yesterday morning I went over and the grey cat still didn't eat the dry food I put down. Hmmm...I decided to call Delfino to take a look. The only problem was that although I could handle the cat, I couldn't get it into the opening of the cage I took over. It's a big cat and a small cage, and an unwilling participant.

While I waited for Delfino I decided to see if the cat could eat some canned food, so I went home and got a can and took it over. Yup, the cat gobbled down the food, it was terribly hungry. However, as it ate it occasionally stopped with a jerk and pawed at its throat/mouth area. I was sure it had something caught in there.

Of course the other cats hanging around wanted some of the canned food too, so I gave them a taste. I made a mess of the tiles around the yard with dumping food everywhere, as none of the cats are friends so they all have their own eating spaces.

I decided that maybe I could confine the cat if I took the top off the cage, put the cat inside, and then quickly placed the lid over it. I succeeded in doing that much, but as I tried to get the lid lined up so I could latch it, the cat started pushing and prying and sticking its paws through all the gaps. I fought with it for a few minutes but then it broke loose and the battle was lost. And now I'd lost the confidence of the cat.

I sat on the golf cart to wait for Delfino. The cat smelled the can of food and came over and tried to get at the food. I decided to use the food as a lure to keep the cat from jumping out through the fence. As the cat was eating from the can on the floor of the golf cart, Delfino showed up. And of course the cat took off, into the garden. But as he sat there Delfino saw him make the motion at his throat, so immediately agreed that something was caught.

But - to examine the cat, it needed anesthesia, and it couldn't have anesthesia with a full stomach. Delfino went back to the clinic to get a couple of traps - one for one of the other three cats that we were sure would go in to get the food, and one for the grey cat (we hoped).

By now the grey cat had caught on that something was up, and just as the trap was placed, he jumped through the gate and out into the street. One of the other strays went with him, sensing the bad vibes. I tried to be casual and just walk up to the grey cat to catch it, but it knew what I had in mind and stayed just out of reach. It went under Delfino's van, and he cleverly started the engine to get the cat out. As the cat walked up the other side of the walk, I walked along on the road. The cat increased its pace, and so did I. Then I ran to block it from the front, but just as I did that, a loud backfire scared all of us and the grey cat jumped up on a high wall and over to some apartments. Delfino and I threw up our hands at the unlucky timing of that backfire. There was nothing more we could do at the moment.

So I was left to sit on the golf cart and hope the cat would come back. I sat there almost an hour. The only cat that went near the trap was the other tame cat, but I was finally able to distract him to come and sit with me on the cart. One of the other strays came back but showed no interest in the trap - he went to sleep on a small table on the patio. If we catch him he is going to be neutered - I don't know if he has an owner or not, but I've been feeding him so I'm going to take matters into my own hands and take care of his reproductive capabilities if we catch him.

I eventually gave up waiting for the grey cat to come back and went home. I checked the traps all afternoon - very diligently as one of our own cats died in one of those traps (he went in while the trap was in full sun and died of heatstroke - a trauma that will haunt me forever). The two traps were in full shade with a nice breeze, but I am still nervous about trapping cats.

By 4 pm there was no sign of the grey cat and no sign of any cat having any interest in going near the traps. So I took out the food and closed up the traps for the day. In an hour or so I'll go back over and see if the grey cat is back. I am hoping it gets better all by itself, as I really have better things to do than walk around my neighborhood trying to catch cats that don't want to be caught.

**Update: the grey cat seems fine today! Eating dry food. I took over a can of tuna so after I knew he was eating dry, I opened the tuna and the three cats there at the time were in heaven. I walked home with the open can and Smokey was at the front door waiting for me. Luna, who'd been sound asleep on the couch woke up quickly, and Minina and Maya were standing at the back door waiting for me. I guess the smell of tuna really carries. So everyone had a feast, and I'm done trying to catch cats (unless the kitten reappears). On to other projects...

This woman, Josefina is an absolute saint and a miracle-worker for cats here on the island. In fact, there are quite a few people here who dedicate time and money to care for the cats and dogs here. One day I will write a blog to honor the island heroes.


Life's a Beach! said...

Great post Sue! Good luck with the grey cat!

jeanie said...

Sue you and Miguel are on my list of heroes with Josefina, Lupita,Alison and Jeff and of course Delfino and Pepe. Now it seems you are gathering your own little team at the workshop. You go girl!

Anonymous said...

Have those people who are gone left their cats for several months outside to fend for itself? If so, that's absolutely horrible!!!

Isla Chica

Sue said...

Jeanie - we aren't even close to those people, but we do our part. I think we are a little more diversified - we save the iguanas, the crabs, the spiders and scorpions too. :-)

Linda - 'their' cats were just strays that camped out at their house and they took care of them - they have an orange one and the grey one. They are outdoor cats and are used to living this way so it's not cruel. The other 'strays' do not belong to them, they are taking advantage of the fact that the dog is not there and setting up camp for the free handouts. Not sure they have owners. IF those cats were indoor cats, like mine, and were left like that - yes, that would be horrible. But in this case, the cats are living as they always did, just not as much human interaction as they have when the owners are there. Hope that explains it a little...

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear that, Sue! We had a neighbor who would leave their cat outside to fend for itself when they took off for vacation. It would come in my yard & hunt the birds & chipmunks. I caught the poor thing & took it to the shelter more than once. It was in bad shape, medically. :-(

Isla Chica

Sue said...

Linda - what your neighbors did WAS cruel, and I'm glad you were able to get the cat taken care of. That would break my heart too, I don't understand why people think that's ok to do to their pets. We get house-sitters when we're going away just for the sake of the cats (otherwise we could just shut up the house). The people who come to take care of the house know our animals, love our animals, and give them as much attention (maybe more!) than we would. We even ask them to feed the strays we normally feed - don't want anyone going hungry because we aren't here.

Bennie said...

You sound like the cat Saint to me. Geez what an ordeal.