Sunday Coffee – Feral Colony, Part 3

We’ve had no luck trapping the adult cats in the nearby feral colony this week. Well, one night, the mother of these kittens did go into the trap, but somehow it didn’t go off! Ugh! We’re going to try again tonight, but we’ve already contacted the SAFCC to let them know the situation is particularly difficult given that it’s not our colony that we’re trying to trap. They’re looking for a specialized group to come help us, to go and talk to the people at the house directly.

Most of this post is about the kittens. It has been one crazy week since my last post. The kittens were not particularly well, and were waiting on the Tuesday vet visit to figure out where to go with them. Reaper was in the worst shape, as she wouldn’t eat anything. We were having to force-fed her both pedialyte and kitten replacement milk every couple hours, despite the fact that she was completely weaned and old enough to be on solid food. She was extremely sweet, purring every time we held her, and all she wanted was to be carried (for warmth, I’m sure!). She was skin and bones, weighing barely over a pound when she was supposed to be 2 lbs at her age.

The rest of the kittens had begun to perk up by Monday. The arrival of Gherkin really helped. Maybe it was just having the entire litter together again, or maybe it was the fact that Gherkin was seriously into food and wrestling, but everyone (except Reaper) began to eat and play a lot more. All the kittens began to gain weight pretty fast – they were all underweight – except of course Reaper. Even with the force-fed milk, she was losing. So on Monday, we began syringe-feeding her chicken baby food instead. She didn’t like that, and it got everywhere, but she needed the calories! And it worked. Tuesday morning, she began to eat baby food on her own, voraciously, as well as crunchy kitten food. It was like she’d gotten so hungry that she lost all hunger signals, but with enough force-fed food, she wanted to eat All The Things. She’s still a lot smaller than the other three, but she’s been gaining 50-100 grams a day, which is awesome!

The kittens saw the vet Tuesday morning. I was wrong before – all four of them went in together. They had physical exams, fecal tests (they all have roundworms, as expected), and Reaper had some bloodwork done. Sadly, this showed that the kittens are FeLV positive, which means probably the entire feral colony is as well. It’s devastating. We have to be extra careful not to expose the kittens to our adult cats. And feline leukemia is a particularly tricky virus – the vet didn’t expect Reaper to last through the end of the day, much less the end of the week, given her rapid decline. Then there’s the question of how we’re going to get homes for these babies – will a shelter take them? Will we be able to find someone who will give them love and care, rather than euthanizing them? We did finally find a shelter in Austin – Austin Pets Alive – that will take in FeLV+ kittens, and have been talking with them. Fingers crossed! Obviously, they can’t stay locked in the one room forever, but they also can’t join our house, or go back out into the feral colony!

Socializing is going well – slow and steady. In the beginning, the kittens let us pick them up and pet them. Now, they are less afraid of us, so more willing to run away or try to escape if we hold them. So begins Phase Two. We started opening up the playpen for them to run around the room, getting used to us being in the same room. They would play – they love the Cat Dancer – but if one of us moved or shifted or made an unexpected sound, they’d run to hide somewhere. I kept playing with the Cat Dancer, and holding my fingers out to let them sniff if they wanted, and eventually (Friday), Reaper and Angus were willing to come near my hand to sniff. If I tried to touch them, they’d run, but it was a start! We’ll keep working on this.

In the meantime, the kittens have made some great leaps forward. Angus and Reaper have started purring and coming to my hand in the playpen when they want food. Gherkin finally purred for the first time. Reaper has started playing with my fingers as if they’re toys. Angus and Reaper will sometimes let me pet them outside the pen if I go slow enough. Little things like that. They’re well on their way to being full socialized, non-feral, adoptable kittens, with that sad FeLV complication to think about. (Note: I don’t know very much about FeLV aside from what the vet gave us in info, but kittens can apparently fight off the virus, and while they tend to have somewhat compromised immune systems and live shorter lives than other cats, they can certainly live full, happy lives. They just need to be in a home that won’t risk spreading the virus to other cats!)

(Clockwise from top left: Ghost, Angus, Reaper, Gherkin)

I’m continuing on my summer semi-blog-break. This week, Jason’s parents came to visit for several days. Then on Friday morning, after a month on my bp meds, I had a sudden serious side effect that almost sent me into the hospital (bp dropped so low I nearly fainted, and my heart rate wouldn’t go above 51 bpm). That same evening, Jason got rear-ended (thankfully he and everyone else is fine). I still can’t walk on the foot with the maybe-broken toe, and I couldn’t even tell you when we were last able to clean the house. So yeah. Blog will continue to be on the back burner.

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
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