This is the story of a calico. The calico has shown up a few times on our overnight camera, in April, August, and twice in September. She began to show up during the day not long before Christmas, and seemed to figure out that we keep cat food in our yard throughout the day for the ferals. As far as I could ascertain, the calico was an unfixed stray and not someone’s indoor/outdoor baby. She brought with her an entourage, including King – a giant part-maine-coon tomcat who also happened to be Shai and Hulud’s father – and a rare male calico (pic below) who also showed up on our overnight camera a few times back in the spring. And while I would love to trap and fix all of these stray cats, the calico was the most important. The boys were following her around, and there were clear cries of cat-in-heat going on in the wee morning hours. NO ONE NEEDS MORE KITTENS TO RESCUE. Especially not us.
Project Calico began the week between Christmas and New Years. It started with trap-training, which is when you leave the trap tied open with food progressively further inside. The trap can’t go off because you have it tied back, and the cats getting the food begin to believe the trap is not a trap.
[Side dilemma: We did not want Lord Grey to use the trap at all. He’s only just starting to get a bit more trusting, and so we kept watch as much as possible. Whenever LG appeared, one of us would hurry outside to bring him his own personal food bowl. Like any cat, he prefers to eat outside the cage, so as long as we catered to him and brought his bowl back inside as soon as he left, we were able to deter him from using the cage. Phew.]
Once the calico was happy to eat all the way in the cage, completely oblivious to our sneakiness, and once we had a tentative date for the vet, we set the trap out with all the stinky sardines and watched constantly. The thing about trapping cats is that once they’re inside the closed cage, you need to cover them ASAP or they can hurt themselves in their panic. So I spent all of Jan 2nd either staring out my window or watching the live feed from the camera on my phone. No calico. She never appeared once. A squirrel set the trap off, though, and later, Jason had to chase a possum away. Male Calico – now called Unicorn – also appeared, but showed no interest at all in food. Sometimes, that’s how TNR goes.
On the 3rd, we set the trap again, and once again, I watched. I watched as the calico appeared and set off straight for the food. I watched as she crept into the trap. I watched as she leaned forward, ate the sardines, and backed out of the trap, all without setting the stupid thing off. That’s right. A squirrel set off the damn trap, but not the calico. Little girl walked off licking her lips. Calico: 1, Amanda: 0.
But we weren’t giving up. Jason re-baited the trap, this time with tuna so that our little girl couldn’t just stretch her neck out and pull full fishies towards her. She’d have to take an extra step onto the pressure plate. We hoped. Unfortunately, the next cat that appeared wasn’t the calico, or King, or Unicorn. It was Mustache. I don’t know Mustache’s real name, but he’s someone’s fixed indoor-outdoor pet who is super greedy for food. Mustache didn’t need tuna, but he certainly wanted tuna. So after marking the insulated home we made for Lord Grey with his own scent (thanks, Mustache!), he sauntered into the cage and got himself trapped. Calico: 1, Amanda: 0, Mustache, -1.
Jason let him out. Hopefully Mustache has learned his lesson and won’t enter traps again any time soon. And honestly, we thought that was the end for the day, only then guess who appeared? The calico!!!
Oh you should have seen me at the window, trying to stay hidden out of sight, cheering for her to get in that stupid trap. She is an extremely skittish little girl, terrified of everything, so the smell of the tuna – just slightly different from the sardines – and the smell of Mustache made her extra cautious. It took her a quarter hour before she finally ventured into the trap, down to the tuna, and WOOHOO we got her! Calico: 2, Amanda: 1, Mustache, -10 for the stink. (The calico didn’t understand why I’ve awarded her an extra point here, but she was about to enter the good (spayed) life, and just didn’t know it yet.)
From there, things became very standard and not very story-like. We named the little girl Feather, since even a squirrel set off the trap but she didn’t. Feather went into the vet on Thursday for her appointment, and got both spayed and vaccinated. She came home that evening, woozy on anesthesia, and after an overnight stint to let all that wear off, Feather had her Freedom Run on Friday morning. She was, btw, desperate to make that run, even hurling herself at the cage opening as we were trying to open it. This is why it’s important to keep those cages covered – the kitties start trying to find a way out by bashing themselves against ceilings and walls if they aren’t! In any case, Feather is now free and will live baby-free for the rest of her life. Hopefully she forgives us and returns for food, because we’re happy to loosely adopt another feral into our daily outdoor food schedule. So far, no sightings, but at least we know that wherever she’s getting her meals now, she’s at least going to live a less dangerous, baby-free life!