We took a walk on the wild side last week during an interlude at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, once called the Wild Animal Park, and this week we discovered a wild animal den in our own back yard. While Larry was relocating and grooming our bromeliads, our corgi, Tasha, approached a plant bed where she was greeted and frightened by a loud hiss. After securing our dogs, he removed a potted plant exposing an open area under our outdoor white birdcage, which is situated against an ivy hedge. An orange tabby feral mother cat with her two nursing kittens, about 4 weeks old, had made this dark and secluded lair their home.
A feral cat is a descendant of a domestic cat that has returned to the wild, and most neighborhoods have them, including ours. We’ve grown accustomed to them and believe they help control rats, but in this case, a den in our enclosed back yard is disruptive for our dogs, and we felt a responsibility for the kittens and mother. So I rounded up our live animal cage trap (our local County Animal Shelter also loans traps for a $50 deposit) and Larry prepared a larger cage for temporary housing. The trap was baited and placed by the den.
Early the next morning, we found the mother in the trap. There was no time to take pictures, as we worked quickly to retrieve the nearby kittens with a reacher grabber and place them in the prepared larger cage. We moved this cage to a secluded side yard and transferred the mother in to rejoin her kittens.
Our plan was to transfer them to the San Diego County Animal Shelter, but since the cats were caught on a Monday (the shelter is closed on Mondays) and I work Mondays and Tuesdays, we provided them with food, water, a litter box, and comfortable foam bedding and shelter for the next two nights. The cage was partially covered with towels during the day and completely at night. They adjusted well and each morning we could see that the mother was caring for and nursing her kittens with blue eyes. We learned that kittens’ eyes are blue until about 6-7 weeks old. They need to be with their mother for 8 weeks before being separated. Frequent handling by people is needed from now up to 7 weeks to ensure that they do not become feral. If we had not caught the mother, the foster kittens would have been taken to the Humane Society and fed by volunteers.
Yesterday, we loaded this cage into our F-250 truck and delivered the cats to the Animal Shelter, which will determine the health of the kittens and when to separate them from their mother.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, there is a severe feral cat overpopulation crisis in the United States today. Josh Hirschmiller says in the KPBS These Days interview, “What Can Be Done To Reduce Feral Cat Population?“, that there is an estimated million or more feral cats in San Diego County. The Humane Society suggests, “The best approach involves sterilizing cats, conducting robust TNR programs [Trap-Neuter-Return], support for innovative cat programs through shelters and rescues, and educating owners on how keeping cats indoors is valuable for both cats and wildlife.” The Feral Cat Coalition in San Diego has a free TNR program. See how TNR programs improve the lives of feral cats, while reducing their numbers in this Humane Society YouTube video: “Life On The Streets: The feral Cat Crisis“.
Our veterinary care clinic, San Diego Pet Hospital says, “All animals deserve a loving home.”
“I’m Tigger, and I approve this post and message,” says my neutered (and once feral) cat!