Saturday, October 9, 2010

A matter of life and death

Recently, we discovered we had rodents in the barn shed and in the attic of the house.

I can live with the scorpions, snakes, and wasps, but I refuse to have rodents anywhere near my house.

I tried traps. Apparently the little buggers know what that's all about, because I've only managed to trap one of the suckers in three weeks. A bit of research on the web shows that rodents are suspicious of anything new, and so traps often don't work.

I've removed food sources as much as possible. Anie's food is no longer left out overnight, and neither is the chicken's food. Hopefully the lack of an easy food source will make our house and shed less appealing. I also know where they're getting in, and will block off the entrance as soon as I know all rodents are out. I do not want a rodent trapped in my house, to keel over and die in a wall space. I just finished patching up the drywall - I don't want to rip any out to get to a dead rodent! Gross.

In talking with my neighbors and a few other folks, the consensus about the best way to get rid of rodents - or not to have rodents in the first place - is to have a few cats.

In case you haven't noticed, we DO have a few cats! There's Freya, who appears regularly on Mid-week Kitteh, and Bailey, who is my stepdaughter's cat (and somewhat less photogenic). However, they are both pampered indoor kitties, and their response to things like crickets sproinging down the hallway is to stare intently, then look at me as if to say, "Um, mom, shouldn't you take care of that?" Useless creatures.

So I started asking friends if they knew anyone who was looking to rehome any mouser-kitties. I responded to a few ads on Craigslist, but nothing panned out. There were a few kittens available, but I wanted a full-grown street-smart cat (or two). We have coyotes, dogs, and other cats in the area, and although Anie does an excellent job keeping everything off the property that's not supposed to be here... well, her protection stops at the fenceline.

I ended up in touch with a friend who helps rehome and foster animals for Austin Pets Alive. I checked out their web site but none of the available cats stood out. She in turn put me in touch with a lady who volunteers at the Town Lake Animal Center, and suggested I go there and look at the strays. Apparently, all animals that come in are "strays" for three days, and then the friendliest ones are selected as adoptable animals. The adoptable ones have the best chance, but you can adopt strays as well.

The lady I was supposed to meet wasn't there when I arrived at TLAC, so I filled out an application. I knew from the web site that I'd need proof of Rabies vaccinations for all my other pets, so I had the dates and vets that had done them handy. I also had Rabies certificates for the horses, and I asked the adoption counselor if I needed that as well. She was surprised and said that I didn't, and that she didn't recall having Rabies vaccinations done for her Trakhener. After we were done with the application, I of course had to ask her about her horse, and to make a long story short, it turns out that she used to take lessons with the same person that I now take dressage lessons from! The two of them had lost touch over the years, but I got her name and email address and they are now madly catching up. It's a small world.

Back to the cats. After filling out the application, I headed back to see the strays. Immediately when I walked in, a slim, short-haired orange marmalade started talking to me and rubbing the bars of the crate, purring madly. I checked the info, and she was a stray about 18 months old. Other than being on the skinny side, she looked in excellent health and seemed very sweet. Definitely an option!

I continued going through the cats. There were lots of cute, friendly kittens, but I definitely didn't want a kitten. I found a pair of big, black kitties that were together, one of whom seemed fairly friendly and the other of whom was napping. There was a handsome grey-and-white tabby who was unfortunately declawed, and a pretty long-haired calico who was an option. There was also a lovely black-and-white boy who seemed like a possibility as well, and then there was a longish-haired brown tabby girl that was pretty friendly and rather talkative.

It was so hard going through all those cats and choosing who might get to go home with me. TLAC is a kill shelter, and there was the very real possibility - since I was looking at strays - that cats I didn't choose would be euthed. I wanted to pick cats who were most at risk if possible, so when the lady I was supposed to meet came in, I asked her to show me those first.

The long-haired brown tabby girl was the first one she showed me. "Mandy," as she had been named, had been dropped off with 5 newborn kittens, none of whom survived. She had started off skittish, but when we opened the crate door, almost jumped in my arms, rubbing and purring and talking to us. She had developed kitty sneezies, which is almost always a death sentence at TLAC, so her coat wasn't in the best condition. The lady I was with had been trying to get her adopted, and had even put up ads on Craigslist, since she was rapidly running out of time. I knew she had street smarts and she seemed like the friendly type, so I decided she would be one of the two.

Ms. Tabby

We looked at all the rest of the most at-risk cats. Most of them were pampered indoor house pets who would have been ill-suited to life outside as mousers. A few were fairly feral, which I didn't want to risk. The rest were kittens.

So who would get to be the second kitty to come home with me? Outdoor cats apparently do better in pairs at least, so I wanted to choose two. The whole time, the orange marmalade kitty kept talking to me, and when I asked about her, I was told that she would probably be chosen as an adoptable kitty when her three days were up as a stray. I went back to look at the most at-risk kitties again, but there just wasn't one that really appealed or seemed like our house would be a good match. So, I chose the marmalade. How could I not?

Ms. Marmalade (who would not stop moving long enough for me to take a decent picture!)

It turns out that she had very recently had kittens, although no kittens came in with her. Her milk was in the process of drying up. Who knows what happened to the kittens, but certainly that would explain part of why she was so very thin. Poor little girl. She had also been found outside, so hopefully she has some street smarts and will be a good mouser!

After making my choice, I went back to the adoption counselor, filled out the rest of the paperwork, and was then given two bright yellow ADOPTED! stickers to put on the girls' crates. I felt so, so good doing that. And then after, when I got back to my car, I cried for all the other kitties who didn't have stickers on their crates. Hopefully they'll find people, too, but let's be realistic - there are far too many cats and not nearly enough people to adopt them.

In the next two days, the girls will get their vaccinations. The brown tabby will get antibiotics for kitty sneezies, and the marmalade will be spayed (I'll have to wait till the sneezies are cleared up before getting the tabby spayed, hopefully a week or so). They get to come home this weekend, and will hang out in the hubby's workshop for a week or two to get acclimated. Then they'll be allowed out supervised, and eventually have free rein of the place. Oh, and of course I'll introduce them to Anie, so that she knows they belong here and are part of the family.

Later in the evening after I'd adopted the girls, I got an email from the lady who'd helped me at the shelter, saying that the brown tabby had been scheduled for euthanization in the morning. Adopting her was litterally a matter of life and death. Let's hope that her renewed lease on life is a good one for her!


  1. Awww!! I'm so glad that APA (even if not directly) could help. My family has gotten all of our rescue pets through them (most recently a Dal named Chief... but now he's Shadow!) Such a good organization. Give those critters pets and loving for me!

  2. We were planning on getting a pair of ferals from the local HS, but now we're worried they'll eat the chickens. :( so there's rat poison in the barn, and we'll put mothballs under the house, and we're hoping for the best.

    Congrats on the beautiful girls! Orange cats are usually male, so the orange girl is rare and wonderful.

  3. Funder, I have four outdoor cats, three of which are really good huntresses. They have NEVER bothered any of my chickens. The chickens actually chase the cats away from the cats' food. We have to feed the kitties after dark when the chickens are roosting. And yes, I have had chicks as well as full grown chickens. The cats never bothered them.

    JJ, Congrats! on rescuing the cats from the shelter. I hope they work out great for you.

  4. Hey That's a good point that only about 20% of orange cats (or even orange and white cats) are girls! So Maddy is really really unique! I can't believe I hadn't thought of that yet : )

    If anyone else ever wants to adopt a feral cat, a stray cat, or a pampered pet, or foster animals, please get in touch with me. I'm Jen's friend who helped her find Maddy and Artemis and I have friends working on the inside at Town Lake who can let you know which kitties need rescuing the most. If you're in the market for a new puppy or dog, I also do behavior enrichment for the Austin Pets Alive dogs! So if you need a new pet, just let me know. Also, Town Lake, Austin Pets Alive, and the Humane Society are all always looking for fosters. Fostering really helps save lives!

    Jen, thanks for writing such a beautiful post about saving those girls...I'm sure they will have a great life and will deter those rodents!