Victory is the Sound of a Drop Trap Falling

The Situation
A resident (we’ll call her Jane) of a senior trailer/mobile home park in Lynnwood was trying to figure out what to do about all the cats in the park. The manager was threatening to have them trapped, taken away, and put down. Some of the residents liked the cats and some did not.

Jane found the Feral Cat Project online, and went there one day while a clinic was in session. A trapper was at the clinic and offered to help Jane capture and alter the cats. Two trappers decided to take on this challenge. It was early in the season, so it was hoped that a lot of the females had not had kittens yet. Jane fed one group of cats and her mother fed another. A few other residents fed the cats, but one resident in particular was not open to helping getting the cats fixed. Another resident would not allow trapping on her lot, but would on the lots on either side of her.

The Community Cat Coalition’s Janis Newman describes how the project progressed in the following.

Preparation
Flyers were distributed to all the residents, letting them know that the cats would be trapped and returned. Several agreed to let us trap on their lots, but many could not be convinced that the cats were not going off to their deaths. Jane monitored the traps, taking her dog for walks at midnight to check them.

Trapping went well, and within a few days we had 16 cats. Some of the residents offered information about the cats that had not been caught yet. Except for one male who came through occasionally, we thought we had them all. We held the cats for recovery until the trapping was done.

The Fugitive
When the first round of cats was being returned, I noticed the little black mother cat that some residents had mentioned. We had to let the cats go since it had been days, so then plans were made to catch this elusive black mother cat. We tried a very large trap, then a drop trap. The cat was just very unpredictable in her patterns. She clearly had multiple places she went for food and shelter. As the weeks went by, reports came in that mom was getting quite big. Kittens were on the way. We pinpointed the birth date from a sighting of her with a big belly, then with a small belly.

We only heard about the kittens when a resident began complaining about kittens crying all day and night. It was easy to find the crying kitten. He was stuck between a pipe and the siding of someone’s trailer. We got that kitten free, and then that resident said that she did not realize that there were other kittens under her deck, but that we were welcome to go under the deck to “hunt.”

The mother cat was under there and she was not going to leave them. She was a great mom, protecting her babies as best she could. Most mother cats will run once you approach, but she was hissing, growling, and standing her ground. We actually had to poke around with a rake handle to make her move! With nets and carrier in hand, we did manage to catch the remaining kittens, now about 5 weeks old. We had great hopes of catching mom using the kittens as bait. We tied a tiny carrier with some of the kittens in it to the back of a very large trap. The mother cat came right up to it, but she never did go in over a 2-day period.

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Results
We ended up getting 20 cats plus 5 kittens. This was way more than most residents would have believed. A lot of kittens would have been born if the trapping had been a month later. Residents still had to be convinced the cats were returned because the cats were much less visible. Once the cats were fixed, they were roaming less, not fighting, not mating, and not spraying. The manager was no longer so bothered by the presence of the cats.

Fugitive Follow-Up
Because the mother cat stayed out of reach, we asked the residents to inform us if they saw her pregnant again, saw her kittens, or saw anything else that might help us catch her. We were lucky because a single kitten was heard crying for an entire day in someone’s shed. We went out there, got that kitten, and found 3 more in the exact same place as the first litter. By now, the mother cat’s schedule was more regular and she would show up faithfully at one resident’s home. I took the drop trap over and had the woman place food under it for about a week. I tried to catch her once and the cat was a no show. A few days later, I tried again and got her in the trap. With the help of the residents, not only were we able to save 4 additional kittens, but we were also able to catch the last unaltered cat in the area.

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