a cat tale
By Louise Sukle
Editor & Publisher
Meet PJ, a little black cat with big green eyes. Her origins are unknown. In fact, we weren’t even aware of her until we unlocked the doors of our business early one Monday morning and discovered the unmistakeable signs of her presence. We had unwittingly trapped her inside over the weekend and suffice it to say she beat a hasty escape after we opened the garage bay door.
Problem solved, we thought. That would be the last we’d see of her.
What we didn’t know: Left to fend for herself in the streets, PJ had found a maternity home in our building weeks earlier. Enter four tiny, mewing balls of kitten fluff found in the basement of our printing plant later that morning. They hadn’t eaten in days (mom was trapped upstairs for more than 2 days) and were ridden with fleas.
What do we do now? We groaned in unison. We were so focused on getting the poor stray cat out of our printing plant, it didn’t occur to us there was a reason she chose our building (besides the bags of partially eaten snack food. ) And yet here we were, staring down into a box of shivering, hungry babies whose momma may or may not come back.
We did what most people would do: Fed them. Cuddled them. Fell hopelessly in love with them. But we had a business to run after all, and we couldn’t possibly bottle-feed 4 kittens every 2 hours.
So, we started making calls. To make a long story short, it was an enlightening and frustrating experience.
Cat overpopulation is a huge problem here in Middletown, as it is in every town and city. Organizations and their volunteers do their best to help, but I can’t blame them for not wanting to take on the responsibility of our helpless kittens.
Luckily, the kittens were taken in by a kind woman (the wife of one of our pressmen) and nursed back to health. She fed them and with the help of her husband these adorable fur babies are thriving. Our most pressing problem was solved - at least until the kittens are old enough to be adopted. Next problem was what to do with the momma cat.
We learned from the many organizations we contacted that the most important rule for caring for free-roaming cats: fix them, fast. Trapping momma cat was the easy part. She was just a hungry kitten herself, not much more than 6 months old, but she had already given birth to a litter of kittens. We were committed to having her spayed.
But there was one really, really big problem - there was a waiting list for spaying and neutering cats - anywhere from 1 week up to 3 weeks. What do we do with this cat now that we successfully trapped her?
I applaud the network of caring volunteers. After many phone calls…success! We secured a place for our stray at Steelton Community Cats (SCC) for that same day. Not only would this local organization spay our little black cat, she would also get her rabies and distemper vaccinations, and they would rid her of fleas and worms for a nominal fee of $60.
Cats in this program are temporarily housed and receive pre- and post-surgical care for at least 3 days. On the day we delivered our cat to the SCC’s Front Street facility, we were stunned by the shear numbers. There were 72 cats awaiting care. All were there to be spayed or neutered and some would receive additional medical treatment.
There is good evidence this kind of program works. Community cats, as feral or outdoor cats are called, live and thrive in every landscape, from inner city to rural farmland. Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) stabilizes the cat colony (no more kittens!) and stops the aggravating behaviors associated with mating.
We ultimately chose to bring PJ home as an outside kitty instead of releasing her back to the streets in town. We’re hoping that someday our semi-feral cat will allow us to approach her, but giving up her freedom may just be too much to ask. For now she is fed, healthy and surveying her kingdom.