Category Archives: TNR projects

The Clonmel Carpark Cats

 

Over the past couple of months, these cats in a supermarket carpark have been brought to our attention by a lot of concerned people in Clonmel looking for help for them. We recently gained permission to proceed with a Trap-Neuter-Return project in the carpark and have made contact with some of the people feeding them. We’ve counted approximately 10 cats, some with injuries, but we expect some were hiding at time of assessment. To read the fully story and see the updates, click here.

We need help to raise funds to neuter & treat these cats. We appreciate any amount donated; big or small, it all helps!

You can donate on IDonate or by using Paypal. Thank you for your kindness and generosity!

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In the Shadow of the Mill

in the shadow of the Mill

The cats would pour out of the old mill in a torrent of upraised tails when the women appeared. Every evening, after 6 o clock, when the businesses had closed for the day and things quietened down, the ladies would come with their meagre supplies of food, held in burlap, potato bags, to feed the forgotten cats. The cats were generationally wild. Litter upon litter of these cats were born in and around the old mill, which itself had been built just after the famine in Ireland. The nursing queens, the female cats with kittens, made their nests deep within the hidden places of the mill where humans would not discover them or their babies. From these dens a struggle for survival was forced upon the tiny kittens, born blind, born deaf, completely dependent on their mothers for life, these tiny creatures had to undergo a veritable gauntlet of challenges just to emerge from their nests. They were in danger of being attacked by rival Tomcats who wished to mate with their mothers. The rats that infested the mill were a considerable source of threat and would happily seize and eat any newborn kitten. Then there were the endemic diseases; cat flu that first blinded the babies and then sealed their nasal passages shut leaving the tiny, fledging cats, to starve to death, unable to smell their food source. Then there were the truly horrible diseases whose lethality was hidden by their innocuous acronyms; FeLV , FIV, FIE, an entire alphabet that spelled nothing but a miserable end for newborns that had not yet left the nest. But the single biggest danger the cats faced were human beings whose indifference, neglect, and downright cruelty, ensured that the suffering would continue in an endless cycle.

‘So as you treat the least of my creatures, so you treat me’ or words to that effect. How many times did I listen to the priest intone those words at Sunday mass. The congregation sat in various states of emotion, that ranged from utter and complete boredom, to rapt, face gleaming attention , as the weekly ritual of the catholic mass unfolded. The message was always the same; ‘Behave, Be Good, Be Kind towards those weaker than you’. And how often these admonishments were left behind in the church along with the Parish Bulletins and unread catholic papers. ‘Things were different back then’ or so it is said by today’s commentators. Ireland in the early 1960s. Back then we were all catholic, republican, and played GAA. Those that didn’t fit that description were all English. Rugby playing, Protestant, heathens, Communists, and Atheists. We all had to fit within very narrow job titles. To step outside the definition was to invite ridicule.

I was a very small child when I first noticed the Mother and Daughter. They quietly walked along the quay side by side. Clutched in their hands were potato bags filled with discarded food waste and scraps, collected from the Town’s businesses during the day. They always went to the high entrance gates of the mill where they distributed the food to the feral cats that boiled out of everywhere. To be honest the women frightened me at first. The Mother seemed to have a stern face, a ‘cross’ face as children like me would see it. Back then the ability to gauge the temperament of an adult from his/her face was a survival requirement for kids. Ireland was not a child friendly country then. The Daughter disquieted me even more. As a child I couldn’t articulate what it was, exactly, about her that made me stare so hard.

When the two women reached the gates of the mill they were first greeted by the ‘waiters’ the cats who knew they were coming. But within a few minutes the cats and kittens poured out of the mill, from every direction, frantic for the food the women had to offer. These felines were the wildest of the wild yet they greeted the two women with great love and dignity every time. The Mother and Daughter went about their feeding amidst a forest of upright tails whose tips were turned over in that classic, inverted ‘J’ shape, of cordial cat greeting. I remember pausing to watch the women and the cats who rubbed up against their legs and twined sinuously around the women’s ankles. I was jealous of the obvious love the cats had for these two women because I never received any attention from any of these wild creatures. No matter how often I approached them, the cats either totally ignored me, or, worse again, hissed and spat, before running away into their dark and mysterious hiding places within the mill. The two women spoke to the cats. Called them by pet names and the cats responded. The big adult males, bruisers all, would get the first cut from the food supplies followed by the sleeker females. In between this roiling mass of women and cats would dart the kittens, braving blows and hisses from the adults, but determined to get their share of what was on offer. The Mother and Daughter did their best to control the feeding and to ensure that even the littlest kitten got something to eat. The big bullies would be chased away and space made for a kitten to get a morsel to eat but the bigger, faster cats, always got the lions share. When the feeding was done the two women would leave, side by side, and just as sedately, walk away back down the quay. The cats would linger by the gates awhile longer hunting for any remaining scraps before they too would silently merge back into the shadow of the mill.

I grew up with cats. We had a little grey Tabby called, ‘Puisin’ (Pro. Pusheen) which is Gaelic for, ‘Little Cat’. As a child, I discovered Puisin had given birth to a litter of kittens in the bathroom cupboard. My father promptly dispatched the kittens by placing them in a cotton wool lined shoebox that was impregnated with chloroform. I still remember the frantic cries of these newborn kittens and their puny efforts to escape their fate within the shoebox. Poor Puisin would run about the house crying for her kittens and trying desperately to free them from the box but the humans always won and the kittens died. I suppose this is shocking for some readers but in 1960s, rural Ireland, this was an outrageously expensive way of disposing of unwanted kittens. Why go to all that trouble and spend all that money when there was a perfectly good river nearby? Discovering bags of drowned kittens was a frequent childhood experience and one consequence of playing in the river. The county council street cleaners, a particularly villainous looking bunch of men who went around the town in a horse drawn cart always had a few dead cats tied to the side of their cart. Then there was the bodies of cats and kittens. They were everywhere to be found. Lying in hedges and ditches. In back alleys and side streets. A cat that was dying of disease or that was unable to move because of injury, was considered fair game for a sport of kill the cat. Cruelty didn’t come into it. This was the weak and unfortunate of society, the people of the margins, discovering something even more weaker and defenceless than themselves. They could cause pain and torment to an animal, secure in the knowledge that society wouldn’t seek retribution for their crime. Some might describe this as cruelty but it was the pain filled, and the tortured, inflicting suffering on another, ‘lesser’ living thing, in order to relieve their personal pain. It was tough at the bottom in those days.

It’s hard to break the era of a story but I have to jump forward many years to finish the tale. The two women continued to feed the feral cats at the mill. Year upon year, as the country about them changed, the Mother and Daughter made their daily walk of mercy bringing food and kindness to the abandoned and forgotten cats of the mill. I grew older and away from the town following my own path in life. The mother grew older too, inevitably, and then she passed away leaving her daughter alone to carry on the task. As a man, I passed the mill one day and there was the daughter, alone, feeding the cats. As always the cats milled about her feet, tails aloft, meowing and chirping, happy to see her and the food she brought. As usual a few ‘young fellas’who were passing, paused to shout some undecipherable catcalls at the girl as she cared for her charges. I was now big enough to shout back at them and told them to be on their way. They informed me that the Daughter was, in their words, “Fucking mad” . So what? That what was almost the entire town thought of the Mother and Daughter and used to go out of their way to let them know. Who but imbeciles would go to so much trouble to feed a bunch of useless cats? And do the task year upon year upon year? As I saw off the hectoring youths a series of images I had unconsciously collected through the years began to form a pattern in my mind. I looked closely at the daughter as she bent to her task, especially at her face. The same calm, almost serene smile was still there, as it always had been, but the face lacked the animation of thoughtful intelligence. The Daughters actions were stiff and slow. Even simple tasks seemed an effort. The girl obviously suffered from some sort of intellectual disability. Yet the love and kindness, both the abilty and desire to reach out to other creatures, that her Mother had inculcated in her, remained, even though her devoted Mother was gone.

Once upon a time the Mother was a beautiful young woman who married a man and together they produced a baby girl. I know the Mother was a beautiful woman because even as a child I could see the remains of that beauty. The child was born with an intellectual disability and into a time in Ireland when such births were viewed as a mark of God’s disfavour upon the Mother. The husband, unable to face the shame of such a thing and the inevitable public comment, abandoned his beautiful wife and baby daughter to their fate. Now, to add to the ‘shame’ of the baby was the humiliation of desertion and the desperation of being a single parent in a society that heaped opprobrium upon such families. Mother and Daughter lived in poverty for all of their lives. That poverty was evident in their clothes that never changed year after year, becoming more dowdy and repaired as time passed. The Mother and Daughter seemed to pass through the streets unnoticed and friendless. The shopkeepers knew them because they collected the waste food everyday but no passerby ever seemed to stop and engage in casual conversation with them. Yet every evening Mother and Daughter walked serenely along the dark quay, laden with potato bags that contained precious food, for the forgotten cats that lived such short lives in the old mill. Ignoring the taunts and jeers of the town they fed, and cared, for hundreds of cats.

A number of years ago I passed the mill and there was the daughter feeding the cats. She had a companion with her, another woman who appeared slightly embarrassed to be standing in the middle of a lot of cats. That was the Daughter’s carer, appointed by a state agency to look after the Motherless girl. Then, one day, the Daughter was gone as were the mill and all its cats. In its place was a block of apartments, the kind advertised as ‘Contemporary living in an historic setting’.

Today we have Rescue Groups and TNR groups. There is a much wider public acceptance of animal welfare issues. Animal cruelty is a crime as is any harmful actions towards children or those with intellectual disabilities. Single parents are no different from two parents. There are laws to prevent all kinds of injustices in our society. But I walk the quay now as an older man with memories of another time and another place. If I look hard enough I see them coming towards me, a woman with her daughter. The Mother has a kind, compassionate face and she walks with her Daughter at her side. They walk, bound by love, bound by sadness, to a place where their children await them, eager for whatever scraps of food and human kindness the two women can offer them. They walk unheeding of the taunts, and jeers, that greet them most evenings from townspeople whose tiny intellects cannot fathom that love itself is a journey all of us must walk, regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in. And if we can love something other than ourselves, no matter what the circumstances we find ourselves in, than something good and kind and eternal will emerge and live on after we are gone. For the Mother and Daughter, unknownst to themselves, and to me, planted a seed that lay dormant a long time. And then came the spring and the seed began to sprout. Community Cats Network will commence the neutering of every stray and feral cat in Bandon town in the memory of the forgotten mother and daughter.

” For one small act of kindness can inspire others to go on to do greater things”

The Bandon TNR project has been ongoing for some time and we have already neutered some 500 cats and kittens in the town and its hinterland. This project has been funded in part by the Hairy Project. We humbly and gratefully acknowledge and thank those of you that donated goods for auction and those of you that bid on the items for sale. CCN will be running its, PURRFECT AUCTION, soon, in order to raise the bulk of funds required to complete the Bandon TNR. CCN calculates it will take between 2-3 years to complete the neutering of the estimated 2000-2500 remaining cats.

Many Thanks

Our next Purrfect Auction will take place this coming Thursday the 30th of July to August 9th. Click here to join us for some goodies and fun. Our Chief Auctioneer will be Annie Brabazon again, we are all looking forward to some good fun and of course shopping!!

Click here if you would like to donate directly to this project.

Oiche mhaith mo Croí

We constantly get calls from people that have sick cats. Following a process of elimination we determine if the cat needs emergency care or not. I arrived for a trapping last night and, low and behold, the carer had fed the cat two hours before I arrived. The probability of the cat coming around again was pretty slim. I was informed that he had
not been looking well for a while. I hung on a bit longer to see if he would show…and he did. The most amazing tom cat approached the patio, holding his head up high, walking tall with all the dignity he could muster. But unfortunately he was in a bad way. He had a large laceration on the side of his neck. He appeared dirty and dishevelled, and broken. Cats are amazing creatures. No matter what happens to them, what they have to go through to make it through another day, their dignity always remains. He looked at me with the two most glorious eyes I have ever seen on a cat. I swear to god he knew I was there to trap him. I put out the trap and filled it with food. He was standing about three feet away from me, saliva dripping from his mouth onto the ground. I turned to him and asked him to go into the trap so we could take his pain away. He looked at me and walked straight into the trap. I know this sounds silly, but it was the nearest thing I could describe to a spiritual experience. The handsome boy was taken home to the feral shed. Jim transferred him into the hospital cage with some warm vet bed and food.
I brought him to the vet today. Most of his teeth were missing and the others were rotting. He had Plasmacelled Pododermatitis on three of his paws, was covered in lice and positive for FIV.
He went for his final sleep today in the vets. I listened to his heart beat after the lethal dose injection was administered. His heart kept beating for a short while, slowed down, and then stopped. Oiche mhaith mo Croí. Maggie & Jim.Lavernes cat

How do we carry out a Trap-Neuter-Return project.

The first contact comes from a multi-faceted approach ranging from telephone calls, emails, website, Facebook or direct contact from vets.

Oral contact with the carer:

  • We telephone the carer to establish what physical condition the colony is in.
  • Establish if any cat or kitten needs emergency care and arrange it immediately.
  • Estimate how many cats and kittens are there.
  • Estimate how old are the kittens
  • Establish how often and what time the cats are being fed and if there are other feeders .
  • If the colony is in good health we post or email you an assessment form

https://communitycatsnetwork.wordpress.com/information/tnr/

 

Arranging the colony assessment:

 

  • The carer fills the assessment form on site or has sent it back to us.
  • We arrive on site at feeding time to visually assess the colony.
  • We discuss the financial cost of the neutering with the carer.
  • We explain the trapping procedure.
  • We arrange a trapping date with the carer.

 

farms cats photo

 

Arranging the neutering and veterinary care:

  • The CCN welfare officer makes contact with the nearest  partner vet to the colony to arrange a time and date for the neutering.
  • The physical health of the colony is discussed with the vet or the veterinary nurse.
  • Extra treatment will be discussed when the vet has assessed the cats in surgery.

 

The trapping:

 

  • Depending on the number of cats to be trapped the Community Cats Network welfare officer decides what traps and cages to bring.
  • The CCN welfare officer arrives 30 minutes before feeding time to set up the traps.
  • The cats are trapped humanely and transferred into feral cat handling cages.
  • The carer signs the Community Cats Network consent form.
  • Depending on the time when trapped and availability of vets, the cats are either taken straight to the vets or held overnight to be taken to the vets the following morning.
  • If the cats are held overnight they are transferred into humane comfortable cages with food water and litter for the cats’ comfort and welfare.

hospital cage completed

          Hospitalisation cage in the opened position to show the                   bedding & feeding area.

 

 

Veterinary treatment and neutering:

  • The CCN welfare officer transfers the cats back into the transport cages and bring them to the allocated vets.
  • The transport cages have information on each cage pertaining to that specific cat. The veterinary nurse or vet will complete the forms once the surgery  has been completed.
  • In the veterinary surgery the feral cats are transferred into a cat restrainer cage to make it safer for the veterinary practice to sedate the cat and cause less stress on the cat.
  • Once the sedative has taken effect the cat is taken out of the cage and given a full health check. The cat’s mouth, ears, teeth, eyes, legs, pads and body are checked for any anomalies or abnormalities.
  • If any abnormalities are found the CCN welfare officer is contacted immediately by the vet to discuss further actions.
  • If everything is normal the surgery continues
  • Female cats will be spayed on the left flank – this is always the left hand side of the body. It provides faster access to the organs being removed. The female will have her uterus and ovaries removed to fully ensure that procreation can never take place. Spaying also removes the possibilities of life threatening uterine infections. Additionally, it also greatly reduces the risk of developing potentially fatal mammary tumors later in life.
  • Male cats will be castrated. Both testicles will be removed. This will remove their ability and want to mate with females of the species. Neutered male cats become less likely to fight after neutering and are less likely to become involved in fights, resulting in bite injuries and the risk of contracting viral infections. Sexual contact in cats can also lead to transmission of deadly viruses.
  • Both female and male cats are left ear-tipped. This is a universal  method indicating the neutered status of a cat.
  • All cats in our care receive a flea and a worm treatment.

 

Eartipped cat                                                     Eartipped cat.

 

Post-operative care:

  • The CCN welfare officer collects the cats from the vets after surgery.
  • The cats are put back into the hospitalisation cages with clean bedding, water and food.
  • The males are kept for a minimum of 16 hours after surgery and females 24 hours.
  • The cats are checked post-op on an average of every 2 to 3 hours to make sure the bedding is clean and they are recovering well.
  • The carer is contacted to make arrangement to return the cats.

Returning the cats:

  • The cats are transferred back into the transport cages and returned to the carer.
  • The carer receives a quantity of food, CCN’s feral cat aftercare handbook and a photographic and health journal of their cats.

 

Sterilisation of the equipment:

  • After the return of the cats the CCN welfare office has to clean and sterilise all the equipment: traps, transport cages, hospitalisation cages and holding area used for the specific colony to avoid contaminating the next colony or transferring infection.

Feral cats colony information:

  • The CCN welfare officer inputs all the information that they have gathered about the colony into our computerised database.
  • Photos and descriptions are then uploaded to our Facebook page.
  • CCN welfare officers are always available for contact with the carer at any stage.

Captain Jack

Captain Jack

We received a call from a lady in Timoleague that had a feral cat with a sore eyes. We when we got there we say a number of cats and kittens. The carers said one of them had a sore eye. We waited for the cat to show up but in the mean time we spotted a grey tabby with some mucus in his eyes. Assuming this was the cat the lady spoke about, we trapped the cat. We called the carer to ask her and she said ‘no it not that one’ it’s ‘the white one’ so we continued to trap. Eventually we saw the cat with the ‘sore eye’ our first reaction was oh **** the cat’s eye had completely burst. We trapped the cat and contacted the vet.

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He was immediately brought to the vet and the operation to remove the eye immediate ensued. The entire eye had exploded through the membrane leaving the cat blind in one eye and constantly exposed to infection.

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The vet had to remove the remainder of the eye and stitch the eye closed. Without this operation the cat would have died a slow and painful death due to constant infection.

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We decided to name him Captain Jack after his ordeal and is now back with is feral family.

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After talking with the carer we decided that it would be a good idea to start another village project.

Timoleague is a small but vibrant village in West Cork. Like most other villages in Ireland it also has feral cat population. Because of our work in other villages in West Cork the word has spread. Timoleague residents want to neuter the cats in their area. With the help of local residents we are establishing a census of the village of the domestic and feral population and documenting all cats. We can only estimate at the moment of how many cats are they but the estimates are coming back at about 30 plus cats. 15 of these cats have already been privately funded and we hope to raise the money locally to neuter the rest of the cats. If you would like to contribute to the neutering fund and help Captain Jack fellow ferals you can click the paypal link and donate. https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=EJ5AGXUVHWSM6

The kittens never live long…

“The kittens never live long down here by the lake. When the Atlantic sweeps in it would put a chill down the spine of a grown man, never mind a little kitten…”

This is just a snippet of a conversation I had with an islander about his cats.  Michael is the kind of man who likes to let the world get on with what it has to do.  He does not believe in such things as computers, Facebook or even television.  His life, to those who live in the outside world, is lonely and difficult; for he lives on an island on his own and with none of the modern technologies we have at our fingertips. 

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Michael’s Love

The slow burning range in his sparsely furnished kitchen radiates with heat as from a smouldering volcano.  He has a comfortable fireside chair and his table is piled high with books. He is an avid reader of detective novels and spends most of his time reading . He is accompanied in his kitchen by the love of his life. She’s pretty and slender with startling green eyes. She arrived at his door many years ago on a cold winter’s night. He invited her in to warm herself to the fire… She fell in love and never left Michael’s side. They spent many a happy day and night together. Michael had someone to share his hopes, his dreams and his disappointments with, and she never judged him or asked him for anything.

A few of the cats

A few of the cats

Then Michael started to develop a few health problems and had to leave the island for a serious operation on the mainland. He was gone for a few months and when he returned the love of his life had given birth to a little family. Michael was devastated; his love did not recognise him anymore and was now mother to an unruly brood of her own near his house. Night after night Michael would call to her but she would not come to him. He left his door, and his heart, open for her to return… but she never came. The love of his life went on to establish a dynasty. She gathered waifs and strays, orphans and foundlings, to herself, displaying the same love as Michael showed to her. Through the years Michael saw her family grow while he maintained a lonely guardianship in the background. 

Years later, the relationship between Michael and the love of his life started to get better. She is older now and tired. She still comes into his kitchen to warm herself by the fire. All her family join her and Michael loves and cares for them all. His great love still has shiny green eyes but they are beginning to dim with the pain of the passing years and the heavy burden she has borne. Season upon season, year following year, his love has given birth to more and more kittens. Michael does not know how many cats he really has… Maybe 20. Maybe 30.  Perhaps even more than that.

Michael is now in his eighties and has only recently built a cat flap in his front door so that his children can enter at will for the food, warmth and comfort they find in this old man’s home. When I last met Michael, his Love was sitting on the fireside chair alongside him. An old man and an elderly lady entwined by the glow of a fire and the passing years of love. 

We are going to Cape Clear again for 5 days of intensive trapping. Tom Farrington, vet in Rosscarberry, and Lesley Stinson, registered vet nurse, will arrive on Friday morning’s ferry to neuter and spay the cats. As you know by now this is a very expensive operation. Tom and Lesley have kindly donated their time and expertise to come and help us to create “Ireland’s First ‘Neutered’ Island”. Please help us to raise the funds needed by donating what you can (click here to access our Paypal link designated to the Cape Clear fund or you can visit our donation page for more options). Thanks for your support!

We would like to thank once more Mary O’Driscoll for sponsoring our accommodation on the island in one of the cottages and all the other islanders who are being so helpful: Seamus and the lads from Cape Clear Ferry, Duncan for lending us a car, Fiona for lending us her shed and all the others…

To read the beginning of our adventures on Cape Clear, click here.  To view the full photo album of ths fourth part of the project, click here.

The Cape Clear Cats make the news…

Reporter Louise Roseingrave wrote a feature on the Cape Clear project, which appeared on the Irish Examiner on the 19th of February.  It came in timely as we were just back from another trapping trip on the island. 

13 02 19_Irish Examiner_Cape Clear web

For those of you who may have missed it, you can read the article online here.

To read our posts on the Cape Clear Project, please follow this link.

Please, consider supporting this project by donating here.  Every little helps and we, and the cats, would be much grateful for whatever small amount you could give to have the Cape Clear cats neutered.

Flowers don’t grow in my garden – Marianne’s Story

Flowers don’t grow in my garden. Under the soil lie many stories of lost lives.

I live on Cape Clear Island; it’s Ireland’s most southerly island, located 45 minutes from the mainland by ferry. The island is 3 miles long and 1.5 miles wide; we have a population of 120 people. We are reasonably self sufficient on the island but all our food and necessities depend on the ferry and the ferry depends on the weather, no ferry no food. We don’t have pharmacies or doctors so we have to go to the mainland for everything.

Cape clear 055So to go back to the story of my garden… Some years ago I started to feed some stray cats that came around. I’m not a cat person, but I know how hard it is to survive on this island, so I started to bring home scraps of food from work to feed them. Soon kittens were born, some survived and grew up, but most of the little creatures that couldn’t take the bad weather succumbed to cat flu and died. This has happened year after year after year. I can’t go near any of the cats. I have fed them for years and they come to my call when it’s feeding time. I don’t know if cats have feelings or emotions, but when I see one of the mothers lying near her dead kitten in the garden it tears at my soul. I have fought many a battle to stay living on this rock in the Atlantic Ocean and thought many times about doing the same as many before me and leaving for a better life on the mainland. But what about the cats? I can’t catch them to get them neutered, I can’t transport 18 cats to the mainland for neutering and I can just about pay for their food.

 

 Last summer I heard sneezing in the hedge at the bottom of my garden. I went to investigate and found another kitten. Its eyes were full of puss and it had that “please don’t hurt me” look on its face,  that I have seen a thousand times, as I tried to reach into the hedge to get it out.

 

I couldn’t catch the little creature as it was so terrified. I spent days listening to its cries for help. As the days passed the cries got weaker and weaker until I entered the garden to the sound of silence. I found its tiny lifeless body hidden underneath the back of the hedge by the stone wall. I didn’t give the little kitten a name, because I have run out of names to give them all. They are all buried in my garden where the flowers don’t grow but under the soil lies many an untold story.

 

I didn’t know that people would give up their own time to travel over to Cape Clear to help us. That is until I met the members of Community Cats Network. Last summer they were over here helping one of my neighbours, Mary Francis, with her feral cats. I asked for help. They answered my call, but not just my call, the call of all the untold stories in my garden

If you’d like to help Marianne’s ferals and other cats on the island, please donate here.

You can view the full photo album here.

The Cape Clear Kittens

As we explained in our latest post on Cape Clear, the 1st part of our project was not totally over when we left.  We had to go back to pick up the three kittens that were too small to be neutered during our September expedition.

Tiny tortie

Tiny tortie

Although many of the cats looked a lot better than in September, our three kittens and Cassiopeia, the tabby kitten spayed in September, all had cat flu.  The four of them were brought back to the main land and driven straight to Glasslyn Vets, where they received medication.  It was decided that we should wait a few days before doing surgery on them, so that they would get stronger.

The little tabby who passed away.

The little tabby who passed away.

Sadly, the smaller tabby kitten, who hadn’t put on an ounce of weight since our last visit, did not improve and passed away three days later.  However, Ebony and Ivy overcame their illness and were spayed at the end of the week.  They stayed in the care of our volunteers for another week to regain total strength before being returned with Cassopeia to their home…

Back home!

Back home!

With these last kittens neutered, the first part of the project came to an end and we could begin focusing on the next part…

Please, consider supporting this project by donating here.  Every little helps and we, and the cats, would be much grateful for whatever small amount you could give to have the Cape Clear cats neutered.

You can view the full album of the 1st part of the project here.

The Challenge of Cape Clear

Cape Clear, an island difficult to access

Cape Clear, an island difficult to access

At the beginning of August, we received a phone call from an elderly lady who is feeding 17 cats and some kittens on Cape Clear.   She was very eager to have them neutered, but did not know how to go about it since there are no vets on the island.   After a bit of thinking, we decided to take on the challenge and help out. All very well, but how to go about it?

The vet team: Charlotte Whitty, Sinead Falvey, Hazel Kirby and Lorna Cashman

The vet team: Charlotte Whitty, Sinead Falvey, Hazel Kirby and Lorna Cashman

After much discussion, we came to the conclusion that the easiest way would be to spend a few days on the island and bring a vet on site. Sinead Falvey at the Cloyne Veterinary Clinic kindly accepted to donate some of her time and to come on board with two of her vet nurses, Hazel and Lorna, and another vet, Charlotte Whitty.  Other people offered to give us a hand: Muriel Lumb from Animal Advocacy, Jenni from RAWR (Rural Animal Welfare Resources) and Karen.  The wonderful Kiana also helped us by partially sponsoring this project.

That was a good start, but there were still so many technicalities to organise and the distance did not help.  Thus, we decided to go there for an assessment and see for ourselves what we were facing.

The ferry that was to bring our equipment on the island

The ferry that was to bring our equipment on the island

Arriving on Baltimore harbour, we realised that bringing our equipment on site would be the first difficulty.  We thought it would be possible to use the barge, but it was more complicated that it seemed.  We approached a few people to enquire how often was the barge going and it did not sound promising.  Once on the island, however, we met Duncan and discovered he owned a trailer that he could lend us, as well as a car.  Our first problem was sorted: the trailer would be brought on the mainland the day before we would be due and we would pack our equipment on it.

So many tabbies and blacks...

So many tabbies and blacks…

We then headed to meet Mary Francis and her cats.  There were many of them and we tried to get an accurate list of them.  According to the list, we would have to trap and hold 23 cats and kittens.  Some of the cats looked well, but others were a bit thin and had dermatitis; a problem that we hoped would be solved by neutering.

The surgery

The surgery

Our next issue was to find a suitable area for surgery.  When walking to Mary Francis’s, we had notice that small house just next door and enquired if it were in use.  The place was owned by her neighbour and we received authorisation to go and have a look.  It was perfect for our purposes.  There was electricity and water, the kitchen could serve as a surgery, the small room off it as a holding area for the females and kittens, and the barn downstairs was suitable for holding the males.  It would require a fair amount of cleaning, but nothing insurmountable.

Ciaran Danny Mike's, who have supported us from the start

Ciaran Danny Mike’s, who have supported us from the start

Next, we needed to find an affordable place to stay as there would be about eight of us going there and staying for a few nights.  We thus stopped to Ciaran Danny Mike’s where we met Marianne.  Marianne told us she would talked to the owner and see what could be done.  She also told us that she was feeding 18 cats and that she didn’t know what to do about it as every year she would see more kittens being sick and dying.  We told Marianne that we might not be able to help this time, but would get in touch with her.  Mary, owner of Cape Clear Holiday Cottages got back to us and accepted to let us use one of the cottages at a very friendly price.

On our way back to the harbour, we made a small detour to meet Ed, who promised to help us to organise a talk and music session in order to raise some funds for the project.

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Satisfied with our day, we went back on the main land and started to organise the logistics.  We needed to plan the equipment we would need, organise the volunteers and so on.  Other veterinary practices also decided to help out by donating medicines and we would like to thank Glasslyn vets and Riverview Veterinary Group for their support.

The trailer carrying our equipment being lifted onto the ferry.

The trailer carrying our equipment being lifted onto the ferry.

Finally, the big day arrived and we were a bit nervous on our way to Baltimore as a little mistake and the whole project could go wrong.  We all arrived on time and found the trailer waiting for us.  We started loading and, to our relief, all our equipment did fit on it.  The trailer was safely transported onto the island at no cost to us by Cape Clear Ferry.

Sorting out and labelling the cages

Sorting out and labelling the cages

After picking up the keys to the cottage, we did not waste time and headed to our destination.  The four of us undertook the big task of cleaning, disinfecting and setting up all the cages, thus transforming the loft and downstairs area into a temporary cat hospital.  The females and their kittens were to be kept upstairs in a warmer area, while the males were set up in the barn downstairs.  All cages were labelled and equipped with feeding bowls and litter trays for maximum comfort during the cats’ stay.

After a quick lunch in the company of the cats, the trapping could begin….

Sharing is caring...

Sharing is caring…

We picked up all the friendly cats and transferred them into their cages.  The traps needed to be set up for the other cats, who were mor feral.  We had come well equipped with 2 multi-cat drop traps, which were set at the feeding spot, and a few automatic traps, which were set around the garden for the shyest cats.  Maggie broke her record and trapped 8 cats in one go with her drop trap and we rapidly trapped more cats with the other traps.  It happened so fast that we could barely keep count.  20… 21… 22!  That was most of the colony trapped as only one cat remained to be caught. 

8 cats were trapped with the drop trap!

8 cats were trapped with the drop trap!

Muriel sat in the garden all afternoon watching the traps, while the rest of us were setting all the cats in their cages for the night.  All the cats were recorded and given food and water, as well as a litter tray.

All cats, even The Monster, were trapped on the 1st day...

All cats, even The Monster, were trapped on the 1st day…

It was beginning to get dark and we agreed to come back in the morning to get the last cat.  We left the traps unset so that he could get used to their presence.  The car that had been lent to us had a little specificity: you needed to turn the key three times in the engine in order to start it.  As Maggie was doing so, Em spotted a shadow ahead of them.  Maggie swiftly ran out and went to reset the drop trap while the rest of us remained quiet in the car.  Not long after, the sound of the trap being dropped could be heard.  The Monster, as he was named by his carer, had been caught!  We had trapped the whole colony in a matter of hours!

Vets at work

Vets at work

The following morning, the vet team arrived.  No time wasted; they wanted to get to work straight away.  They set up the surgery and we started bringing the cats to them.  They fastly worked their way through neutering all the cats and had us running!  In the lapse of three hours, 19 cats were sedated, neutered, ear-tipped and treated for fleas and worms.  Unfortunately, one cat had a damaged leg, which could not be operated on, and had to be euthanised.  The three youngest kittens were still too small to be neutered and it was decided that since they were only semi-feral, our team would come back at a later date to pick them up and bring them back on the main land for neutering.

All cats were closely monitored after surgery, especially the kittens, who needed to be kept really warm.

All cats were closely monitored after surgery, especially the kittens, who needed to be kept really warm.

The vets went back to the cottage for a well-deserved relaxing time, while we stayed with student vet nurse, Lorna Cashman, to ensure that all the cats were fine after their operation.  Once we were satisfied that all were ok, we fed them and let them rest for the night.

Our job for the day was not over.  We had organised a fundraising night in order to help covering for the costs involved.  After socialising and selling tickets for our fun cat raffle at Ciaran Danny Mike’s, we headed to Club Cleire where a session was on.  There, we also gave a talk on TNR and on how we had organised this particular project.  Everyone was really supportive and bought raffle tickets to help us to finance the project.  We returned to Ciaran Danny Mike’s where our draw took place.  Ironically, Mary Francis won the first prize: a cat that is a lot easier to look after and won’t have kittens!

Session at Club Cleire

Session at Club Cleire

Although the most difficult part of our work was over now, we still had a busy day on the Sunday with the release of the males, followed by cleaning up and beginning packing.  The females were left to recover for an extra night.

The males have been released and are enjoying a good meal!

The males have been released and are enjoying a good meal!

Two of us remained on the island to oversee the release of the females and kittens.  With all cats safely returned and all the equipment packed, it was time to leave and say goodbye to Cape Clear until our next visit.

We would like to thank all those who have supported this project, the vets, volunteers, businesses and the people of Cape Clear.  We are also very thankful to all the members of the public who have contributed to this project so far and have helped us to make it possible.  The project is not over yet and your support is still needed in order for us to continue neutering the cats of Cape Clear.

If you would like to support the Cape Clear TNR Project, please donate here.  Thanks for your support and generosity!

To view the full photo album, click here.