By Robin Desmet – August, 2016
It was a Saturday afternoon in the spring and I was working at the pharmacy. It had been a busy morning, but the afternoon was relatively quiet. All of a sudden, all Hell broke loose. A Lawrence police cruiser pulled up outside the pharmacy and stopped in the middle of the road. Traffic on Parker Street came to a halt. A young woman came running through the front door. She was screaming. “Somebody help! I need a box!”
I knew instantly what that meant. Animal on the loose. I ran and grabbed an empty box. I met the police officer at the front door where he held aloft a scratching, biting, hissing ball of fur that was about 3 weeks old. Lucky for that kitten, the police officer didn’t let go. We named the kitten Parker.
A few weeks later, I was stretched out on the ground in a back yard in Lawrence looking under a Lincoln Continental. Jenn Taris, my friend who volunteers with the MSPCA, was on the ground on the other side. The kitten was beneath the car, dead center and out of reach. I knew if it came running out from beneath the car that I would not be fast enough to catch it. I catch all my cats with traps. I also knew that Jenn could pull a biting feral kitten out of the grass with her bare hands. If that kitten ran her way, she could catch it.
I looked around quickly and noticed a broom lying in the grass. I told Jenn that I would use the broom to nudge the kitten her way. I carefully pushed the broom towards the kitten. Suddenly, the kitten disappeared. It didn’t come my way, and it didn’t go Jenn’s way. We began searching every inch of that car. We searched the wheel wells, the undercarriage, and the interior. No kitten.
Jenn got under the car—-not easy considering all 4 tires were flat. I heard her say “I see it.” I grabbed the cat carrier. I’m good at holding the carrier. A moment later Jenn said “I got it.” That kitten had climbed way up into the engine of that Lincoln Continental. Jenn was able to reach into the engine and save that kitten. And yes, we name him Lincoln.
The next day, with the help of Kelly Garon, my friend and coworker, a second kitten was rescued. We popped the hood of that Lincoln and with the vehicle’s owner looking on, Kelly crawled under the car and pulled another kitten out from the engine while I blocked his exit from the top. We decided his name should be Lincoln as well.
These are a couple of the happy stories. All 3 of these kittens were adopted into good homes, but, many of the kittens that are born outside actually never get rescued. Many do not even survive. They are born into harsh conditions to Mothers that are very young and underweight. They spend their lives dodging traffic, and searching for food, shelter, and water. They face extreme temperatures and predators. Injuries and infections lead to suffering and death because they have no veterinary care.
In addition to all of the above challenges, if these kittens are to be rescued, they must be found when they are young. Kittens that are born outside to feral Mothers will become feral themselves. Kittens need to be socialized, or tamed, in order to be comfortable with people. An unsocialized kitten will look cute playing in the yard, but will be very difficult to capture, and will hiss and run away from people. After 12 -16 weeks, it becomes increasingly difficult to turn a hissing kitten into a snuggly pet. It takes time, expertise, and patience on the part of the caretaker. It is a big commitment.
So while kitten rescue is very rewarding, it is also very challenging and quite difficult. Oftentimes the window for socialization is missed and this leads to more unwanted feral cats on the streets and in the alleys. If you see kittens in your back yard, around your dumpsters at work, or anywhere they don’t belong, please report it to your local animal rescue organization. A better solution to kitten rescue is prevention. This is why I participate in TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) with the MSPCA and also why I am a big proponent of spaying and neutering of all household pets.
Note: I do not enter any yard without permission from the resident and all trapping is done humanely.
If you have any questions, please E-mail me at: Robinjd@comcast.net