Cats are everywhere. Did y’all know that? I honestly thought that it was just my garden district neighborhood in Baton Rouge that was overrun with stray and feral cats, but I was completely wrong.
Turns out LA County has a serious problem with feral cats! I guess because everything is so spread out and I don’t frequently go through neighborhoods, I never noticed. I’ll admit, I do keep a bag of cat food in my car in case I see one running around somewhere, but I rarely saw any. That is until the one night when I found a litter of kittens in the parking lot of my apartment complex. And if you know me very well, yes, AGAIN.
Back in Baton Rouge, my then boyfriend (now husband) lived in an apartment complex that seemed to have a lot of cats running around. One day we found a litter of kittens in the parking lot and scooped them up. We bottle fed them, adopted them out and then kept one.
I had no experience with kittens. That’s water in a measuring cup…because I am the dumb. Luckily I talked to a vet friend of mine and got things straight so they turned out fine. The orange one in the middle is Milo, the one we kept!
Then, believe it or not, a year later almost to the day while I was out of town, my husband found ANOTHER litter of kittens. This time there were four. We knew they were from the same parents because one was a manx and they were all similar in color to the first litter.
Once again we took care of them but this time we partnered with a local cat rescue and got them the medical attention they needed. They also helped us a little bit with adopting them out, but honestly, at some point I guess we weren’t doing things exactly how they wanted them done so they threatened to take the kittens away. I quickly adopted the little white one from the picture (Katniss) and my aunt & uncle adopted one of the orange ones. At that point we only had one orange one left (the other had been adopted out already) and the organization “released” us from our duties. It was really weird. We ended up keeping the last orange one for a while until a friend of my mom took him in.
It was all quite an experience fostering and getting them adopted and we didn’t have the best time with that group. Buuuut I guess the fates decided it was time for me to help more kitties because like I said, I found another litter. Five kittens this time and the mama was still around.
This time I knew I couldn’t bring them inside because I already have the two cats and we live in a tiny studio apartment. A few people in my complex started feeding them and I joined in to help. They got more and more familiar with us to the point where my husband and I could both pet a couple of them.
One day I noticed the smallest kitten had lost a chunk of her tail. The bone was exposed and everything. A few nights later I saw a possum running around and knew that thing was bad news. I started to worry about their well-being and began researching rescues in the area. That’s when I learned how bad the problem is in L.A. Every rescue was full to capacity and since they were technically “feral” there wasn’t a lot anyone could do. They all directed me to an organization called FixNation which isn’t a rescue, but rather a group that focuses on helping feral and stray cats. Their website even says, “When adoption isn’t an option: Trap-Neuter-Return.” Seemed like just the group for these little guys!
The process was a bit intimidating at first. They have you fill out an application, take an online course (15 minutes) and watch a video about trapping. Then you send an e-mail notifying them you’ve taken the course and they review your application to see if they can help you. I had to go back and forth with them a little bit because my situation was unique. I couldn’t keep the kitties overnight (you have to) and my apartment manager wanted them gone. They worked with me to figure out the best spot in our communal apartment space to keep them and what to do to keep my manager from calling in anyone else.
So here’s how it worked after I was approved:
- I scheduled an appointment to pick up the traps
- Drove out about 20 miles to pick up traps
- Filled out a bunch of paperwork and set 3 different surgery appointments
- Loaded 3 cages and drove 20 miles back
After that, I had to wait a few days because they only do surgeries Wednesday – Saturday. The following Tuesday night I began attempting to trap the cats:
- One of the kitties is super friendly so I just picked him up and guided him into the cage/trap
- The one kitty who was injured was a little skittish but I was still able to guide her into the trap
- There was another kitty who was not ready to be handled, but very bold so I set the trip plate and baited the trap. He went right in.
- All 3 cages were placed in a holding area I had prepped earlier
- Fed kitties and checked on them every hour until midnight
We got up at 6:00am the next morning and I had my husband help me load up the cages. Then I drove the 20 miles to bring them to their appointments.
- Arrived and parked but left kitties in the car (wasn’t hot yet and that’s what they ask you to do)
- Filled out more paperwork for each kitty
- Sat and waited for my name to be called
- Got kitties from the car and got them checked in
- Drove home, ran errands, tried to rest
- Drove back in the afternoon to pick them up
- Checked them out, got instructions and drove them home
- Placed kitties in holding area
- Fed them and checked on them every hour until midnight
So at this point, I’ve driven to the place 3 times. That’s 3, 40-mile trips plus loading and unloading heavy traps with kitties running back and forth. I was starting to feel exhausted. You must keep the cats for one night after surgery to make sure they’re doing okay, then you can release them…between 6:00am and 7:00am the following day.
- Had my husband help carry cages out to their “home”
- Released kitties and set out food
- Carried cages up to our apartment
- Cleaned up their holding area
- Laundered trap covers and scrubbed traps with bleach/water solution then had to hand-dry
This was only one round. I had three more kitties to trap so I had to prepare the cages to do it all over again that very night. The hardest part was that there were those three kitties already taken care of who were very friendly and bold. When I went out that night, the first three came running up to be fed. I managed to keep the other three kitties away, feed the first three and send them on their way.
The last three I had to trap were easier to catch than expected. I baited the traps, set the trip plates and within minutes had trapped the first one. I set the trap off to the side and about 10 minutes later, after I walked far enough away, I had trapped another one. I brought the first two kitties inside to their holding area and by the time I had gotten back outside the third kitty was trapped! I was shocked!
After trapping them all, I repeated the same process as before. Once all kitties had been treated and released, I cleaned the traps and returned them all.
WOO! So if you’ve stuck with me through this whole post, you probably see that helping baby feral kitties is quite the process. I have to say though, it was a great experience. By the time they were all back outside, I was exhausted and my muscles hurt from carrying traps around, but they were healthy and still coming to see us!
Plus, they are all fixed so we won’t have a problem like at my husband’s old apartment complex. As fun as it was to foster litters of kittens, having feral cats reproduce at such a rapid rate is not. FixNation does everything they can to try and get the population under control. And did I mention they do all this FOR FREE? I paid an extra $5 per cat to have them microchipped, but that’s it! Really great place.
Also, a few residents have mentioned they might want to bring one inside as a pet. So even though that wasn’t the point, they might actually get homes anyway! Yay kitties!