JASPER, JADE & ONYX
As told by Allen Wickett, feral trapper and foster.
It was the winter of 2016 and I had already had a few experiences rescuing and learning how to operate a live trap, but this was the biggest event I had participated in so far.
I learned about a colony of cats that had just had a big outbreak of kittens that needed desperate help. A group of volunteers came together and rallied to help this colony, ready to sacrifice their own time and braving the cold. Flyers were made and delivered to each residence in the area to inform them of why we were there and what we where going to do to help. The mission was to save as many as we could that we felt were adoptable go into foster care.
Anyone who we felt were too feral and unadoptable, would be fixed, vetted and returned back to the colony. This is also referred to “TNR” (Trap, Neuter, Return). In the first two weeks, 18 kittens where rescued. When I finally made it there myself, I met one of the local residents who was eager to help us. I set up in their backyard and they where kind enough to let me sit inside out of the cold. My mission at this time, was to catch anyone who I thought was young enough to work with, so unfortunately, I had to shoo away a few of the older ones. There were probably a dozen or so adults just on their back porch and probably several more dozen adults roaming the area. This was a huge cat population and none of them were fixed.
After some time, I managed to catch two who looked to be about four months old. The couple who helped me gave me a ride home with the two and we named Jade and Onyx. Later I returned, but this time no one was home there, so I braved the cold for two hours. When I was about to pack up and leave, I was met with a big surprise. Inside my trap was a little fluffy black kitten, about three months old, who was later named Co-Co Puff by their foster. After talking to a few other residents in the area, we soon discovered that most of them cared for these cats and set out food for all of them all and even set up shelters for them to sleep in. Some of the caregivers even had names for all of the cats.
After most of the younger ones went into foster care, it was then time to help the adults. The group then gathered together for one last week, this time the mission was population control. Even though we sent out flyers to inform the community, we were met with misunderstanding threats and the police were even called and showed up. The first thing the officer asked was of any of us were with a rescue organization. The response was from me, “Yes sir. Ninth life Cat Rescue”. He gave us a thumbs up and then informed the residents that we were there to help the cats and not to harm them. We carried on and set up across several blocks in the area, each of us waiting and watching, ready to cover anyone in a blanket. As soon as we had caught them, to our surprise, the first one was a kitten approximately four months old, later named Jasper. After fending off a few raccoons and a long time braving the cold, several adults were secured. When we were about to call it for the night, we were met with a big sigh of relief when we were able to catch a big tomcat we had been trying to catch for months!
All of the kittens went to their fosters and were all eventually adopted. All of the adults were seen by a veterinarian, vaccinated for rabies, spayed or neutered then released safely back to their home. Jade spent a year with me. We eventually realized she was a very malnourished adult and not a kitten. After a year with me, learning to trust me, and was adopted into her forever home. Onyx learned to trust me but was very timid. She now enjoys her days with me and was accepted into my family.
When it came time to release the adults, I realized Jasper was among those ready to be released. All the foster homes were full and there was no one able to work with ferals available. My home was full. I already had Mr. Muffin, Jade, Onyx and Logan to rehabilitate as well as fostering Mogley. I had no plans to work with another feral cat. Jasper was the last one scheduled to be released and I couldn't bear to let him go without giving him a chance. Knowing that I had no idea where, or how, I would integrate him into my home, I said I’d take him and find a solution. Well it turns out that the little fellow was the friendliest feral I’ve ever worked with. After a few days, we had already gained his trust and knowing that others needed my help, Jasper was sent to another foster and was adopted quickly!
The work we do to work with these cats can be tiring, cold, frustrating, etc. But the reward of knowing we have helped to either rehabilitate those that can be, finding them loving homes, or helping to stop the kitten population by TNR’ing those that can’t be rehabilitated is why we do what we do.