Mama Rose

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Hi Efurryone! It’s me, Cookie! Today, we are going to tell you about the “R” part of TNR.

TNR stands for

Trap

Neuter (or Spay)

Release (or Return)

As much as Mommy and Daddy like Mama Rose, she dislikes them. More accurately, Mama Rose is afraid of Mommy and Daddy.

It was obvious early on that there would be no taming of Mama Rose. EVERY time Mommy or Daddy reached into Mama Rose’s cage, they were greeted by a HISSSSSSSS!!! So each and every time Mommy or Daddy would place a food bowl, a water bowl, or a freshly scooped litter box into Mama’s cage, Mama Rose was frightened by the experience. Sometimes, Mama Rose would hide under her bed.

This made Mommy and Daddy very, very sad. They knew that they would have to release Mama Rose soon after her spay surgery. All the feral kittehs were spayed or neutered in early October, so the weather here was still mild. As regular readers of our blog know, we live in northeast O Hi O, in a suburb of Cleveland. While we have moderately hot Summers, beautiful Autumns, and Spring seasons that range from 2 days to 2 months, it’s the Winters that earn Cleveland its reputation of being an unpleasant place to live. In fact, Cleveland was recently ranked second for snowiest “big” U.S. cities.

On average, the official reporting station for Cleveland gets about 60 inches of snow a season. It is at the airport, in western Cuyahoga County. We live in the bulls eye called “The Snow Belt”, and get about 90 inches a year at Casa de Furry Bambinos.

Now, imagine if your home is outdoors, like that of a feral kitteh like Mama Rose. So Daddy built Mama Rose a shelter, using directions he found at Alley Cat Allies web site. We will save that for another post.

So back in October, after Mama Rose had a few days to recover from her spay surgery, Mommy and Daddy released Mama Rose. Watch the video to find out what happened!

Mommy and Daddy are committed to feeding Mama Rose every day, as long as she chooses to visit us.

Mama Rose is currently showing up for dinner around 6:00 pm (shortly after sunset). If the wet food is not out there, Mama Rose sits on our welcome mat by our front door and waits, all but tapping her little footie. Mommy and Daddy have learned to place the wet food out as close to the time they expect to see Mama as possible. In the winter, the wet food freezes pretty quickly. Mommy is looking into buying a heated food dish. If any of you have suggestions about caring for outdoor feral kittehs, we would love to hear them.

Next time, we will tell you a funny story about Rusty and Woody!

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Hi Efurryone! It’s me, Cookie, your official Mama Rose and Her Babies storyteller. When we last left off, Mommy and Daddy had taught the bebbeh kittehs how to play with cat toys. Sunny was the shyest of the bebbehs, and tended to hide out during play times. But Mommy would reach into his pink ManCat cave and pick him up and pet him. When Mommy held Sunny and gave him scritches on his shoulder blades, he would start purring.

Fostering is not all fun and games. Foster kittehs sometimes get sick. That means that Mommy and Daddy must give the foster kittehs medicines. Like all good cats, fosters are no different in what they think of taking medicine.

Mama Rose and her babies had nasty cases of tapeworms. Giving pills “the usual way” to feral Mama Rose was simply NOT AN OPTION. Neither Mommy nor Daddy wanted to risk losing a finger, hand, or an eye trying to pick up Mama Rose to give her a pill. So Mommy bought a pill crusher, and then Daddy mixed up half a pill into some people tuna, and gave it to Mama Rose. Later, they mixed the other half pill into more people tuna. Mama Rose ate some of the Drontal-laced tuna fish. It was the best that Mommy and Daddy could do for her.

On the other paw, giving pills “the usual way” to feral bebbehs was a possibility. Mommy’s friend Christine, as well as Amy, the director of PAWS, recommended using “Squeeze Cheese” to mix the pill into to get the bebbehs to take their medicine. So Mommy tried to give Marigold and Rusty their half-pill crushed and mixed in Squeeze Cheese. It was a complete failure. The kittehs were too clever, and the pill tasted too nasty.

So, Mommy decided to give Woody, Hunter, Sunny, and Sky their Drontal half-pills “the usual way” using a pill popper. In case you have not heard of a pill popper, they are about as big as a pen, and have a rubber grabber at one end to hold the pill, and a release mechanism.

You can get them at your V-E-T’s office, or buy them online. As much as we kittehs hate getting medicine, it is much less stressful this way. Mom says she wishes she had known about these gadgets years ago, when Mohawk and Clyde had been sick. It would have helped a lot.

Mommy and Daddy teamed up to give Hunter, Woody, Sunny, and Sky their half-pills. I will let the videos tell you the rest of the story.

How To Give a Pill to a Feral Cat: Part 1

How To Give a Pill to a Feral Cat: Part 2

Next time: releasing Mama Rose! Complete with video!

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Hi Efurryone! It’s me, Cookie! It is time to continue telling you about Mama Rose and Her Babies. When we last left off, Mommy had been able to pick up and hold all six bebbeh kittehs, and was able to learn the gender of four. Two of the bebbehs were too squirmy to hold and also check their gender.

Christine (Mommy’s good friend and advisor in PAWS) reminded Mommy about using positive reinforcement with the magical elixir, food of the Gods, Gerber’s Chick-hen Bebbeh Food:

(Turkey flavor will also do. Just read the label to make sure there are no onions!) So, each time Mommy picked up a bebbeh kitteh and held him or her, Mommy dipped her finger in bebbeh food, and let the bebbeh kitteh lick it off her finger. The bebbehs loved the bebbeh food!!! They began to associate getting held with getting bebbeh food.

Eventually, Mommy was able to figure out that this little one is a boy, so she named him Sky.

It is therapeutic to start out taming feral kittehs by keeping them in a cage. However, you must move them into a larger space at some point in order to continue working with them. The next step was getting the kittehs to trust Mommy and Daddy enough to come to them. When Mommy reached into a cage to pick up a kitteh, it did not serve this purpose.

Luckily, we have a foster kitteh room (AKA The Mohawk and Clyde Shrine) that is perfect for this. Once our current fosters had been adopted into great homes, Mommy and Daddy moved the feral bebbehs into the foster room. After a few days, the bebbehs became comfortable in the room, so Mommy and Daddy started to “make the bebbehs work for their bebbeh food”.

This meant that Mommy or Daddy would start out by bringing a finger covered in bebbeh food to the kitteh to lick. The next taste, Mommy or Daddy would put a finger just out of the kitteh’s reach, forcing the kitteh to work up the courage to come a little bit closer. Mommy and Daddy kept this up until the kitteh was very close to them.

Before the bebbeh realized what was happening, they were touching Mommy or Daddy!

Once the bebbehs became comfortable approaching Mommy and Daddy for bebbeh food, The Kitten Whisperer (Daddy) got to work teaching the bebbehs how to play with toys.

Daddy chose to use toys that let the still-timid bebbehs keep their distance. For example, he started by using the orange boa toy on a stick. Daddy waved the toy around, and the bebbeh kittehs had fun playing with the boa. The three bravest kittehs were Woody, Marigold, and Rusty.

Hiii-yaaaa!

Mommy taught the kittehs how to play with the trackball toy. Again, that is Rusty, Marigold, and Woody having a high old time whapping the little ball in the track.

After several days of this, with all the baby food as rewards, and the fun games, some of the bebbehs began to trust Mommy and Daddy. This is Rusty, Woody, Hunter, and Marigold with Daddy’s legs.

Sky and his brother Sunny (Mommy was finally able to determine his gender) were still much more timid than their siblings. They both still hissed a lot, at Mommy and Daddy as well as at their siblings. Woody and Hunter got big hiss from Mr. Airplane Ears, Sky.

Sunny and Sky both still flattened their ears a lot. Sunny spent most playtimes cooped up in his pink Man Kitten Tent.

Mommy had read that not all feral kittehs from the same litter will tame at the same rate. She read that she should continue to work with the shyer bebbehs, and to be patient as they took their time getting used to people.

Next time: How to give a pill to a feral kitteh! You don’t want to miss this one! Complete with video!

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Hi Efurryone, it’s me Cookie! We are very excited because Christmas is coming! We have been getting pretty holiday cards from our furriends, and that is so much fun!

If you would like to exchange holiday cards with us, please email us at TheFurryBambinos AT gmail DOT com. We can send cards overseas, too. We would love to send you a card!

When we last left off telling you about Mama Rose and Her Babies, six bebbeh kittehs and Mama Rose had been trapped in humane traps in Penny and Bob’s yard next door. Mommy and Daddy transferred the feral fambly to cages in the garage. Now Mommy and Daddy needed to start work socializing the bebbeh kittehs.

Mommy did not know much at all about working with feral kittehs. Feral kittehs are different than “domesticated house cats” (for lack of a better term). Not all stray cats are feral. Just because a cat does not have a home does not mean it is feral.

So what does feral mean, then?

Feral kittehs have not had contact with humans during their crucial kitten development time. If a kitten is not handled by people when they are very young, they grow up being afraid of people. They view people as potential predators, and are understandably terrified when a person tries to get too close.

Like most of your parents, Mommy has lots of books about kittehs. She looked through every single book, and found hardly anything at all about feral kittehs. So she asked her good friend Google for help. Mommy did some crash course reading online to try to learn how to work with and hopefully eventually get the feral kittehs to trust her, Daddy, and other people. There are some great online resources available – Alley Cat Allies in particular, but we will list resources in another post in case you are interested.

The whole goal of the process is to help the feral bebbehs learn to TRUST Mommy and Daddy, and other people too. Mommy was cautioned to make sure to let other people work with the feral kittehs, or else the bebbehs would be tame JUST FOR MOMMY. Which as you can imagine would defeat the purpose of taming the bebbehs so that they could be adopted to other famblies.

Mommy started off by not trying to touch the bebbehs for two whole days after they had been trapped. She read that it is best to give the kittehs some time to see that Mommy and Daddy did not mean to harm them. For those first two days, Mommy just reached into the cages to change the water and food. Mommy placed the food and water dishes near the doors to the cages so she would not have to reach too far into the cages. Mommy also removed the litter boxes from the cages, and Daddy scooped the boxes while the boxes were outside the cages.

The bebbeh kittehs would cower in fear every time Mommy reached into the cages. The bebbehs went to the far corner of the cage, and would huddle together. Their Mama was NOT HAPPY AT ALL any time Mommy reached into a cage containing her bebbehs. Their Mama would stand up and HISSSSSS and GROWWWLLLL at Mommy. Even inside of a cage, a feral Mama cat was pretty intimidating!

Mommy read that you should not try to come at a feral kitteh with your hand open and aim for their face. So next, Mommy began gently touching the feral bebbehs with the back of her hand. She gently stroked the bebbehs on their lower bodies – their hind legs area.

Mommy also read that it is VERY IMPORTANT not to stare a feral kitteh in the eyes for extended periods. Staring a feral cat in the eyes is a sign of aggression and will cause the feral kitteh to become even more defensive.  So Mommy and Daddy made sure to make only very brief eye contact with the feral fambly. Mommy would look at the kitteh, then look away, then look at the kitteh, and then look away again.

Mommy also read that feral kittehs are terribly afraid of human voices. So to help them get used to people, Mommy read that it helps to leave a radio or TV playing in the room. So Daddy found a radio, and then put it in the garage with the feral fambly, and turned in on low volume. Mommy’s good friend Dorothy told Mommy to make sure to turn the radio OFF from time to time, because constant NOISE is a form of torture.

After a few days of gentle touching, Mommy began to try to pick up the bebbehs and hold them for brief periods of time. When Mommy picked up a bebbeh, she made sure to “scruff them” – to pick the bebbeh up by the scruff of the neck. This does not hurt the bebbeh! When a bebbeh is scruffed, they relax and go limp! This is a natural reaction that they have so that when their Mama Kitteh picks them up, they don’t get all squirmy while she carries them in her mouth.

Mommy started by holding the bebbehs for very brief periods of time – like 20 seconds – and then returning the bebbeh to its cage and immediately feeding the bebbeh. This is so that the bebbehs would begin to associate getting held with getting food! At first, the bebbehs would not eat in front of Mommy when they were returned to their cages.

Next, Mommy would hold the bebbehs for longer periods of time – one to two minutes. Mommy held the bebbehs close to her chest with both hands securing the bebbeh so they would not escape. At this time, Mommy began to try to determine the gender of each bebbeh, and choosing names. Mommy’s good friend Christine (and advisor in PAWS) suggested giving the fambly “outdoorsy” names since they were found outside.

Mommy confirmed that the little calico was a girl! Mommy and Daddy named her Marigold.

Mommy confirmed that the dark orange tabby with swirls was a boy! Mommy and Daddy named him Rusty.

Mommy confirmed that the buff tabby with white bib and white paws was a boy! Mommy’s friend Christine suggested the name Hunter.

Mommy learned that the little brown tabby was actually a boy, not a girl like she had originally guessed. Mommy named him Woody.

Two of the bebbehs were too squirmy to hold and also check their gender, so those two would have to wait to get named. They were the silver tabby and the dark orange tabby with the white bib and white paws.

And to go with the outdoorsy theme, Mommy thought the name Mama Rose was appropriate for the Mama. Can any of you guess why?

Next time, teaching feral kittehs how to play with cat toys!

Merry Christmas Efurrryone!

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Hi Efurryone, it’s me Cookie! First of all, Mommy asked me to say thank you to all of you for the birthday wishes. She especially enjoyed the comments requesting photos of her enjoying her birthday present. (We are working on that.)

Second, if you would like to exchange holiday cards with us, please email us at TheFurryBambinos AT gmail DOT com.

When we last left off telling you about Mama Rose and Her Babies, four bebbeh kittehs and Mama Rose had been trapped in humane traps in Penny and Bob’s yard next door. Mommy and Daddy transferred the feral fambly to cages in the garage. But Mommy and Daddy knew that there were more kittens – another two or three by their estimation. When it got dark, Daddy rigged the cage so that the door would not close, in case another animal such as a raccoon, possum, or skunk got hungry and went into the trap.

Mommy and Daddy were very worried about the other bebbehs. They worried all night about where they might be, if they missed their Mama and siblings, and what they would eat. It was a sad night at Casa de Furry Bambinos, despite the fact that four bebbehs and Mama had been trapped.

The next morning Penny called Mom. She said that there were two bebbeh kittehs in one of the traps! The wire that was holding the trap open must have broken! What good luck that more kittehs were trapped, and not a skunk!!! Mommy and Daddy were very grateful to have caught two more bebbehs!

When Mommy opened the door from the house into the garage, the sound must have startled all the feral kittehs. So much so that two of the kittehs were squeezing between the bars of their cage to escape! Mommy got there in time to push the dark orange kitteh back into the cage, but there was one itteh bitteh calico kitteh on the loose in the garage!

Luckily Mommy saw where the calico went, and was able to pick it up by the scruff of the neck and put it back into a different cage. (Mommy thought that maybe she should separate the two genius kittehs who figured out how to escape.) So then Mommy grabbed some bricks from the back yard and blockaded the bottom of the cages to prevent any more escapees.

Finally, Mommy went next door and brought the two kittehs in their trap to the garage. Mommy put them into the cage with the orange kitteh who tried to escape.

At this point, Mama and all the bebbehs were very very scared, so Mommy did not try to touch any of them yet. These two bebbehs were trying to hide between their litter box and the cage wall.

Look how frightened they look!

Mommy and Daddy were not sure which bebbehs were girls or boys. Mom had some guesses, though. Orange tabby (striped) kittehs are usually male – Mom read somewhere that 75% of orange tabbies are boys. One of the bebbehs was a dark orange tabby with white toes and a white bib. (He’s the one huddling with the silver tabby in the two previous photos.) Mommy guessed “boy” for this little one. He was also the biggest kitteh in the litter.

Another kitteh was a dark orange tabby – the one who tried to escape with the calico. Mommy also guessed “boy”. His markings were very pretty – bulls eyes and swirls instead of striped lines on his sides.

Another bebbeh was a buff (light orange) tabby, with white toes, a white bib, and a cute little white strip on his nose. Mommy also guessed “boy”. He was one of the last two to be trapped.

As you may know, calico kittehs are ALMOST ALWAYS girls. The Mama was a calico, and since she was the Mama, they knew she was a girl.

One of the kittens was a calico – the one who escaped the cage – and looked almost exactly like the Mama. So Mommy guessed that the bebbeh calico was a girl.

However, calicoes can be males – at the time, one of Mommy’s friends was fostering a MALE calico. It is estimated that only about 1 in 4000 calico kittehs are male. To be calico (or tortie for that matter) a kitteh needs to have two X chromosomes. So male calicoes are XXY – a genetic mutation. Enough science – back to our story.

So that left the silver tabby and the brown tabby. Since both of the silver tabby Furry Bambinos (Angel Clyde and Padre) are boys, Mommy guessed “boy” for this little one. He was also pretty big compared to some of his siblings.

The brown tabby was tough. It was so tiny – must have been the runt of the litter – so based on body size, Mommy guessed “girl”.

However, until Mommy could pick up and handle the bebbehs, she did not want to assign names yet. She started thinking up names though!

Originally, Mommy had thought she had seen SEVEN bebbehs with the Mama. So she and Daddy tried for several more days to trap the remaining bebbeh. They don’t for sure if there were seven since they all moved about so quickly – it was very hard to count them. Mommy thought there might be another calico kitteh – but maybe when she was counting, she thought the Mama, who was very tiny herself, was a bebbeh. They never did catch a seventh bebbeh, and we’ll never really know for sure if there was one.

Next time, we will tell you about naming the bebbehs!

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Hi Efurrybody! It’s me, Cookie! First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to our furriends here in the U.S.! We hope that you all get as much turkey as you can eat! Just remember, no onions! Onions are toxic to us kittehs. So we won’t be able to eat the stuffing since it has onions in it. Mommy and Daddy are busy cooking, so I thought I would take this opportunity to fill you all in on the next part of the story of Mama Rose and Her Babies.

When we left off last time, Mommy and Daddy were headed next door, armed with humane traps and cat food. They wanted to start trying to trap bebbeh kittehs before they grew up and decided to be scared of people.

When Mom and Dad got next door, Penny and Bob showed Mom and Dad where they saw the kittehs go under the deck. So Mom and Dad put cat food on paper plates and put the plates of food into the traps. But this time, they set the traps to trigger the doors to close when the kittehs stepped on the thingy in the traps.

Mom and Dad went back home and waited nervously. Would the bebbeh kittehs go into the traps?

Just a few minutes later, Penny called Mom. Two kittehs were inside one trap! Mom and Dad raced next door, and found two adorable bebbeh kittehs, frantic to get out of the trap!

At the time, we had four fosters living in the kitten room – Kelly, Michelle, Winnie-the-Pooh, and Kanga. So the new (feral) kitties needed to stay in the room where The-Room-That-Moves sleeps. Mom and Dad call it “the garage”. Mommy had a large cat cage that the people in PAWS refer to as a “condo” that would be a safe place for the feral bebbehs to stay. The condo belongs to someone else in PAWS, but gets loaned out for situations like this.

Mommy and Daddy transferred the two kittehs to the condo and brought the trap next door again and put more cat food inside. As soon as Mommy and Daddy got back home, the phone rang again! Bob called to say that two more bebbeh kittehs had been trapped! So Mommy and Daddy went to get them, and transferred those two bebbehs to the cat condo in the garage.

Mommy and Daddy were very happy to have caught four of the bebbehs so easily! So they brought the trap back next door and set it again. They wanted to catch the rest of the bebbehs before dark. Because after dark, the possums, raccoons, and skunks (!) come out to play. Mommy and Daddy did not think that Penny and Bob would be very happy if a skunk got trapped in their back yard!

So Mom and Dad set the trap and went home again. When Bob and Penny called the next time, the news was not as good. The Mama had gotten caught! Oh noes! They really did not want to trap the Mama until much closer to the scheduled surgery date. Now what would happen?

So Mom called her contacts in PAWS. They said to keep the Mama rather than to release her, because she might never go into the trap again. More cages were needed because the one condo would be too small for everybody. The whole point of trapping the bebbehs was to work with them to try to tame them. There was NO WAY that Mama was going to let her bebbehs get handled if she was in the same cage. And there was NO WAY that Mommy or Daddy was going to put their hands into the cage with the Mama to try to reach for a kitten!

So Mommy and Daddy borrowed three more cage condo thingies to house the feral fambly. Luckily, the weather had not gotten too cold yet, so it was comfortable in the garage. At least it was safe from wind and rain.

The kittens were scared.

Mama was NOT PLEASED to have been trapped. Not happy at all. In fact, she tried to break out of the trap, and hurt herself on her lip and nose.

(Oh, and those are NOT ears growing out of Mama’s butt.  Those ears belong to one of the bebbeh kittehs in the next cage.)

But there were still more bebbeh kittehs out there! So after CAREFULLY transferring Mama to a cage, Mommy and Daddy set the trap out once more in Penny and Bob’s back yard. And waited.

By dark, the other bebbehs had not been trapped yet! Mommy and Daddy were worried. What happened to them? Were they hiding under the deck? Had they run away when their Mama got trapped?

Mom and Dad were very sad, but did not want to risk trapping another animal, like a skunk. So they left the traps in Penny and Bob’s yard, with food inside, but set so that the doors would not close.

More next time …

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Hi Efurryone! It’s me, Cookie! As regular readers know, my sister Caramel and I were Mommy and Daddy’s first two fosters ever! And then we became Mommy and Daddy’s first two failed fosters ever!

The “problem” with failed fosters is that sometimes foster homes decide not to foster again, because of the risk of “failing” again. After Mommy and Daddy adopted Caramel and me, the nice people in the animal rescue group (PAWS) asked Mommy if she would be willing to foster again. They asked Mommy if she would foster “just one” kitten.

Mommy said no.

She said it would be too dangerous to foster “just one” kitten. So she asked for a lot of kittens – and that is when Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Joann became fosters. All four babies got adopted into terrific furrever homes!

Since then, we have fostered lots more kittehs – Daisy, Bo, Luke, Niecy, Trish, Antoinette, Beyonce, Kelly, Michelle, Winnie-the-Pooh, Kanga, Hidey, Mr. Bibs, and Dakota. We will tell you stories about them some other time. This time, I will tell you about Mama Rose, and Her Babies. There is so much to tell that I will break the story up into several posts.

This past July, we began seeing Mama Rose in our yard – a calico kitten about 9 or 10 months old. She was usually carrying a mousie in her teeths! Then one day in August, we saw two bebbeh kittehs with her! And then another time, we saw Mama Rose with six or seven bebbehs! So Mommy got busy on the phone, borrowed humane traps, and started feeding Mama and babies in the traps. Dad made sure the traps would not close by using a hanger wire to keep the trap doors open. This was so the kittehs would get comfortable going in and out of the traps.

Mom asked our nice next-door neighbors Penny and Bob not to feed the Mama or the babies, even though they really wanted to! The reason they did this was to ensure that Mama and babies kept visiting us and eating from the traps.

In the meantime, Mom contacted people in PAWS about appointments for Mama to get her ladygardenectomy, and for the babies to have their ladygardenectomies or hoohaectomies. So the original plan was to keep feeding Mama and babies until the day before their scheduled surgeries.

However, the scheduled appointments were still about three weeks away. Mom and Dad were concerned that the older the kittens got without human contact, the harder it would be to tame them. They had learned from fostering Hidey and Mr. Bibs that by three months of age, feral kittens are REALLY hard to “flip” and may not ever decide to trust humans.

It was really hard to guess how old the kittens were since Mommy and Daddy could not get close to them. So, on Saturday, September 18th, when our nice next-door neighbor Penny called Mom to tell her that the kittens were hanging out on the deck in their back yard, Mom knew what she had to do.

She and Daddy brought the two traps and some cat food next door, in hopes of trapping as many babies as they could.

To be continued …