More Waiting

This evening I tried again to trap one of the several black cats on the base. I was successful, although not the way I’d hoped.

First I trapped the same cat that I trapped a couple of weeks ago. I had her spayed the first time, of course, and didn’t need to trap her again. And despite her terror the first time she found herself with no way out, she went right in that trap again. “Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, are you?” I asked her. She didn’t respond. Too ashamed of her inability to resist tuna, I suppose.

Next the elusive cat that I was trying to trap the last time I posted sauntered coolly into the trap, gobbled up the tuna, and exited without setting it off. Again. Which is all for the best, I suppose, as I am pretty sure she is no longer pregnant. Her nursing babies are going to need her for the next few weeks. I did finally get a good look at her and she is magnificent. Long charcoal fur with a full mane.

Finally the third and fourth cats appeared. One is clearly a Tom, with the telltale fat cheeks containing all those pheromones. The other is a fairly small, smooth coated, and of course, black cat. She couldn’t resist the tuna either, but she is not so wily as the other. As soon as the trap closed, I rushed her to the vet, and he helped me confirm what I suspected: she is nursing. I took her right back and released her.

It looks like in five or six weeks I will have at least two adult females, an adult male m, and who knows how many kittens to TNR or socialize. Until then, I leave them in peace. I, on the other hand, will be diligently seeking an elusive peace, knowing that all those little souls are struggling to stay alive in a hard world. Say a prayer.


Waiting: an update

If you read yesterday’s post,  you know that I was trying to trap what I’ve been told is a pregnant cat. I did not manage to trap her yesterday but I did see her. After 45 minutes of waiting, I decided probably if I didn’t have her I wasn’t going to get her that time, so I returned to the trap.  I got there just in time to see her tail and the lower half of the body as she quickly exited the trap and slunk back under the building.  I didn’t get a very good look at her. I returned to my waiting spot and gave her a little more time, another 30 minutes or so, and after not hearing the trap, I surrendered, returning to find she had devoured the tuna I had baited the trap with and left it UN-sprung.

This is good news and bad news. The good news is I know she will go in the trap. If she will go in the trap I can trap her. The bad news is she did not look very round  to me.  If she is not round she is probably not pregnant.  If she is not pregnant and she was pregnant as her caregiver reported, then she has had the babies  somewhere.  Which means I can’t trap her now because I can’t risk leaving her kittens without their mama.

Today I went by the area, walked all around, and looked for and listened for any sign of kittens. I spoke to one of the workers. No sign of kittens anywhere. Also no sign of mama cat.  The question remainS: has she had kittens or is she still pregnant?

So I am trying to figure out if I should continue to try to trap her or if I should give her some time, and give her potential kittens some time, and try again a little later.

I would love to hear from experienced rescuers. If you are a rescuer what would you do?


I’m sitting about 100 meters from a humane trap in which I’m hoping to catch what I’ve been told is a pregnant cat. I’m listening for that distinctive clap which tells me that the trap has sprung and the desired prey is safely inside. This is the fourth time I have set the trap for this particular cat. She’s quite wild, and she’s very clever. Perhaps she’s been listening to her pal tell her about when I trapped her and had her spayed a couple of weeks ago, a successful, although stressful TNR.

(TNR means Trap-Neuter-Release, the only option to successfully control a community cat population.)

Within the confines of the NATO base where I teach are a number of cats who don’t have family to go home to. Over the course of the last six years, on the campus of the school on base, and on the American base a few miles from here, some friends and I have trapped or otherwise assumed responsibility for upwards of 50 cats and kittens. The ones on the NATO base are primarily the cats abandoned by military members when they PCS, or are the offspring of those cats. Many of them, like the last five, have been kittens, which I and my compassionate cohorts have socialized and either found homes for or found no kill associations which found homes for them.

The adult cats have been much more difficult. Often they have become very distrustful of humans, and a few have been downright feral. The solution for those is very complicated. Some of them have been released in areas unfamiliar to them. I deeply resist that option because sometimes it turns out very badly. One such cat was kept in the ladies garage for several weeks, where the lady fed her, spoke softly to her, and even petted her some. In spite of this, when the cat was finally released, she ran off and was never seen again, breaking the hearts of her caregivers; I still worry about this cat sometimes. Obviously we don’t want that outcome. Ideally a cat who is truly wild, or who is so fearful of humans that they can’t let themselves be socialized, needs to be released where he was trapped. Luckily in this case there is a lady who has been feeding this small colony of cats and because of her, I was alerted and we are now trying to get this population of community cats TNR’d.

In spite of my repeated requests on social media for people to let me know when they’re getting ready to leave so that I can come by and get their cat or find a suitable home for it, folks continue to abandon their animals when they leave. Dogs get dumped at shelters, and cats simply get left behind. I always thought it was “those other countries ” who were doing such things, but I’ve come to learn that we Americans are just as guilty as everybody else.

Even after all these years associated with animal rescue, I still can’t understand how you can do that. How can you welcome an animal into your home without coming to love it? And how can you love anyone or anything and decide that they’re not worth taking with you when you go? Did you know that there are even people who abandon their animals when they go on vacation? They simply turn it out if it’s a cat, or if it’s a dog they tie it to a lamp post by the side of the road.

Before I became an animal rescuer I didn’t realize such things happened. I wouldn’t say that I was living in a state of complete ignorance; in fact I had spent many years weeping over articles that I read, statistics, and photographs. I belonged to the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States, and subscribed to vegetarian magazines. For a time I was a member of PETA until I realized that they too are simply an animal killing machine. But until I became an actual rescuer myself, I didn’t realize that our next-door neighbors and sometimes even our friends are not really animal lovers or even animal likers. Because if they were, these “good people” wouldn’t abandon their animals leaving, in the best possible situation, other people to pick up pieces.

So I’m sitting here waiting for that trap, praying that tonight will be the night that this female cat goes into it. Cross your fingers. Say a prayer.

Why I Won’t See “The Greatest Showman”

Anyone who knows me knows I’m all about the theatre. Some of my favorite songs are show tunes, and I’ve seen numerous shows both professional and amateur, and been in as many, if not more, also both professional and amateur (although admittedly, far more amateur). And then there’s Hugh Jackman. Who is simply, well, Hugh Jackman!

This is one show, however, that I wish hadn’t been made. The protagonist is P.T. Barnum, a man responsible for the exploitation of humans and animals, and who practically single-handedly reinforced the capture, imprisonment and enslavement of thousands of wild animals over the course of the last 100 years.

Barnum’s legacy is a long list of offences, one of the earliest happening when he was only 25 years old. In that year, 1835, Barnum leased a black slave named Joice Heth for 1000 dollars a year in order to market her as a 161 –year –old former nanny belonging to George Washington. During that time, she worked 10 to 12 hours a day on display for Barnum.  Even in her death she was not left in peace, as Barnum charged 1500 people 50 cents each to witness her “live autopsy.”

In 1841, Barnum bought Scudder’s American Museum in Manhattan, replaced the previous owner’s name with his own, and there he exhibited exotic live animals, among them monkeys, birds, and snakes, the latter to which he fed live rabbits and sheep, charging visitors to watch, although why anyone would want to watch such horrors is beyond me. He also had hundreds of exotic fish, and even had a tank for two beluga whales and a hippopotamus. His most successful exhibits there, however, were various hoaxes such as a monkey’s head sewn onto the tail of a fish, calling it the Feejee mermaid. Surely, the most offensive exhibit there was an African-American man who was billed as “a mixture of the wild native African and the orang outang, a kind of man-monkey.”

Or let’s talk about “General Tom Thumb,” who in real life began working for Barnum at the age of five years old, drinking alcohol and smoking cigars as part of the exhibition. Or the two sets of conjoined twins Barnum managed to obtain as children, one source saying he had kidnapped them.  Or the African American boy who had microcephaly, meaning his head was abnormally small. Called the Wildman of Africa, he was made to wear a furry suit, scream and pretend to be violent in a cage. Or was he pretending?

During one of the two fires that ravaged the museum during its existence, the animals were not rescued. The human exhibitions barely managed to escape. The whales were burned alive, and possibly also the hippo. The snakes were either burned or got loose in Manhattan; it is not known how many actually escaped.  None of the animals, which had no business being in a building in Manhattan in the first place, are known to have survived the fire which burned the museum entirely to the ground.

Barnum’s treatment of animals has left a legacy that is just now being seen for what it is: cruel and inhumane. During his tenure as owner of the circus, cruelty to animals was de rigeur. It is known that he stole animals from the wild, including one group of either nine or eleven elephants, one a calf, from Sri Lanka. He kept them in a lightless, airless hold of a ship for four months where they could barely move. Barnum admitted that they had killed many more in trying to capture these few. Handlers shoved hot pokers up their trunks to break them. Hot pokers! Barnum himself beat elephants with sharp metal bullhooks. One died en route and was pushed overboard.

The suffering of Kenny is well-known, because of the level of cruelty that garnered public attention in 1998. The three year old elephant was forced to perform while deathly ill, bleeding from the rectum, despite a veterinarian’s recommendation against it, and was later found dead in his cage. You can read about it here in an article by Deborah Nelson. Admittedly, Barnum was long dead by this time, but the show was HIS former business, and it was certainly his legacy. Elephants were treated as he had demanded, so that his show could earn maximum profit.

Can you remember the circuses of the 20th century? I can. I attended at least one as a child. The tigers and lions who lived in tiny cages for many hours every day, made to perform tricks for our entertainment. How did they get so tame? Fear. Beatings. Electric prods. It is only now that circuses are giving up their wild animals, the lucky ones going to sanctuaries where they get to live out their days in peace, the not so lucky sold to circuses in other countries, which have not yet given up their market in cruelties.

P.T. Barnum’s legacy will keep me out of movie theaters for this show. I can’t give my money to be entertained by that which glorifies something I spend so much of my life fighting against. I won’t say I love animals and then patronize a show whose protagonist was responsible for the suffering of so many.




An Update to Ferals and Fosters

About three years ago, I wrote a four-part series called Ferals and Fosters about three black kittens that a friend and I rescued. They marked the beginning of my journey in earnest as a hands-on fosterer and socializer of wild and semi-wild kittens and cats. I had been involved in rescue for years but had rarely really gotten my hands dirty. These three kittens showed me how great a difference one person can make. The final installment of that short series was about Sampson, a scared little black kitten who stole my heart as my first really difficult socialization success story.

When he was adopted, I cried like a little girl and I never stopped thinking of him. His new family rechristened him Sammy and sent me frequent updates about him via Facebook. Each new report made my heart sing; he was coming out of his shell and becoming a part of the family, even watching the husband play x-box and sleeping in bed with them and their other cat.

Last December I received a frantic message from Sammy’s adoptive human mom. They were returning to the US and during the pack-out with the movers, Sammy had somehow gotten out. Could I come help trap him?

I can only describe the next few days as panicked and tearful. I advised the family to put out his litter box and something with their scent on it. A small group of us searched day and night. We called. We sat and waited with smelly food. We put out the trap. We took canned mackerel and set it out all over the place. We put up posters and dropped flyers in every mailbox in the area. We created a Facebook group. As the days drew nearer for the family to get on the plane with their other two cats and their two children (both born since Sampson’s adoption, and one of the other two cats adopted since then), I became more and more depressed. Unfortunately, no one ever reported having seen him, and the family left as planned, but without Sammy.

A few of us kept looking for weeks. We set the trap in different places, hunted down potential leads (all dead ends and none of them actual sightings), and put out more flyers. We talked to people who lived in the area and contacted veterinarians. Absolutely zero. After several weeks with no sightings, nearly three months since he was lost, we had to admit we weren’t going to find him.

They lived near some busy roads, so he might have been hit by a car almost immediately. The family isn’t sure what time he got out so he could have been killed within minutes and picked up by city workers. Unfortunately, at that time, for reasons neither I nor his family understands, his microchip was not registered and so his body would have been unidentifiable. (When he was adopted, the chip was registered to me but when it was transferred to them, apparently it didn’t get re-registered. Lesson learned – double-check that your fur-babies’ chips are registered properly.)

He could also have been quickly adopted by another family who, for whatever reason, did not see our ads or flyers. This option is very unlikely because, as I found out from the adoptive mom, Sammy remained very cautious, somewhat fearful, and although he loved the two of them, he didn’t trust anyone else. My cautious, mistrusting little kitten had matured into a cautious, mistrusting little cat.

The third option, the most frightening one for me, is that he ran away and simply didn’t respond to any of our calls for him because he was either too scared or he simply didn’t want to come back home. Now my experience tells me that if he were too scared, he would have at least been spotted once or twice in the neighborhood, and as I said, we have no reports that he was. Further, within a few days, scared cats generally show back up. They gather their courage and return home.

I’m fairly certain, if Sammy was still alive at the time we were searching for him, he didn’t respond or return home because he didn’t WANT to come home. I know that sounds odd but I’ve thought a lot about this and talked about it with a couple of other folks, and we agree that it is certainly possible, and I think even likely.

You see, what had been, when he was adopted, a quiet and calm home with no kids and only one other cat became, within a year, a home with an infant and a third rescued cat (this one a life saved from the death list of a kill shelter). Shortly thereafter, another infant and now a toddler in the house. Finally there was the confusion and noise of not just one, but two household moves; only a few months before this one, they moved from the apartment to a house only a few doors down. Working for the government being what it is, their transfer to the US was a short-notice surprise. Add all of these elements together and you certainly have a situation that a mistrusting and fearful cat would seek to escape from.

Now, before all the potential judgement happens, when I adopted Sampson out, I made clear in the ads that he was fearful and needed lots of patience and a quiet home with NO KIDS. Further, I insisted upon that very firmly, in person, with the adopters. They assured me they had no plans to have children in the near future, and as I mentioned, in the first months after the adoption, Sammy made progress; he seemed to enjoy hanging out with the two of them. When the wife let me know, with some apparent trepidation, when they were pregnant, only a few months after the adoption, she assured me that it was a surprise. I trusted her as a long-time animal rescuer. In the best of situations, animal companions take a bit of a back seat when babies are born, and obviously the noise level grows as the household does. With all of this, and based on conversations with the parents since his disappearance, it seems that Sammy retreated some into his fearful shell, and this only further evidences that he wouldn’t want to come home.

Months later now, and I still cry for him sometimes. I pray for him often and think of him even more often. I punish myself with “what-if…’s” and “I should have…’s”. I hold out a tiny hope that perhaps, since he was micro-chipped (and now the chip is in my name again since his family is no longer in the country), he could still come home. But I have to admit, that hope is truly miniscule. And the thought that he is living the feral life somewhere terrifies me because I know how full of suffering – disease, hunger, predators, unmet needs – feral cats’ lives are.

I know that God hears me praying that if Sampson suffered, or suffers, that it is little or not at all, and that he either comes home to me or has a home where he is loved and feels safe. I suppose it is an unhappy testimony to how little I trust God that I continue to anguish sometimes about him. It pains me to admit that, but God knows how very human I am, and I trust He forgives me my frailties.

We foster families have many flaws, but we have one great strength which unfortunately is also a paradoxical weakness: love. We love each and every animal we take in, even if they stay with us for only a short time. For me, and I’m fairly confident this is true of all of us rescuers, there are three or four who are extra-special, whose effect on us is so profound that we are changed because of them. I loved Sampson; he taught me to never give up on a hard-case, that they could become the most loving of all. I never stopped thinking of him and I never stopped loving him, and if he one day manages to come back home, I will weep with joy.

The other installments:   Ferals and Fosters, Part Two
Ferals and Fosters, Part Three


So you want to help community cats?  Start here.

So you need to socialize some kittens? Click here.

A Change of Heart

Where your treasure is, there is where your heart goes; there is where you spend your time. Last Sunday our pastor reminded us of this prayer: Lord, teach us to number our days, so that we will become wise. And he asked a lot of questions about how we spent our time in 2015. Here are a few that hit me in the heart:

How much time did you spend…

…enjoying family and friends?
…stepping out in faith for the Lord?
…trying to control others or your own life?
…encouraging others?
…pursuing the spiritual disciplines?
…pursuing a bad habit?
…pursuing a personal dream or goal?
…helping someone else pursue a dream or goal?
…listening to others?
…being thankful?
…responding to everything, the good and the bad, in praise?

These questions caused me to ask myself this one: How much time did I waste in 2015? Ouch. “A LOT.” Too much, and if I am brutally honest, I wasted a lot of time doing things that were simply not pleasing to God. This isn’t self-condemnation here; it is just facing the truth. It’s a truth that drives me to the throne of grace.

A new year always cries out for a fresh start. We, fallen creatures that we are, desperately need one. We need to behave like the new people  we claim to be. Unfortunately, so many of us don’t, and we make resolutions every year, promising to be different, to do “better.” If you’re like most people, those resolutions tend to fail; just look at health clubs’ inscriptions in January and compare that to their user-ship in June.  This is indicative of all our grand resolve in beginning the new year. A friend blogged about this topic very eloquently on It Was on My Mind, and he reminded me that we don’t need another failed new year’s resolution; we need a change of our hearts.  It’s our inner condition that drives our outward behavior.

Only God can change us from the inside out. For this to happen, I believe there are several conditions.
1.  We have to believe He is good.
2. We have to believe He wants us to be wholly and fully the people He intended us to be when He created us.
3. We have to want Him above everything else.

The first two conditions are not all that hard for me to agree with. The third one prompts a final question: Do I?

Do you?


A footnote: this post is aimed at those of us who know Christ. If you don’t know Him, or if you are unsure, call a trusted Christian friend and talk with him or her. Or click here and learn more. 

On Gratitude and Contentment: an update

I’ve had quite a few conversations about this topic over the past weeks. The previous post was born out of one conversation and birthed more conversations. My head has been swimming with thoughts about contentment. And today I ran across a blog post by a favorite ministry team, RC Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries. I thought I’d share it here. It’s completely relevant to the conversations and to the previous post.

Godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Tim 6:6)

Learning Contentment, Sinclair Ferguson

Many blessings. May we all learn to be content, whether in abundance or in want.