Friday, October 21, 2016

How I Disrupted the Life of a Single Mother of Two

It is not a thing that I am proud of, but in an attempt to improve the neighborhood, I unwittingly sent a young family packing. It all began one summer night as I was walking my dogs, Buddy and Mike. Amid the growth of vines and shrubs near the alleyway behind our house, I saw three pairs of eyes peering out as I shone my flashlight to see what Buddy and Mike were growling at. From what I could see, there appeared to be an adult tabby cat with two younger cats in the shadows. Heads bobbed in curiosity but no move was made to come out of the shadows, and I was eager to get my dogs back to the house before they started tugging at their leashes.

Kelli - one of our rescues
A year earlier, there had been a number of feral cats in our neighborhood. My wife took on the project to safely trap and neuter ten to twelve cats. Most were too feral to tolerate proximity to humans, so they were released back into the neighborhood. Some were young enough to be brought inside and tamed. Our mission then became to give five cats a home (four of which made their home with us). The other part of our mission was to offer support for those feral cats we had released after getting them “fixed.” We therefore began setting out dry food for those outside felines. Then this past spring, another feral cat took up in our garage, so we were able to get him fixed and released back “into the wild” of our neighborhood.

All of that cat fixing is why, when I saw those three sets of eyes peering our from the dark, I assumed that another cat had come into the neighborhood with her young. On the heels of a successful campaign of fixing so many feral cats, I only wanted to do what was best. After all, spaying and neutering our cats and dogs is a major part of responsible pet ownership, and neutering feral cats keeps us from becoming overrun with strays.

Havahart humane trap
I talked with the nice folks at the Alabama Spay/Neuter Clinic in Irondale who offer a discount for spaying and neutering feral cats. Then I dutifully set out our Havahart humane trap late one night, anticipating a trip to the spay/neuter clinic the following morning. I would have to be at work, but my daughter had agreed to take the cat in to the clinic if we trapped her. The plan was that I would check the trap on my way to work and then phone my daughter to tell her if we had a cat.

As I drove around the block and stopped by the alley where I had set the trap, to my surprise there was not a cat, but rather a raucous raccoon! I stopped and approached the trap. The night before, I had covered the trap with some old towels as we always do when trapping cats so that they can have some sense of cover rather than being exposed to the open air. The poor raccoon had rolled the trap onto its side and had shredded the towels, pulling pieces through the bars of the cage.

Fortunately, I was able to slowly open the trap and leave it so that the mother raccoon could make her way out. When I returned home, I retrieved the trap and carried it back to our house. In the backyard, I began pulling out the shredded towels that had been woven into the cage wire by a frantic mother raccoon. As I slowly extracted the urine soaked rags, I had a sense of the panic and fear that must have gripped the trapped animal. I could not help feeling some of that panic myself.

I never saw those three sets of eyes peering from the night in our neighborhood again. I felt bad that the young raccoon who thought she had found a safe place to raise her kits had found cause to move her young family elsewhere. I found myself wishing that I could have made up for my actions, even by setting out food and water for the raccoon family, but they had their traveling shoes and were on to that next destination. Maybe they found a safe spot where no suburban do-gooder would lie in wait with a Havahart trap.* 

Eastern Raccoons
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)


*Some will characterize the urban raccoon as a "nuisance animal" that must be gotten rid of, but I am one who loves any kind of encounter with wildlife. For a positive view of raccoons and how they can be your spiritual totem, check out this site: Symbolic Meaning of Raccoon.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...