It was summer and we were called to a housing estate in West London where a feral cat was hiding her four kittens underneath a building. Trapping them took several hours of patience, since the mother cat had no intention to oblige and call her kittens to our baited manual trap. During the wait, we noticed there were several feral cats and, it being June, they most probably all had kittens in neighbouring gardens.
As we left the estate at dusk with the first cat family and turned the corner, a white cat shot out from the bushes and across the road, only just missing the front wheels of the car which was fortunately driving dead slowly. The cat wore a collar; we very nearly killed the only cat around here, which was lucky enough to be owned. The very next day we should discover that this was far from the truth.
When we systematically searched all the gardens backing onto the estate we met our white cat again, in the first garden where she had disappeared the night before. Unsure of us, she hovered around the back fence, darting off several times only to reappear immediately. Her eyes were both sad and frightened, and in the bright sunlight she looked grubby, like a stray, which sleeps rough and crouches under cars. Her ears were black, both inside and out. Her originally red collar was hanging down in dirty shreds. We were told that she had appeared about eight months ago and never left this garden for long. She received one meal of dried food every day from her benefactors to keep her going, but no more since they did not want her to become dependent and think she belonged here. She was not allowed indoors, although the resident pet cat tolerated her. Tabby was a beautifully groomed pet. Her sister had died and the family were thinking of replacing her with a new kitten. I pleaded with them to adopt the stray, since there did not seem to be any hostility between the two cats. This idea was rejected, because Tabby did not really like the newcomer and they never did anything together. Even my last resort argument, that middle-aged female cats often did not like young kittens and their boisterous and disrespectful ways, fell on deaf ears. It was obvious that the family had set their hearts on a young kitten.
The fate of the stray was now in our hands. We trapped her two days later and took her to the Vet to be cleaned up and checked over… and the rest is history. She had a micro-chip and her name was Angel. After being missing for a little over a year, her owners, who lived several miles away, were overjoyed to have her back.
I thought that Angel’s feeders would be delighted to hear the good news and suggested they had their cat micro-chipped as well, only to be told, they always did that anyway. I was lost for words.
If a cat appears in the garden, which is new to the area, it is best to ask around to see if it has an owner. Otherwise, it should be checked for a micro-chip, which is easily performed by a Vet’s nurse free of charge.
- Angel restored to her former beauty…
© Elke de Vries – CAT 77 Fieldwork Advisor