info about rescuing cats

Dave and I discovered a feral cat colony near our house we decided to trap, neuter, and return all the cats. When we started observing the colony, there were 7 cats (4 adults and 3 kittens). One adult and kitten have vanished (we have seen one of the kittens looking out the window of a nearby house, so hopefully the adult has also found greener pastures. At one point we saw a van with two cat carriers outside, so it’s very possible!).

Dave decided to “experiment” with seeing whether the cats would go into carriers before our appointment with Alley Cat Rescue (a local charity providing ultra-low-cost spay/neuter services, that also lends traps for people like us to use to capture the cats), and ended up bringing home two kittens. I could have stopped David from walking into a nest of kittens with a cat carrier, but I guess a part of me wanted to rescue kittens, too, so when he called me saying, “I have two kittens in the carrier, what do I do?” I told him we could quarantine them in our downstairs bathroom.

It would have been great to know about Alley Cat Rescue BEFORE Dave bought 2 random kittens into our house, since we ended up shelling out close to $300 to get them tested for rabies, leukemia, etc. at our local vet’s office. (These tests would have been included in the spay package with Alley Cat Rescue.) Our vet is a kind person and gave us a small discount, but we could definitely have picked a cheaper hobby.

Alley Cat rescue is a small nonprofit in Bladensburg, Maryland that takes convoys of cats to a low-cost spay/neuter provider. They take a convoy every few weeks and you need to make a reservation for your cat, then trap them the night before (or a few days before, I guess, if you don’t mind having them in a cage for awhile). You can immediately release the male cats, but they advise that you monitor the females in a cage for a day or two afterwards to ensure there are no infections.

I was hoping to piggyback on a local rescue in order to post the kittens on Petfinder. I assumed that these groups knew more than I did about vetting adopters. I suspected, but hadn’t confirmed, that local rescues were pretty much totally booked, and wouldn’t be able to provide foster care for additional cats, but I was surprised to learn that they wouldn’t do courtesy listings on Petfinder for our kittens. I’m looking into Petfinder’s procedures to allow individuals to list – it looks like you may have to register with them as a rescue yourself – for future reference, but I don’t have any information on this to share.

Surprisingly, Alley Cat Rescue suggested that we post the kittens to Craigslist, and gave us some tips about how to do it safely (they gave us their reference check form and we used it to vet folks who responded to our ad). A volunteer with PAW Rescue in Greenbelt saw our ad and reached out with safety concerns about CraigsList, and PAW ultimately would have let us list our kittens with them if we committed to attending adoption fairs throughout the area on Saturdays with the kittens, which we didn’t think was a good option since they were pretty shy when we got them. By the time they were calm enough for a Saturday rescue fair to have been an option, one was spoken for on Craigslist and a friend asked for the second one.

I ended up taking one kitten to the Baltimore Humane Society for their $90 spay/neuter package, because my friend adopting the kitten lived in Baltimore, which was the only area humane society that would do low-cost spay/neuter for people who lived outside of their geographic area. There were only two slots available during the month at Alley Cat Rescue, so we gave priority to the kitten that was being rehomed locally, and to their mother, who we were happily able to trap – poor “Dark Mama,” as we call her, was pregnant AGAIN. This would have been at least her third litter that summer, so we got her fixed immediately.

We were able to gradually trap the rest of the colony in time for their appointments with Alley Cat Rescue. I can see where this can be tricky, if you catch a cat that’s been spayed already, etc instead of the one you are targeting, but we were lucky – the two that had already been fixed steered clear of the traps and we were able to catch “Chinstrap” and “Soulpatch” the night before the next clinic at ACR.

If you are considering bringing a feral cat into your home, I highly recommend identifying local rescue groups first in case you can negotiate a discount on vet services somewhere. It’s important to note that the free clinics will often only happen once a month, and high-volume low-cost spay-neuter clinics will often have wait times of up to 3 weeks. The Baltimore Humane Society was the only same-week option I found for less than $100.

Spay Now in Laurel also does low-cost spay/neuter packages ($40 at last check) but they book out several weeks/months in advance.I believe there are also options in DC proper for residents, but I’m not sure, and I don’t know what is available in northern Virginia.

Hope to come back to this post and add some photos of kittens eventually.

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