Category Archives: tnr

An Ode to an Old Tom

I started doing TNR pretty much as soon as I moved to the small fishing village of Simaisa, located 15km north of Doha, in 2016. While I was moving in and throwing trash away in the dumpster located across the small street in front of my compound, a group of hungry, sweet faces appeared at the dumpster and begged for food. I watched them over the next few days and asked some neighbours if anyone was feeding them. When I learned their only sustenance was dumpster scraps and their only water source was hose runoff from the garden next door, I started providing daily food and water. Absolutely no cats were sterilized so I started trapping and neutering as often as I could afford to. These cats were very hungry, and it gets to more than 50 degrees Celsius in the summer, so I did not think it would be wise to let them breed and multiply when they would have to fight so hard to survive. Through TNR, I can keep the population from increasing and therefore having to fight for food and territory.

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Soon, the dumpster cats learned where I lived, and also that there is always food and water in my back garden for my cats who live there, and they started coming to visit. One of these cats was a very big, old, beat-up tom who I started calling Old Man Winter. At first, he would come into the garden and sneak some food, and run away when he saw me. Then he started sitting at the kitchen door, begging for more food. One day I saw him with the other colony cats, waiting for food, and when he tried to eat, I saw he had a lot of saliva and was clearly in pain. I trapped him right then and took him to the clinic. He was successfully neutered and had some bad teeth removed. The doctor said to keep my eye on him, and he was an old boy, and his teeth might go bad again. The doctor also said it was good to neuter him as I was most likely extending his life; now he wouldn’t fight and get deep bites and infections and would roam less, and eat more and gain weight to get stronger.

One thing I did not do for this cat, who I named Istvan or Pisti for short, was test him for FIV. Why? For starters, most groups in the United States, such Alley Cat Allies, do not recommend FIV testing for colony cats. I agree with this for several reasons. First of all, probably most male cats on the streets of Qatar are FIV+. I do not need a test to confirm this. Secondly, there is no treatment I could provide for an FIV+ cat other than what I’m already doing for all my colony cats: neuter, food, water, medical care such as dental and other checkups as needed. Thirdly, FIV is only transmitting through sexual activity and very deep bites; both of these behaviours are prevented by neutering, so simply by neutering Pisti and all the other cats in his colony, I am stopping the FIV virus from spreading. Knowing his status is a possibility, I just need to keep him healthy and take him to the doctor for checkups if he starts to decline.

Luckily, after Pisti’s neuter and dental, he became a very happy cat and started using the doggy door to come in the kitchen in addition to spending time in the garden. A few months later, he decided to move into my house full time and became a sweet and happy member of the family. He got along with all the other cats, played with the kittens, and slept in my bed at night. He decided he prefered being a house cat and never asked to go outside. We had a little scare in 2017 when Pisti stopped eating. We thought it was his teeth, but it turned out he had a blood parasite called haemobartonella, which causes anaemia and anorexia. It is common in immunocompromised street cats, but only transmittable through mosquitos; cats cannot give it to other cats. After a few days of antibiotics, he started eating again, and after a few weeks, he made a full recovery and was back to his normal self.

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In September 2018 Pisti did start declining. He stopped eating again and became lethargic. He went to his favourite doctor who he had been seeing regularly since I trapped him in 2016, and who he had formed a close bond with. Blood tests showed he was anaemic and had an infection. The doctor tried treating him but he wasn’t able to fight and get strong again. After a long night of snuggling and sleeping together, I told Pisti it was OK if he wanted to leave this world and stop suffering. He passed away in his sleep the next night. I was absolutely heartbroken at his loss, but I was comforted by the fact that he had a longer, healthier life with me, and that he had two years of health and happiness as an indoor cat.

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I was also comforted by the lessons I learned from Pisti. He is the perfect example of how TNR works and saves lives. If Pisti had been neutered at a younger age, he may not have contracted FIV, and would have had an even longer and healthier life. If his mother had been spayed and she would have never had kittens, there would be no toms like Pisti running around, fighting over food and territory. Pisti also taught me that even old, beat-up, grumpy-looking toms can benefit from neutering at any age (even though younger is better). He inspires me to continue doing TNR and helping any cats I can.

By Caitlin (a TNRQ volunteer)

For more on FIV testing: https://www.alleycat.org/resources/protocols-testing-feline-immunodeficiency-virus-fiv-and-feline-leukemia-virus-felv/

The Ginger Challenge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is so frustrating when you mess up a trap opportunity the first time around, in this case, I firmly blame my cat Snickers; here she is this time messing up my painting, luckily the tray was empty of paint!

We had recently moved to a compound and a stunning ginger cat had been coming into our garden and spraying the walls to mark his territory, as tom cats are prone to do. I decided it was time to trap him and sort this situation out.

The scene is set, the trap is in place and I am patiently inside watching from the window just above the trap but out of sight. Ginger, enticed by the smell of tuna is edging into the trap and almost on the plate (they step on the plate and it triggers the door to shut), when Snickers unseen by me, comes into the room obviously wonders what I am looking at and tries to launch herself up to the very small window ledge, misses it but manages to bash the window in the process. At which point Ginger startled by the noise, springs backwards out of the trap, hitting it on the way out which makes the door snap shut in his face terrifying the life out him. He then flys at breakneck speed up the nearest tree and is gone.

As experienced trappers know, once such an incident happens a cat can become completely trap shy, getting them near a trap again is very hard. So I went through the process of cable tieing the trapdoor open and feeding Ginger near the trap, aiming to get him used to it. Clever Ginger would eat in front of the trap, beside the trap and behind the trap but he would not put one paw inside that trap, not even for the tastest offerings. This went on for weeks and then one morning he arrived in the garden with a swollen face and completely closed up eye – toms (unneutered males) fight over territory, food and females, Ginger was no different but this time he had come off worse! Now I really needed to somehow catch him.

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As the trap was out of the question, husband and I thought we would net him but Ginger wasn’t having that either. As soon as we tried to go into the garden when he was there, he was gone, we couldn’t get anywhere near him, we needed another plan. In the meantime, I put antibiotics in his food and the swelling went down on his face but still, the eye was closed and weeping.

Desperation was starting to set in when a fellow TNR volunteer mentioned she had a drop trap, I had used these in the Philippines and thought this could be the solution to the problem. So we set it all up and of course Ginger wouldn’t go under it! He sat on the garden table and scorned us whilst we sat holding the end of the string waiting to pull.

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Finally though (after many a boring moment sat holding the string and waiting) he was getting really hungry and was tempted under the trap. This was it, if we messed up now we would never get him! At this point, I gave the string to my husband whose nerves weren’t quite as frayed as mine, a quick tug the trap dropped and we finally had him!

So that is the very long story of the Ginger trapping challenge, though it didn’t quite end there as just to add to the bad timing we were going on holiday the next day, at the visit to the vet we got the diagnosis that part of the actual eye itself was cut, was very painful and needed drops put in it for about 10 days – yes drops in an eye of a cat who just wanted to attack and get free! Well the vet took on the job of doing this (with thick gloves I bet) and we paid for Ginger to board whilst we were on holiday; just don’t ask what the total bill was with all the treatment and boarding, am sure Ginger will show his appreciation one day…

Anyway, it all ended well. His eye is healed, he is neutered so no longer marks the walls, doesn’t go off fighting or searching for girls, actually most of the time he can be found snoozing on the garden chair cushion. I am even allowed in the garden with him, as long as I keep my distance. I think the garden now belongs to Mr Ginger who we now call Teddy, though this is one Teddy bear who definitely does not want a cuddle, we are friends from a distance which is fine by me.

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By Denise Wood (a TNR volunteer)