There were about a dozen people there... all women except for the two guys who had clearly been dragged along by their respective women.
We got lots of information about TNR (trap neuter & return), a pile of statistics on feral cats, demonstrations on how to use traps, info on best practices for maintaining a colony, and a bunch of moral support from other cat ladies.
The program is run by a local non-profit that runs a low cost spay & neuter clinic. Seriously, it's only $10 per cat to fix them, get them vaccinated and have a medical exam. To date they have fixed over 35,000 cats - which sounds like a lot, but when you consider there are an estimated 100,000 feral cats in Denver... well... there's obviously a LOOOONG way to go.
But these folks are doing so much good work in the community. There were more people than usual at today's workshop because they are busy training volunteers to actually go out into the community to TNR vast numbers of cats - up until now, they have only provided traps and support for people who were willing to do the trapping themselves.
The most encouraging thing I learned was that the combined FIV/FeLV infection rate among feral cats in Denver is less than 2%. I had previously been told that it was as high as 50% - hence my great trepidation about the possibility of ever being able to bring any of "the Grays" indoors.
They also said that if a cat is FIV positive and not symptomatic, it's generally considered OK to return them to their colony as long as they are fixed. FIV only spreads through biting and mating, so once they are fixed, those two behaviors pretty much go away. FeLV is a different story since it's spread through more casual contact and generally has much poorer outcomes for the cats. But all of that made me feel much more hopeful about their futures.
They even had a cat who had been trapped and found to be fairly tame. He's nearly 10 years old, FIV positive, with fairly substantial kidney disease, and needs a child-free "only pet" household. But they weren't giving up on him, they were actively trying to find someone to adopt him. That made me feel very good about the organization in general.
I also spoke with several people who had succeeded in socializing feral kittens that were as old or older than Little Blackie and her sibling(s)...
Sooo... bolstered by all of this hopeful information, and by the fact that Blackie was literally climbing the screen door trying to figure out a way inside when I got home, I got a bit bolder with her. When she came running up to me, I put out a hand and was able to pet her tail and even stroke her back a few times! And she didn't freak out!
I might have been able to pet her more, but as soon as Little Gray saw this, she (yes, she) came running over to get in on the action. And she just let me pet and snuzzle her a whole bunch!
So now I am totally confused. The Little Gray that I was petting today was clearly a female, and also clearly still a kitten (she's a bit smaller than Blackie.) But I KNOW for sure that there is also a "Little Gray" who is a male, because I've seen him with his tail up and there were furry little balls under there!
But I was pretty sure there was a Gray Mama too... so maybe there are actually three gray tabbies?!? I've never seen more than two tabbies, or a total of 4 cats at once... Maybe it's just Gray Boy and three kittens? Or maybe there is a Mama cat, but she only comes by on occasion?
This is the only photo I've managed to get of all four - look how sweet Gray Boy lets them all eat while he sits by and watches over them...
Well the other part of this puzzle is that they said it's probably best to wait until after the holidays to try to trap them. Because of holiday closures and fundraisers, they have very limited clinic days from now until the end of the year, and we seem to be in a weather pattern of one storm right after another. And the cats won't be breeding at this time of year anyhow.
So that gives me a bit of breathing room to figure some things out. Little Blackie and Little Gray are very bonded, and I wouldn't want to separate them if at all possible.
|Terrible photo taken through the screen door, but you get the idea|
And as for Gray Boy himself... Well, he has been rubbing his tail against my leg lately, but he still freaks if I attempt to touch him at all... so I guess we'll just have to cross that bridge when we get to it.
He's looking nice and healthy these days though.
Anyhow... that's the news from the crazy cat lady!