First of all, I was able to get Little Gray into a carrying case so he could go to the clinic with the rest of the family.
|Sweet Little Gray|
It turned out that without the other cats to hang out with, he suddenly got a lot friendlier and started following me around in the yard. So I spent about an hour outside playing with him and we started to have some pretty amazing breakthroughs.
He started acting like he wanted to snuzzle, but was too scared, so I decided to "pet" him with the stick that we were using as a toy. He arched his little back and started purring and even let me pet him a little bit with my hands. When it was time for me to go inside he sat at the door crying and it was breaking my heart.
Then I got the idea to take a towel that his sister had slept on the night before and put it in a carrying case to see if maybe her scent would make him less afraid.
|Little Gray loves his sister|
I was thinking it would take days or weeks to get him to come up to the carrier after that nasty mishap with the trap, but it only took me about 10 minutes of playing with him to get him to come look in the door, and once he smelled Little Blackie on the towel, he started kneeding it and purring.
From there, all I had to do was get him to follow his little stick toy into the carrying case and voila!
So that's the good news....
The bad news is that my poor sweet Gray Boy tested positive for both FIV and FeLV.
I'm very sad, but also not terribly surprised - I just had a feeling that was how it was gonna go, but I'm super bummed that it wasn't just FIV but FeLV too.
Anyhow, I spent a good deal of yesterday and this morning doing research and talking to various experts, and everything I learned about FeLV was pretty grim. Even most of the "no kill" shelters in town euthanize FeLV positive cats because apparently it's just too contagious and too painful of an end for the cats otherwise.
So, based on all of that, I made the very hard decision to have him put down. It just didn't seem fair to him to set him up for a horrible end - especially knowing that if he did need medical care or euthanasia in the future it would be darned near impossible to trap him again. And it didn't seem fair to put so many other cats at risk - both the other cats in the neighborhood and my indoor kitties, Smoky and Jasper. (I know the chances of them getting infected by him would be minimal, but honestly, I was just starting to feel afraid to even pet them for fear that I might have a bit of virus on me and inadvertently infect them.)
|My Sweet Gray Boy... I wish I could have done more for you|
On the good news front, all of the kittens tested negative. BTW - they were pretty sure that Gray Girl was a litter mate of the other two. AND... get this, she was already in heat! So thank heavens we got to her in time before the situation multiplied any further so to speak!
|Gray Girl getting some kisses|
But that's not the end of the hard decisions (though much easier than the decision about Gray Boy). Because the kittens have all been exposed to FeLV, there is still a chance that they could be incubating the virus. So if I were to try to adopt them, they would need to be kept totally separate from Jasper and Smoky for 60 days, and I would have to treat the situation as if they were infected.
Based on how difficult it was for me (both logistically and emotionally) just having potentially infected cats in the basement for a few days, I honestly just didn't think that I had it in me. Constantly having to worry about changing clothes, washing hands, making sure I wasn't putting Smoky & Jasper at risk, and then finding the time to work with each kitten individually to make sure they got properly socialized... well, it just felt overwhelming.
Plus... working with them for two months, there's no way I wouldn't get completely and totally attached. And then if it ended up that they did indeed have FeLV and had to be put down, I would be utterly heartbroken to a degree that I'm just not sure I'm prepared to deal with.
It's a great program full of volunteers, professional animal behaviorists, even foster families who can give them all the attention that they need and deserve. And they will continue to work with them until they find homes - there's no time limit. The only situations where they euthanize are for health reasons (like if they did end up with FeLV) or if they were to become violent and dangerous to people - and I can't see that happening.
I'm confident that the Gray Girl and Little Blackie will be easy to adopt (assuming the FeLV thing works out OK). And based on how quickly Little Gray started to come around once he was without other cats to rely on, I'm pretty sure he'll tame up quickly too with a little bit of work. And if they simply can't get Little Gray tame enough to adopt as a house cat, they also have a barn cat program where he can go live on an actual farm and be cared for as a "working cat".
Plus... poor little Jasper and Smoky were being totally neglected, and they only just started to get some real full time attention after years of my attention being dominated by caring for Sputty and then Princess.
Sooo... now begins the great clean out - tossing or disinfecting anything that they came into contact with. I already tore down the outdoor shelters because I really don't want any more cats taking up residence there. The ally cat folks said they'd be thrilled to take them - and I think they'll get a bunch of food out of the deal too.
The way the adoption program works, you have to surrender the cats completely, so I'll never know the fates of the three kittens. I can only hope that it all works out well for them. At least I'm confident that they are in good hands and have the best possible chance of getting a good forever home.
OK... I think I'm gonna go have a nice cry now. Sigh.