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Feral Kitty Nation Under New Management

A box to donate cat food for the feral project's spayed and neutered feral cats has been placed at Town Hall. The population of feral cats that live near the Swampscott Train Station was climbing and threatening to climb even higher before volunte

 

Their numbers have been tamed but not their natures though these feral cats will not bite the hand that feeds them.

Each night they emerge in groups of two or three, sometimes a skunk or possum among them. A few of the cats have paired with wild animals for companionship in their neighborhood near the Swampscott Train Station. 

The hand that feeds the colony and their friends belongs to Kai Breen of Swampscott.

She arrives late at night, every night, with $7 to $10 worth of wet and dry cat food.

Out of the darkness come the adult cats, like children to an ice cream truck, she says.  Some of the cats get so excited they roll around and rub against each other.

Most of the 21 adult cats share a family resemblance, as do their offspring, black splotches on white.

This year's kittens have been captured.

That's where this story starts.

It starts with a reproducing colony of cats that first came to the attention of Swampscott Animal Control officer Diane Treadwell about three years ago.

The cats were loud. Screaming in the night as they fought.

An elderly lady, who has since passed away, fed the cats. Neighbors complained about the noise and worried about the cats clawing children.

Local officials worried about the feral colony population exploding into a public health problem.

This past spring the animal control officer came up with a plan.

She volunteered her time, as did other volunteers, Marblehead Animal Control Officer Betsy Cruger and Kai Breen.

The Swampscott Board of Health agreed to pay for the spaying and neutering of the animals.

Atlantic Veterinary Hospital did the spaying and neutering and volunteered services including housing the animals and caring for them.

Meanwhile, the four volunteers were on the train station scene nightly over the spring and summer, counting and trapping and returning and feeding the animals.

They got permission from neighbors to locate homemade feral cat houses and feeding stations on their properties.

The cat houses are plastic tubs with holes cut in them, the lids and insides lined with insulation and carpet remnants.

The goal is to let the animals live their short lives and not reproduce.

First, in April, the four women did a head count. They lured the cats into an alley with food and took their pictures.

The volunteers named the 21 adult cats.

There is Pepe, and the professor — who hangs out with the possum. There is carjacker, who runs low to the ground.

There are Big Benjamin, Lil' Benjamin and Willow and Mickey and Rosie
and Phantom and Pretty Pretty Prince and Pretty Pretty Princess II.

There are others, too.

And the kittens. There are 14 or so. All have been trapped and most of have been adopted.

Feral kittens will take to humans, and give and receive affection. Adult ferals will keep their distance from humans, though a few have ventured close to Kai.

Diane Treadwell said it took some creativity to trap the adults — in one instance attaching a trap to a kittie carrier, with kittens inside.

The volunteers brought the adult cats to temporary adoption houses and then the vets to get them spayed and neutered and checked out.

The kittens went to the Marblehead Animal Shelter.

Two of the remaining handfull of kittens were adopted on Saturday. Tidbit and Lil'Bit. Lil'Bit was originally found under a Dunkin' Donuts bag. Hungry and dehydrated.

The feral project took time and energy.

"It's not an easy fix, it's a commitment," said the Swampscott animal control officer.

Volunteer Kai Breen continues to work nightly in the last stage of the project. Making sure the animals are fed and have water.

It is a financial hardship — she maxes out her credit card buying cat food each month —  but she has made a commitment and can't help but follow through with it.

"I hate seeing them when they are cold and scared," she said.

She also worries about the animals.

Here is a snippet from a recent email from Kai: "Well, Pretty Pretty Prince, the happy cat who ALWAYS greets my arrival with joy has been missing since the night before the new neighbor moved in."  

To help defray the cost of feeding the feral cats, the group of volunteers have placed a feral cat food donation box at Swampscott Town Hall.

It is against the wall, straight ahead, as you walk toward the Town Clerk's Office.

Food has ben a key to the project.

Sometimes, the skunks come over and eat the food, too.

The skunks do not spray the feral cats and they do not spray Kai.

The wild animals and ferals apparently appreciate the hand that feeds them. And maybe the mind that named them.

 

Here is a comprehensive list of the cat's names: 
Penelope
Professor
Smudge
Carly
Mia
Mimi
Big Benjamin
Lil' Benjamin
Willow
Mickey
Rosie
Phantom
Pretty Pretty Prince
Pretty Pretty Princess II
Kahuna (neighbor's cat, eats the feral's food but not feral)real name is Sammy.

Kittens: (*=adopted)
Rocco*
Rosa*

Speedy*
Isabella
Franco
Lombardo
Tidbit*
Lil'Bit*

5 unnamed skunks 
1 possum

DoItRight December 19, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Unless a cat has been quarantined for 6 months (or more) to make sure it isn't already infected with rabies (and even that is a short time period, but one agreed-upon by most lawmakers, as rabies can have a gestation period of up to 6 years in some rare cases), then a rabies shot is no guarantee that that cat can't transmit rabies later. It is already too late for a standard-issue rabies vaccine shot if they already have rabies. And the only way to test a cat for rabies is to destroy it in the process. Why are you feeding these lines of BULL to everyone (and yourself)? Are they perhaps the same lines of bull that fellow cat-lickers fed to you and you so happily swallowed?
DoItRight December 19, 2012 at 06:52 PM
You have completely missed THE WHOLE POINT of TNR. They aren't supposed to be healthy and happy. They are supposed to die of "attrition" AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. The very reason that you are sterilizing them is so that they CEASE TO EXIST in a habitat WHERE THEY DO NOT BELONG. Your hypocrisy and ignorance can be summed-up in just one simple question: If you feel that these man-made invasive species cats are supposed to be out in nature, then why are you even bothering to sterilize them? Sorry, but your blatant hypocrisy, foolishness, and outright deceptions are so easy to reveal to everyone (as are they all from every last TNR advocate). Now if only you could see yourselves for what you really look like to everyone else.
G Vixay December 19, 2012 at 08:50 PM
DO IT RIGHT: You have way too much time on your hands. I appreciate the education. I have one suggestion for you: anger management.
Mo Tilly December 20, 2012 at 01:48 AM
I had no idea about the ferals at the train station until I read the article. The volunteers and Atlantic Vet are true angels for taking care them. You're right. This problem falls back to the owners. If they had a heart they would have found a home for them instead of abandoning them. I've already taken 4 in myself-3 abandoned and 1 feral. I'll be leaving some food for you in the next few days. Don't let the negative comments get to you. Hate and anger on that level is an obvious sign of some deeper serious issues. As they say on message boards, ignore the troll.
Terry Date December 21, 2012 at 03:03 AM
DoItRight was suspended for violating the Patch terms of service.

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