History of Fort Hill, Part 2 (2008). Mural by: Loray McDuffie, Taylor Saintable, Edwin Perez-Clancy, Christine O'Connell, Julia Andreasson, Jorge Benitez, Divah Payne, Lucy Saintcyr, Laua Dedonato, Gregg Bernstein.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Charles River Alley Cats save the day

Three rescued kittens
Working with a clueless, but willing, helper, Charles River Alley Cats have saved four strays from a harsh winter.  (Skip to the bottom of this post to see how you can help save the day for other Fort Hill strays.)

To make explicit what was hinted at in previous posts, in early October, using tuna fish, we successfully enticed three kittens into the house and closed the door behind them.  Then using the kittens themselves as bait, augmented by more tuna, we were able to lure the Mother Cat into the house and close the door.

We had never really experienced the expression Climbing the walls until we saw Mother Cat levitate from floor to ceiling, seemingly counter to the laws of physics, in a wild attempt to escape.  The raw animal power was humbling to witness.

Mother Cat is a Classic Hallowe'en Cat.  What's not to love?

The trapping of these four mammals was assisted by much telephone counseling from a friend in Dorchester who manages a small feral colony and has many years experience.  We are mostly dog people, so dealing with cats for us is like negotiating with extra-terrestrials.

Enter Charles River Alley Cats.

The day after we trapping Mom and kids, we approached them at an adoption event at the Petco in Brighton, desperate for advice, and it was all business.

Friendly and empathetic, but all business:  How many cats, what was their health, what was their behavior, were there other ferals still outside, what was I feeding them?  Do they have fleas, have they been wormed?  Then it was onto How big are the kittens, they should be spayed or neutered at two pounds, are you up for trying to trap the fathers?  Are you going to adopt them, do you need help finding homes?

To cut a long story short we were able to trap and return two more strays, one who was obviously one of the fathers and a female.  We say "one of the fathers," for we, ignorant as we were, learned that the kittens in a litter may not have the same father.  Promiscuous mating can do that.

A Charles River Alley Cat trap with a post-operative Father Cat lurking in back.

We learned how to manage the feeding and the cleaning of the cage of a trapped cat with judicious use of a sheet and a cage fork.

Post-operative feral female posing with a cage fork.

We witnessed the inside loading dock of the Animal Rescue League, stuffed to the walls with about one hundred (we counted) cages of recently spayed and neutered animals.  The TNR movement has adopted a clipped ear as the signal to others that a stray has already been TNRed.

We learned that all-black cats—the classic Hallowe'en cat—are very hard to place in "forever homes."

We learned that we were totally unprepared to understand kitten- and mother cat–psychology.  Mother Cat kept horning in on our attempts to socialize the kittens.  And, the most social kitten in a litter adopts the same behavior as the least social one.  It pays to segregate the cats and socialize them individually, but let them play together.

We also learned that being entertained by a three-ring Kitten Circus in the kitchen with playtoys and ping pong balls and empty cardboard boxes was better than watching TV.

As far as input and output, it is amazing how much food moves through a nursing cat and her litter.  We have scooped more clumping litter than we ever though possible.  (What is the environmentally best way way to deal with this waste?)

We were definitely emotionally unprepared for how hard we were affected by giving up Mother Cat for adoption.  And, by how much we missed the two kitten who were passed over into the hands of more capable foster homes.

So, here's the pitch—

Charles River Alley Cats does everything they do on a shoe-string.

They charge a modest fee when you adopt through them.  But, they still need your assistance.  They need you to give them cash.  They need you to give them cat food, kitty food, cat carriers, feeding dishes, cat litter.  If you can name it, and if has to do with a cat, they can use more of it .  Check out the donation page on their web site.

Charles River Alley Cats needs you to volunteer for them.  Whether you have only thirty minutes a day to give, or carpentry skills, or just a little spare space in your garage or basement, you can help  Here is the volunteer page.

But, most of all they—and all of us—need for folk to have a care for the local cats.

  • If you have a cat, get it spayed or neutered.  If you want to experience the lunacy of a three-ring Kitten Circus in your kitchen, you can adopt some already-born kittens without breeding new ones.  Or, you can temporarily foster some kittens.
  • If you have a cat you can no long care for, surrender it to an organization that can; don't just dump it outside to fend for itself.  That's just not fair.
  • If you have strays living in your corner of Fort Hill (and, you almost surely do), think hard whether you are able to trap-neuter-return (TNR) some or all of these co-residents.
Whether you think cats are weird and inscrutable, extra-terrestrial creatures or whether you dote on cats, there is something you can do to make life easier for these deserving, neighborhood animals.

We'll tidy up some details in a later post.


  1. Found your post through Universal Hub - you are amazing and did a great thing! My first cat growing up was a classic Halloween cat so I have a soft spot for them. I am at my max cat capacity at the moment, but I will make a donation to CRAC. Thanks for the post!

  2. What a wonderful account of urban TNR! As a professional fundraiser, I find your post more compelling than the many appeal letters I have struggled to write over the years. CRAC, here comes my donation! And thank you to all involved.

  3. Great post - thanks! I also found you through Universal Hub. All three of our cats were ferals trapped as large-ish kittens, and due to socialization at their foster homes they are the sweetest cats now.

  4. Also here via UH.

    I'm a newish fosterer for CRAC, but have many years of animal sanctuary experience. CRAC is a top notch organization in my view. I'm glad to read of others deciding to lend support to them.

    Your own account of the perils, foibles and delights of rescuing, treating and caring for a feline family is terrific. Have you recovered from the circus yet? (grin) How are your dogs adjusting to the newcomers?

    Hope you'll post updates....

  5. Hello Jonas,
    How have you and I not met? I volunteer for Charles River Alley Cats and I work at the Dudley Branch Library. I have taken many cats off the streets around Dudley to get adopted. All were friendly. I have made notes of colonies nearby that are not managed by anyone. I am so happy to see your blog.

  6. Loved this story! Enjoy the kitten entertainment! I have two cats (brother/sister) that were feral cats rescued by Charles River Alleycats. I adore them. Can't imagine life without them.

  7. CRAC was the only ones willing to take that extra step to help. I over heard someone saying that they have been seeing feral and stray cats in Brighton around a certain area. I just couldn't let this drop. I felt overwhelmed as I already had a colony I have been feeding and maintaining for years. After calling and emailing numerous places for assistance, they were one of the only ones who were willing to work with me and meet with me in that area to assess the situation. Needless to say, these innocent cats will now have a shelter, someone feeding them permanently and will be TNR'd. Thank you especially to Kit Lilly and Lauren Kreisberg and Cindy Dever for assisting with this.

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