We were asked to help with a cat who had had a kitten in the outbuilding of a disused pub in a town about 25 miles from our centre. The cat, although not feral, would not let the people feeding her approach, and so we decided that trapping was the best way forward. Time was of the essence as we were concerned that the kitten would become wild, or may not survive.
So we set off, equipped with two traps, two tins of tuna, two powerful torches and a van full of baskets, towels, gauntlets and various other bits and pieces.
Our first sight of the location was rather daunting, the cat and kitten were enclosed in a pub yard behind a six foot wall, with all the doors and gates boarded up. Fortunately, the lovely ladies working in the shop next door (who had been feeding her and who had alerted us to their plight) lent us a ladder, so we were able to scale the wall with relative ease.
Over the wall we were met with the sight of a rubbish strewn yard, and a little white cat screaming for her supper.
We set the trap and retreated to the shadows, and the little minx went in, ate the bits of tuna at the edge and then came and demanded some more from us. We explained to her that it would be best if she went into the trap, and after a few more attempts we were delighted to hear the "thunk" as the trap snapped shut.
We then took the opportunity to investigate the place where the kitten was living and we were horrified to see a small outbuilding packed with bin bags, boxes and worst of all empty bottles, a large number of which were broken. In the light of our torch we caught sight of the kitten hiding under a pile of bags about half way down the shed. The kitten was bigger than we'd thought. Good news on one part - she would have a better chance of survival if we couldn't catch her; bad news on the other part - she would be harder to catch.
We began to carefully remove the bags, boxes and bottles, piling them to one side of the shed, and we cleared a space in the area where we'd seen her. To our surprise, nestled against a bin bag was a second kitten - completely black. No wonder no one had seen this one!
We tried our hardest to grab the babies, but both were able to flee our hands. We set our second (tiny) trap, next to the trap with mum-cat, but after an hour there was no result and we had to reluctantly conclude that it was unlikely that we'd catch them that night.
So we left the traps set in the shed, covered them with boxes (you can see them in photos under the green boxes) and left plenty of food for the babies. The staff at the next door shop agreed to check the traps the next morning, so off we went with mum-cat in the back of our van, hoping against hope that the kits would be in the traps the next morning.
We decided to go back that evening and if the traps weren't sprung we'd remove them and ask the staff next door to feed the kits to get them into a routine. As they were feral, we assumed that they would not be used to people, so it was important to get them to start trusting.
Meanwhile, mum-cat - now named Miranda - was settling in well, quite friendly but very vocal. She spent most of the day shouting ("Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in-fer-me!").
That evening the traps were still open, the food still inside, and the staff reported that none of the food they'd put down had been eaten. We were pretty confident that the kits couldn't get out of the yard, and so we made up some comfortable boxes in the shed and put a couple of plates of food down.
As we were about to leave we decided to have a last look around the yard, not really expecting to find the kittens, but to see if there were any hidey holes we'd not spotted.
To our volunteer's amazement, she suddenly noticed two little black triangular things sticking up behind a stone against a sheet of wood (look on the photo of the yard where the two pieces of wood make a cross - it was the other side of the piece of wood behind the weeds behind the cross). Wondering what they were, and thinking that they looked like a pair of ears, our volunteer cautiously approached, and to her amazement found that they were a pair of ears!!! Belonging to the little black kitten - who seemed to be very fond of attempting to camouflage himself against black things.
Very quietly and carefully our volunteer was able to scruff the kitten and tell the others that she had a kitten. Once they'd stopped thinking she was joking, a basket was quickly brought, and the little black kit was safely ensconced.
Our efforts to find the second kitten now increased, and at the suggestion of the lady from the shop, our other volunteer found the kitten about a yard from where the first one had been found. Again we were able to scruff her and get her into a basket.
Mission accomplished!! If smiles could have got us home, we would have been over those moors and back at our centre in seconds. Huge thanks must go to the ladies who fed the cats, and who alerted us to their plight. Without their contribution this would have been another family left to fend for itself and to breed unhindered.
Back at our centre, we had a look at the kittens. The white one didn't seem too afraid, so gingerly we picked it up and she (she is a girl) allowed us to handle her. Emboldened by this success we tried to pick the little black one up, and again we succeeded. This one was a boy.
Miranda was over the moon to see her babies again and chirruped at them like a demented budgie. The kittens meanwhile were more interested in chasing a moth which was desperately trying to get into the window of their pen - another indication that these aren't feral cats.
It is rare for kittens to be so friendly if they don't get human handling from an early age, so we guess that the little family must have been dumped there. The ladies feeding them had only been aware of them for about a fortnight, so we think they hadn't been there very long.
Another occasion where if the mother cat had been neutered, the owners wouldn't have been presented with unwanted kittens. At least the future is bright for Miranda, and her kittens, Islay and Johnnie, who will all be neutered before we find them new homes.