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  • Nikki Rockwell

My first TNR:   Me Evolving into My Final Form

By now, it should come as no surprise that I am indeed a crazy animal lady. When it comes to noses that need booping and ears that need scratching, I do not discriminate based on size, species or friendliness. Surprisingly, this approach to critters has kept me mostly unscathed. So when I discovered the South Philly TNR group on Facebook (Trap, Neuter, Release) I just had to join. I figured that I spent a lot of time outside so I could easily keep an eye out for strays or ferals that need to be fixed. (I also walk around with a bag of kitten food in my dog-walking supplies to give to those kitties I find during my travels. Yes, I am like a demented Mary Poppins but I feel no shame in my game!) I would post on the facebook group and the South Philly cat world would assemble like the Avengers, armed with traps, cat food and a way to get them fixed. I just imagine that the admin would shine the Cat Signal in the sky and that would be that. And yes I know that I am mixing up my comic universes.

But up until 5 months ago, I wasn’t able to take in my own TNR because of the fact I did not have a spare room to keep the kitty in. This was much to the delight of my wife who was able to pull out the “no room for strays” card every time I brought up the idea. But since then, we have bought a house and with it, the ability to house more than just my own critter kids. And with this fact, I was able to unabashedly say to my wife: GAME ON!

So it was about a month ago when I saw on the Facebook group that a woman was in desperate need of some kitty experts’ help. One of the cats that she has been feeding was recently attacked by a raccoon and was very badly injured. She was able to take pictures but was not able to get close enough to him to capture him. He was definitely in rough shape. I sleuthed out that the cat hung out in my alley so I offered to keep an eye out for him and to let her know. About 3 days later, I hear a loud MEOW coming from outside my kitchen window. I take a look and there was the handsome cat- beast, Jake. (The cat artist formerly known as Kitty raccoon boo-boo). I immediately called the woman who was feeding him and offered to put a trap in my backyard to capture him.

Within 2 hours, the cat crew in South Philly had been deployed and I had two women in my backyard setting up a trap and showing me how to use it. Within an hour of that, Jakey had been caught (and another innocent bystander that we released) and was on his way to the vet, but not before I was asked to take him in as a foster to allow him time to heal. It was at that point that I heard a choir of angels singing in my head, the church bells down the street were chiming, wind blew through my closed window making my hair flutter in the breeze. “Yes, of course! Yes!” I had reached my final form.

Before I knew it, two other women showed up at my door with a giant crate, a litter box, food and a bag of litter. This was going to be Jakey’s new abode until he was done healing. Because the vet did not know if that raccoon that attacked Jakey was healthy or not, I was told that under no circumstances was I to touch Jakey. I had to wait two weeks to make sure that he was not rabid and if he bit or scratched me during that time, his quarantine would have to be much more serious. This was, by far, the hardest part of his fostering. Carolyn (my wife) laughed with friends while telling this story. She said “I was completely expecting to come home to find Nikki covered head to toe with protective gear, swaddling that new baby” To tell you the truth, she is not completely offbase thinking that, but I definitely did not want to put Jakey’s life in danger by getting in a snuggle or a nose-boop, as tempting as it was.

It is about 2 weeks after Jakey’s quarantine ended. He had his gentleman vegetables (a term coined by my sister) removed and he now has his own room to hang out in. (As soon as I could, I released him from the cage so he would no longer feel like a tiny, kitty prisoner. Of course, when I let him out of the crate, he immediately shoved himself in the closet; a prison of his own making). Jakey is super shy and still pretty nervous being in a house but he is by no means, feral. And I told myself if he doesn’t actively attack me, then I would devote my time to trying to socialize him so he can have an indoor home. So, that is what I am doing. With COVID-19 skulking about our lovely city, this is a great time to devote my extra time and energy to helping another pinky nose, which is especially helpful when I am missing my daily pup loves! So far, I’ve been able to pick him up and give him hugs. He doesn’t love it, but he doesn’t hate it either so basically, we are now BFFS.

Once we find Jakey a furrever home, I will definitely be fostering more TNRs. My fearlessness around animals and my willingness to work with some difficult cases (along with my spare room) makes me a purrfect TNR foster mom. I really, really want to encourage others to try this. You most certainly do not have to rehabilitate a feral kitty, but providing a space for them to heal from their neutering surgeries would go a LONG way to helping the entire cat population. A cat can get pregnant 3 weeks after they have given birth. That is A LOT of possible homeless and hungry cats out there! And with the help of the cat avengers of the city, the fostering process has been pretty painless (except the waiting two weeks for snuggles. I mean, do they even KNOW me?!) I am fostering through Catadelphia but there are tons of other agencies out there that need people with space and a heart. :)

With Carolyn working from home now, she often gets our critter kids making cameos in her internet meetings and that always prompts the “How many pets do you have?” question. Carolyn always answers “We have one dog, and 4 cats plus one!” Inevitably, someone says “That’s five cats, Carolyn” which is mathematically true. But I think saying this makes Carolyn feel a little less like she married a crazy animal lady. But hey, these are the ABCs of me!


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