Posted on 10/17/2011
By: Deanna Graham
Nine Lives Board Member
It was a warm morning in South San Francisco, and Cookie, a volunteer at The Homeless Cat Network, was directing my daughter Becky and I to the feral colony she helps manage with six other volunteers. Their colony is located in South San Francisco and has 23 feline residents.
When we pulled up and parked on a dirt road, we followed Cookie to the colony. I saw a lot of over-grown grass, weeds, tree's, piles of wood, and several eyes watching us carefully. Cookie called out to the greeter, a handsome white and grey cat named Thurston. Cookie told us Thurston was the colony's alpha male. Recently, another male named Tail showed up and tried to take over the role as alpha. Tail is one of two cats that have not been trapped and neutered yet. Wendy, their super trapper tries each week, but Tail is a very smart cat. She has been trying for months and will continue. The other twenty one cats are spayed/neutered, and live and get along so well in the colony. Cookie told us that Thurston is now back in charge again and has regained the alpha male slot. Tail is still a member too.
There are seven feeders that feed seven days a week. Volunteers know each of the 23 cats and each one has a special name, Bootsie has white paws, Curly has a tail that curls, Buttons is as cute as a button and Tail has a big bushy tail. She also photographs them and knows instantly when a new member joins the colony. When that happens, she and the other six feeders communicate, via email, to discuss the new cat who has joined the colony. Wendy is called to begin the trapping process. I asked Cookie, "How do new cats join the colony?" and she told me, "People dump them, some cats wander by and smell cats and food, while others just happen upon the colony and decide to stay." She told me a calico female came to the colony two weeks ago. She noticed how thin and scared she was. The colony let her eat with them, drink water and rest. She was gone the next day when a volunteer came to feed. I asked if some cats come and are not welcomed by the colony and she said, "Definitely." A few males have shown up and if the colony doesn't want them there they chase them away. That doesn't happen often. It's a very friendly group of felines, but if a stranger comes in and causes trouble, they're gone.
Cookie and Becky start washing out water and food dishes and pick up and straighten bedding. I can see the cats beginning to gather, but a good distance away, waiting patiently for the plates to fill up with food. Thurston and Buttons seem to trust us not to run over and try to pet them, so they stick around watching carefully what Cookie and Becky are doing. Cookie fills up several bowls with dry cat food and tops it off with a can of wet food. Becky fills the water bowls and I can see more and more little faces gathering in the background.
After the food and water bowls are put down and the cats are carefully coming up to eat, I asked Cookie if she can pet any of the cats. Cookie explained that if one of the cats are really friendly and can easily be picked up and cuddled, it becomes too dangerous for them to remain in the colony, they need to be taken from the colony and fostered, if possible. She tells us there are people out there who would do unimaginable things to cats, so their very survival depends on how fast they can run from danger. Sadly, Cookie and Rose, the overseer of the colony, have seen some very sad times when the colony cats have died and they have found them. They always show the cats as much respect when they've passed as they do when they were alive.
The picture of the three kittens in the trap were spay/neutered by Dr. Rudiger and then fostered. Happily, they've all found their forever homes. After three days, mom is returned to the colony.
Thank you, Cookie, for sharing all the hard work you guys do each day.
Cookie is a volunteer with the Homeless Cat Network, and each time a trapped cat or kitten is brought into the Nine Lives Feline Well-Clinic, Homeless Cat Network pays Dr. Monica Rudiger's expenses for spay/neuter, vaccinations and chipping, plus HCN reimburses the feral cat volunteers for dry food. Both Nine Lives Foundation and the Homeless Cat Network depend on donations to allow them to do this life saving work. Please feel free to visit their websites, donations are always appreciated.