The winning recipe was:
· 'dreamies' (in Spain they're called Catisfactions) crushed with sardines in olive oil and a hint of Gourmet Gold cat food
Foods that did not work at all were:
· chicken nuggets (cooked from frozen)
· processed duck breast
· tuna pate
There was much trial and error concerning traps and recipes alike; and we were successful in neutering three cats in two days which is not bad going. This included two sweet 6 month old females who are black and white and were quiet and no trouble at all during their two nights incarcerated. We put them together in one cage last night and they snuggled up to sleep, and then went back to their siblings and mother this morning after their big adventure in a human house, a car, and a vet surgery.
And, yes, after months of trying to trap him, we caught Nigel and he was neutered today. He has been somewhat of a bully in the pueblo. Josefa says he's 'malísimo' (very bad indeed) because he terrorises the other cats. He is alpha male and that is his job I guess, but Ron and Homer quake in their boots and Ron has had a nasty teeth-of-Nigel-shaped bite mark on his neck. He was probably lucky to get away from that skirmish! He is half the size of Nigel who weighed in at the clinic today at 5 kilos (very large for a feral cat).
Javier the vet says that 'things will change' in the dynamic in the colony and I hope we see Nigel becoming a bit more relaxed; and fundamentally that there are fewer fights and fewer opportunities for viruses to transmit.
Lisa, my wonderful helper on this trip, is posing below with the traps and crush boxes we use. She is a professional pet sitter and dog walker and knows cats really well. It was her second visit, and having someone with her knowledge and patience makes this work so much easier.
We thought you might like to see the paraphernalia that goes with Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). The white cages are crushboxes and the metal coloured and green ones the traps themselves. What's that she's holding? Yes it's a large fork. This is for corralling the cat in one end of the cage while you line up and secure the trap and crushbox openings before transferring the cat. I know it all sounds rather medieval, but I assure you, we are very gentle with the cats. Someone should invent a better system however, so all the decanting from one receptacle to another is not needed!
And I know you are afraid to ask what a crushbox is. Well do not fear! It is a cage that allows the vet to restrict the animal between two surfaces so that they can inject the anaesthetic into a haunch through the wire. There is really no other way to anaesthetise a feral cat safely (for all parties!). Again, it does not damage the cat at all. For more info on the process see here.
Finally, here is Nigel, looking a bit reproachful but enjoying being next to the radiator. He's in a crushbox in this photo but is now in a more comfortable cage for the evening.
I shall give him some catisfactions and sardines for breakfast as I send him back into the world. That's the best part of TNR!
By the way, mature males bring their own particular challenges in TNR (in contrast to young females). You know that lovely cat-spray smell? Well, right now Nigel is demonstrating his indignation with a great display for my olfactory enjoyment. Thanks Nigel, but fair enough I suppose!