In February, on another assignment, Jason was in the neighborhood of the marina—where two years ago we had photographed a colony of cats. He decided to stop by and see if any cats were hanging around. It was very cold and there was still snow on the ground from a recent storm. Many of the cats were visible—including a black and white male, who was looking a little scruffy.
True feral cats thrive outdoors. They are well groomed and are very apt at living outside year round. There are occasions when community cats fall ill, as is true of any animal, and on this shoot Jason took a photo of Hoppy to take a closer look once at home.
It was clear Hoppy was not doing well. I was fairly convinced he would need to have his eye removed. We made a plan to trap him. First by tracking down his caregivers again, checking in if they were aware of Hoppy’s condition, and coordinating a day when they would not feed the colony—so we had the best odds trying to trap Hoppy.
I enlisted my friend Amanda to help us. This was the perfect opportunity to use a drop trap (helpful when targeting one specific cat), but I had never used one and wanted someone experienced there for my first foray.
As it turned out we didn’t need a drop trap for Hops. He walked right into the trap—just happy to be eating.
We did notice that another one of the cats had an upper respiratory infection (URI), as did Hoppy. So we trapped “Big Guy” and got some use out of the drop trap after all.
I had prearranged a veterinary appointment for Hops at Spay Now, assuming he would need his eye removed. I quickly added “Big Guy” to my vet appointment when I got home. We trapped the cats on a Saturday afternoon for a Monday appointment. Not ideal to hold a cat in a trap more than one night, but a snow storm was coming—and I didn’t want to lose my chance to catch Hoppy.
I’ve heard it can be very difficult to find veterinarians who will treat feral cats. Most (if not all) high-volume spay/neuter clinics accept feral cats, but they don’t typically do ‘Wellness Checks’ for other issues. We’re lucky to have at least two such clinics in the area that will do exams on ferals—but luck was not on my side for Monday’s appointments. The snow storm came and businesses closed, including Spay Now. Feeling the need to have the URIs addressed and get a more definitive answer on Hoppy’s eye situation, Jason and I braved the snow and ice and went to our local emergency vet: Pet ER.
I mentioned before that I’ve heard it can be difficult to get veterinarians to treat feral cats only because I personally have never had a problem. My usual strategy is make an unassuming appointment and show up with a feral cat in a trap. I haven’t been turned away yet. This is perhaps one of those “better to ask for forgiveness” scenarios. Vets inexperienced with feral cats typically know less about trends in community cat care, but as long as you make it clear that “putting the cat down” simply because he lives outside is not an option, I have found that all are willing to work with me, and even give me breaks on cost.
The staff at Pet ER were no exception.
Elizabeth Putsché is the executive director of Photographers for Animals.
Recognizing the impact and influence imagery can have on an audience to
take action, she founded Photographers for Animals to promote animal
issues and to help organizations utilize opportunities for photography and film.