Meet my feline family: Azrael, part 2
Azrael had two litters of kittens before I had at least enough sense to realize that I should get her spayed, because no one else was going to do it. Both were litters of three kittens. One of these litters was very lucky; my neighbour on the first floor adopted all three of them. She named them Alfie, Pogo, and Katya, the black, grey, and tabby ones respectively in the first two photos.
The other litter was not so lucky. Two of them, who I had named Tycho and Tibs (short for Ti-Boutte which roughly translates to Lil' Tip, because the very tip of his tail was white), were quite friendly and would come upstairs for food, and even come into the apartment. Their faces will always haunt me. Tycho was a beautiful light grey short-haired tabby, too curious for his own good, while Ti-Boutte and Traynor, the third brother, were adorable kitten-sized balls of long-haired brown tabby fluff, as playful as their brother if not as bold. Tycho and Tibs were both killed by cars while they were kittens. In both cases I heard the terrible news secondhand from neighbours.
Traynor, the most wary of the trio, never became comfortable enough to venture into the apartment like his brothers did. If he had, I would have kept them all inside and adopted them, but, misguidedly in retrospect, I didn't want to leave him outside "alone" without his brothers so I didn't keep the other two inside. What I should have done was actively catch him using a trap, while he was still a kitten. He stopped hanging around as much as he got older and his brothers were gone, and stopped using the insulated shelter box I had made for Azrael and her kittens during the winter. I don't think I saw him again for about a year, until unspayed Possum (whose story will be the third in the series) showed up on the block.
Traynor, nearly two years old, then reappeared, and got back into the habit of eating at my and my downstairs neighbour's windows. By this point, I had smartened up and Azrael was an indoor-only cat. When I saw Traynor back in the neighbourhood, I decided to catch him and give him a home and medical care, like I should have done the year before. The transition would certainly be difficult for him as an older feral cat, but with other cats to interact with and human caregivers prepared to give him as much time and space as he needed, it would be infinitely better than following the path of his brothers, older relatives, and so many others. I borrowed a trap from a friend who did TNR, asked the downstairs neighbour not to feed him as much so that he would be hungry enough to go into the trap, and spent the last month I was living in Montreal going out at strange hours of the night and morning, setting the trap and trying to catch him. It was a difficult, sleep-deprived and busy time as I tried to both finish my Master's thesis and catch Traynor before I was to move back to Ottawa.
It didn't work. He entered the trap one night, ate the food, and the trap did not go off. I hadn't placed the food dish far back enough, and he was able to eat from it without stepping on the metal plate that activated the trap. As I watched silently from a distance, heart pounding, I hoped I would be able to just try again, and that having gotten food from the trap once, he would be more likely to go in next time. But when he turned around to exit the trap after eating, he must have stepped on the plate because at that moment the trap went off. Facing the exit and already on his way out, he was able to escape before the trap closed, and after that traumatic experience he would not go into the trap again. This is where a drop trap might have helped, had I known about such things at the time. With Possum off the street and spayed, he had already been coming around less, and the continued presence of the trap and myself didn't help that. By the time I was to move back to Ottawa a couple of weeks later I had only caught an unfortunate raccoon one night (whom I promptly released of course; set traps should not be left unattended for more than 10 -15 minutes or so at a time). I left with a heavy heart knowing that as a Montreal feral his life was likely to be very short and very difficult. I hadn't succeeded in helping him any more than I did his brothers the year before when I was much more ignorant of what I ought to do...