The Shooters Hill Six

Very cold volunteers on the 'stakeout'

Very cold volunteers on the 'stakeout'

A difficult, five day rescue operation which saw volunteers staked out in freezing temperatures came to a successful end yesterday, with a family of six cats - a mother and five kittens - being brought safely into the care of the charity.

Their story begins late last year, when a Shooters Hill resident noticed a very visibly pregnant stray cat had begun frequenting her garden. Concerned, she befriended the young cat - naming her Mimi - and set about getting help for her from a charity, but none of the organisations that she contacted were willing to get involved. To her alarm Mimi then vanished for several days, before returning minus her bulging stomach but with five small kittens in tow. Luckily for this tiny family, the next charity to be contacted was CatCuddles, and though we suspected that rescuing all six cats could potentially be very tricky, we decided to do our utmost to help.

The first challenge that arose is one that we often face when rescuing kittens; if the kittens are captured first, then the mother cat may potentially move on, quickly becoming pregnant again. Conversely, if the mother cat is caught before all of the kittens, this could leave them completely unprotected. It is a catch-22 situation which is compounded by the knowledge that the mother cat may become pregnant again at any time.

Where the cat family were living - click  here  for video

Where the cat family were living - click here for video

Adding to our difficulty was the location; though the friendly mother cat regularly visited the garden and her kittens darted in and out of it, the family seemed to be living in a small wooded area that backed onto the garden. This area was thick with untamed, wild foliage, and was accessible only by climbing over a fence. In addition, it was quickly realised that the kittens were exhibiting feral behaviour, having had little contact with humans throughout their short lives. Though the first two kittens were captured by hand, those remaining were too terrified to come near people, and would have to be caught in traps.

And so five days of trapping ensued. Because the traps cannot be left unattended for long - for fear of theft, or the cats being stuck in them for long periods - our volunteers had to 'stake out' with them in the adjoining garden. The home owner who sought help for the family was very cooperative and provided use of her toilet and many cups of tea, but the work was gruelling and freezing cold. Nevertheless, the long hours and hard work paid off, and one by one the family were caught, though it took three days to capture the final pair after they performed a brief vanishing act.

Shockingly, the kittens' small bodies were riddled with ticks, with around 30 - more than we'd ever seen - needing to be removed by hand. And though there is adoption interest in friendly Mimi already, her kittens have a long road ahead learning to trust and be comfortable around humans. For their feral behaviour to be shed, our volunteers must work with them on a daily basis, and understanding and patient loving homes will be needed for them in future.

Cat RescuesMiko Coffey