Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Cats of Rockhouse Mountain Farm

This is a story I wrote about the spay neuter clinic I help with PR. It ran in the local paper. There are lots of photos which follow. These are the folks who do the difficult work of helping lower the number of homeless animals and seeing they get medical care. These barn cats will live out their lives at their farm in peace. They are fed and sheltered. I didn't post the photo of the vet because I wasn't sure if he would want me to. But he is a wonderful guy who loves cats. He has three but would like six (his wife says three is the limit). We talked about how these wild cats are every bit as deserving of care and respect as our spoiled pets. And we agreed that every single one is an individual.
Here's the story. Lots of photos below.

Once there was a farm. It was a large farm, with fields and woods, a bed and breakfast and a barn. In the barn were cows. And cats.

Twice a day the farmer milked the cows and the cats gathered around the pans of milk. The cats lived a wild, free and dangerous life. They caught the mice eating the farmer's grain. They slept in the hay. They roamed the woods. Every spring there were kittens.

People came to stay at the farm in the summer time. They tamed the kittens and took them home, to live safe lives as family pets. And so the number of cats in the barn stayed about the same.

Then the bed and breakfast closed. The cows were sold. There were kittens born with no one to tame and adopt them. Suddenly there were more cats, the cats were growing feral, and some of them were pregnant.

"I've got a gang for you," John Edge said to Roz Manwaring at the Eaton Village Store while they discussed the Rozzie May Animal Alliance and the low cost spay/neuter services it was offering to the community.There were over twenty cats in the barn at Rockhjouse Mountain Farm. By the time the next breeding season came around there would be more kittens. Edge was getting concerned about the expanding population and wanted to do something about it. He trapped eight male cats and brought them to the Rozzie May Animal Alliance clinic for Tom Cat Day in April. But the travel and strange environment of the clinic was very stressful for these wild and semi wild felines, who would hurt themselves frantically trying to get out of their carriers. Edge brought three more to another clinic. But there were still more in the barn.

The RMAA came up with a plan to help the cats and the farm. If it was difficult to bring the cats to the clinic, the RMAA would bring the clinic to the cats. With Edge's willingness to sponsor the clinic and trap the cats, a clinic was planned for on location at the farm.

First, Roz and John met at the farm and looked over spaces where a clinic could be held. They chose the basement of the Inn. Next, Roz had to find a doctor willing to do this kind of clinic. Dr. Steve Caffrey of Fryeburg Veterinary Hospital said he would love to help and December 10th was on the calendar. Then Roz decided on the RMAA team for the clinic. Head RMAA Tech Stephanie Macomber, and experienced vet techs Kim Zulker and Kristy McNulty were available. It was especially important to have a knowledgeable team running this clinic as these were not going to be easy cats to handle, ranging from almost tame, curious kittens, to the queen of the barn, known as the Tasmanian Devil.

Two days before the clinic,(because of approaching bad weather) Roz and Stephanie delivered the RMAA surgical equipment to Rock House Mountain Farm. The next day Roz delivered 11 cat carriers to the barn.

On the day of the clinic the team arrived in the early morning and set up a day surgery. John Edge started even earlier, offering canned food to entice the cats into crates and carriers. After four hours of surgery altering six females and seven males, with all felines safely on the way to recovery, the team packed up and carried everything back out to the van. Roz and Stephanie returned the equipment back to Albany Town Hall, the RMAA's winter "home."

The next day Roz returned to collect the cat carriers from the barn. The surgical laundry had been washed, dried, fluffed and folded by Edge.

A clinic like this could not happen without the veterinarians and others who offer their skills. Dr. Steve Caffrey, Dr. Scott Johnson and Dr. Kate Battenfelder from Fryeburg Vet Hospital, Dr. Julie Dolan of the Sandwich Vet Hospital, Dr. Kjersten Morrison and Dr, Monique Kramer, from Maine, are on board for future planned clinics.

Also crucial was the support from John Edge, who cared about his barn cats at the farm, was instrumental in supporting the clinic, and who spent hours trapping the cats and assisting the vet techs handling them.

And the RMAA team who volunteered their skills and time for no other reason than to help lower the numbers of homeless cats arriving in shelters.

Why it is necessary to spay and neuter cats? Because cats have an incredible capacity for reproduction. A female kitten will be ready to breed sometime between four and nine months of age. The gestation period is around nine weeks and one female can have up to five litters a year with the average number of kittens in a litter being three. A cat can get pregnant while still nursing kittens and can continue to have litters all during her life. Litter mates will then breed with each other. One breeding pair can quickly overwhelm any living situation. And spaying and neutering lowers the chances for diseases such as Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.

What does the future hold for the cats of Rockhouse Mountain Farm? They will continue to live their lives the way they always have, in the barn at the farm. There may still be a litter of kittens next spring. With a total of 24 cats altered there are still a possible three that eluded capture. If a litter of kittens appears in the spring, they can be tamed and adopted, and the mother spayed and returned to the barn. Over the next few years, the numbers will go down because outdoor cats have a much shorter lifespan than family pets. At some point the farm will have the three or four mousers it needs.

And if you are in need of a good barn cat or two or three, call John Edge. He can help you out.


Kim and Kirsty, vet techs.


Kim with a sleepy barn man cat. You couldn't hold him like this if he were awake.


The farmer was thrilled to be taking care of his cats and he was there every minute helping out.


Here they are getting a feline into position for a sleepy shot. Otherwise, you could not handle them. 


He trapped all the cats for the clinic. Here he is waiting with a rope attached to a crate door, waiting for a cat to go in for the tuna inside.



Stephanie, the vet tech for the Rozzie May Animal Alliance.


And Roz herself, who got the whole thing started and whose dedication keeps it going. She is organizing the surgical kits in preparation for sterilizing later.


There is a lot of stuff to be moved in and out for these mobile clinics.


I wanted to pack up this little guy and his twin and take them right home. John (the farmer) asked ," So which one is your car?". Sigh. I wish I could take Dancer home too and give him the attention he needs.

I promise more posting on winter activities soon. Today, a new year and a new president in 19 days. It is 0 degrees out and windy so freeeeeeezing. Harper is under the blankets right now and Ramona down by the wood stove. They got a Fling a String for Christmas.

13 comments:

Everycat said...

Very good people helping very good cats in need. Thank you all for the work you do to help animals and a Happy New Year to all of you

Whicky Wuudler

Teri said...

Wonderful story to read on the first day of 2009. What a special combined effort for the "event". Blessings to you all

Teri and the cats of Furrydance

Quasi said...

I think these beans are really wonderful to help all those cats out. Happy new year to you all!

Poppy Q said...

Happy New Year to you and the family.

What a great story about good hearted people helping out. We hope all the cats can find great furrever homes.

Fat Eric said...

Happy New Year!

Sweet Praline said...

What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Happy New Year!

Kimo and Sabi said...

Whut a wunnerful story! Happy New Year 2009!

20th Century Woman said...

Thanks for that inspiring story. A long time ago I worked at the Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston. I ended up with 18 cats. Believe me, every one of them was neutered.

Zippy, Sadie and Speedy said...

What a way to start 2009! From the farmer who knew what was needed to all the volunteers who made it happen, what a great bunch of humans.

sablonneuse said...

It's amazing how many people don't get their cats neutered around here. There is a growing population of feral cats in our village and they have been poisoned and shot at. That's why I'm paranoid about mine getting out of the garden and onto the road. Our seventh cat, Willow, is due for the operation any tme now. I'm not looking forward to it because I remember how Parsley suffered ater she was spayed. When the English cats were 'done' they came back and recovered in no time but Parsley was crying in pain all night and there was nothing I could do to make her feel better. I rang the vet at 10.30 but she just told me not to worry and she'd be OK in the morning. Do you think a cat should be in pain like that? Maybe they have a different method in France. I noticed that in England they shaved the cat's side whereas in France they do it from the stomach.

Charlemagne and Tamar said...

What a great story - thank you for sharing it with us.

Purrs,

Charlemagne and Tamar

pamartin1019 said...

I WAS A VISITOR IN 1951 WHEN I WAS 12 YEARS OLD! TELL ME THAT ROCKHOUSE MOUNTAIN FARM IS STILL IN EXISTANCE,IT WOULD BREAK MY HEART TO THINK THAT YOU ARE NOI LONGER IN BUSINESS. I RETURNED IN 1970 WITH MY HUSBAND AND TWO CHILDREN WHEN THEY WERE 5 AND 3, THEY ARE NOW 44 AND 42 WITH KIDS OF THEIR OWN!! YOUR WORK WITH THE BARN CATS IS ADMIRABLE. ONE LAST NOTE... IREMEMBER DIGGING FOR EARTHWORMS IN THE MANURE WITH JOHN WHEN HE WAS 5 YEARS OLD AND BETSY WAS 3!! such wonder ful memories of long ago. PAT MARTIN CUNNINGHAM APACHE JUNCTION, AZ. FORMERLY OF NEW JERSEY (MY MOM WAS DORREE WEBSTER OF MAPLEWOOD, N.J.) MY EMAIL ADDRESS IS pamartin1019@yahoo.com I WOULD BE THRILLED TO RECEIVE A RETURN EMAIL TO BRING ME UP TO DATE ON ROCKHOUSE. THANKS SO MUCH.

One nosey wombat said...

What a great story - I lived and worked briefly at Rockhouse Mountain Farm in 1990 and I remember the cats! One time we took three kittens to a pet store in Conway, and I will never forget in late Autumn/Fall when I found another kitten that was very hypothermic and later died in my arms :-( Johnny Edge is a good man and he would try and "humanely" manage his growing cat population before Winter. Sad to hear that the Inn is closed because that means Libby isn't with us :( and the Inn was her. Some lovely memories though of a beautiful place in the world.
Tricia, Australia