Followup on the Sanford Colony

With such a large colony to rehome and so many adopters to keep up with, it’s been a little hard to know how all the cats are doing in their new homes. The comments below represent over half of the cats from this colony. Two additional are doing very well, living in a large garage until the snow melts off at their new place. They’ve gotten friendlier and also discovered the joy of basking in a sunny window. And two more are living with a colony of special needs cats, adjusting to their new caretaker. One is very friendly and comfortable, the other is taking a little longer to admit that she’s safe and loved, but making progress.

Life is good for most of these cats. But as you can see below, things have not been perfect. While we love to keep cats in their familiar territories where they know what they’re doing, in this case that wasn’t practical at all, so the risk of moving them had to be taken. We’re keeping in touch with the adopter of the one medical case known, to make sure the cat does mend and no further help is needed. And as you can also tell from the comments, the personalities of the cats varied greatly, so interaction with their new people is also greatly varied, anything from distant sightings to snuggles.


“Thanks again for the cats and the good work you do, they are out of the enclosure now and they decided to stick around, so, I think this was a success. M.”

“All four of our kitties are safe and well adjusted. This little guy is curious and friendly. He let me pet him and even hold him for just a minute this morning. We’ve named him Kahn.”

“Hello. Thank you again for helping me get the kitties all loaded up. I wanted to let you know that they are almost all doing great. Last night one of them started having severe labored breathing. We did what we could but she didn’t make it. The other kitties are all doing great. They are in a room in the house until we get them settled in to the barn (there is a storm coming tonight and we wanted to keep them inside until it passes). I have no idea why the one kitty started having problems. On a more positive note, 5 of them are very very friendly and will even let us pet them. The other 2 are my wild children that are super fun and high energy. Thank you again for entrusting us to these kitties. I am so sorry there isn’t more that we could have done last night. 😔 We had made arrangements to take her in to my vet this morning, but she didn’t make it. She was one of the short hair kitties. So many changes. At least she passed away inside and we made her really comfortable and tried to love on her before she passed. I know there are millions of reasons why animals can go (we see it with out little farm). I just wanted to let you know. And to give you the good news too that the other ones are really warming up to us and that they seem really happy. Thank you for what you do for these little critters. ❤️ You are a very precious person and I am so thankful that our paths have crossed.”

“They are doing good. The kitten is getting friendlier and loves to play and chase strings. She does regretfully seem to still have diarrhea. Not as bad but still there none the less. The black one is slowly getting braver and likes to watch the kitten and I play.”

“Well I honestly haven’t seen much of them they still hide but I know they are eating. My fiance said he saw them the other day but I haven’t.”

“Hi! Yeah they are doing great, they have adjusted well and are super friendly. My girls love them and they both love to be pet.”

Hungry Hungry Kitties

Cats Alive recently rescued a colony of 49 cats. It was heartbreaking. The owner and his wife contracted COVID in October. She died and he never fully recovered. At the end of January, his children had come to the conclusion that he was no longer able to live on his own at the family home north of Sanford, CO where they had grown up in and he and his wife lived in for 35 years. When they came to take him home, they took the three smallest kittens to Dumb Friends League in Alamosa and called Cats Alive for the rest of the colony of somewhere between 30 and 80 cats (depending on which of his kids you talked to!). Cats Alive had been preparing to open a spay and neuter clinic for a few months, and was almost ready. (That’s SLV Spay and Neuter Alliance!)

Knowing that such a big colony could not reasonably be picked at with 5 or 6 surgeries at a time (and a 3 hour round trip drive for each trapping!), surgery for these cats was scheduled for our first big clinic, February 10th, with the help of a professional tech from Bergen Spay to help our vet, Dr. Linda Behrns. Our vet specializes in spay and neuter surgeries and with a trained tech to assist, she can accomplish twice as many surgeries in a day. So timing was key in dealing with such a large group.

Lisa Karst (that’s me!) travelled out to the colony a week early to make an assessment and leave traps for acclimation before trapping day. The cats came charging down the drive, yelling as they came. They were frantic. I counted 20-22 very very hungry and underweight cats, 90% black, and two large herding dogs, also hungry. I laid out the small amount of food I had with me for trapping purposes, and an intense scrum resulted, with over a dozen cats picking up food bowls and running, dogs wading in and flinging cats in an attempt to get to the food. When ordered to leave the cats, they did it. Not bad dogs, just hungry and left alone too long. Meanwhile, I was trying to unload about a dozen traps. The cats were so hungry they were invading the van to get to the scraps of food, trying to eat cardboard trap liners that smelled of tuna.

Doing a little triage, five of the smallest cats were trapped and taken to Dumb Friends League San Luis Valley Animal Center for temperament assessment. One had a broken leg and was immediately sent to their hospital in Denver. The other four failed the temperament tests and were returned to Cats Alive as agreed. Calling the family in Oklahoma, I was told the dogs were to be taken in by a neighboring family the next day. When I stated that the cats were extremely hungry and getting thin, the message was passed to the caretaker to leave more food. Traps were left, and with the assurance that the cats would have more food and the dogs were going to a new home the next day, I reported back to the vet that we’d have a full day of surgeries for this one colony.

However, when I returned a week later to trap, I found I had greatly underestimated the size of the colony. I had 36 cats trapped in less than an hour, and four more would not approach traps after all the chaos of trapping their colony right in front of them. Those were two large tom cats and two smaller cats, one of which had a badly broken leg and the other of which was a small tabby with an owl-like face unlike the rest of the colony. Additionally, the dogs were still there and still hungry. A call to the family resulted in assurance they’d contact the family that was supposed to take the dogs and make sure they did it.

A week later, I returned with a colleague, Evette Young, to trap the last four and check on the dogs. Sure enough the dogs were there and hungry. Again, Dumb Friends League was a valuable resource, taking in these ungroomed, underweight, and under socialized large dogs. These dogs had never had a leash on or been inside a vehicle. Evette’s dog handling skills were absolutely key that day. We got the dogs to a safe place, although it’s never first choice to take dogs to a shelter, especially under socialized ones that will be afraid of the whole experience.

These poor cats were not provided adequate food and water. As a result they were underweight, constipated, and dehydrated. For the first few days in our care, they emptied water bowl after water bowl, ate buckets of food (wet food, with water added to baby their poor systems), and pooped sticks. That’s right, they were so hungry they ate the sticks that smelled like food at the ranch because their food had been being poured on the dirt.

With the 36 trapped, the four that failed temperament tests at DFL, and the last four that were trapped the following week, Cats Alive provided 44 spay and neuter surgeries at a cost of $50 a surgery. That’s $2200 in surgery alone, never mind travel, food, litter, etc, etc. The family was not up for contributing at all.

I can only assume the old rancher loved these dogs and cats, and cared for them to his best ability. What he didn’t do was fix the cats as soon as they showed up at his place. His family has told me the first cat showed up 8 years ago, a male. Three years later, a female, also black. So this whole colony originated with those two. And literally, a stitch in time on that female cat’s belly could have saved all this drama. Imagine the expense to this rancher feeding cats all this time. The cost of a surgery instead, it makes all the sense in the world.

Next week, I’ll write about the people who adopted these cats. In just two weeks, Cats Alive and our wonderful community found homes for 44 semi-feral cats by sharing, liking, and commenting on the post asking for homes for these cats. That post has been seen by over 12,700 people on Facebook, an amazing reach for a post from our valley of about 16,600 people. Adopters came out of the woodwork from all parts of the valley and even beyond.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

WW for July 3

Happy Whisker Wednesday! We’re a little late tonight since we had our big adoption fair this afternoon. We still have several mousers available for adoption. They would be perfect for anybody with a barn, warehouse, or even a garage. They’ll keep the rodents away and will provide endless entertainment.

This week was mostly spend prepping for the adoption event. One update we have from the week is that this little cutie is healed up and going home. He was brought in a few weeks ago, found outside and full of worms. A bit of care, and he is now a healthy kitten and will thrive in his new home!

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WW for July 22, 2020

Introducing Whisker Wednesday! Supporters like you are the reason we have saved over 200 lives in 2020 and we need your support now more than ever. From now on, we hope to share weekly updates on our projects. We hope that you are motivated to share these stories with your friends and family. The more support we have, the more we can do!

This week, a group of 5 kittens were reported hanging out by some restaurants in Monte Vista and were posted on a lost pet page. By the time we arrived, we only found 3 orange kittens. We wonder if someone else had caught the other two. If so, we hope they get these cats spayed/neutered. Traps were set and the little ones were caught within 15 minutes. They could not resist the tuna! They will be assessed to see if they are candidates for adoption or TNR and then they will be spayed/neutered and vaccinated. They look to be about 3 months old and cats can start breeding as early as 4 months so it is essential to get kittens fixed sooner than later! No sightings have been reported of the mom cat. She is likely still around so we hope someone will contact us with information.

If you would like to learn more about how to support our efforts, please visit: https://catsaliveslv.wordpress.com/donate/

WW for July 29, 2020

It’s Whisker Wednesday! This week was an exciting one filled with trapping and adoptions. After catching this wild kitten we kindly named “Storm,” we visited the doctor for his neuter and shots. He gave Doc a piece of his mind and is now on a 10 day bite quarantine. Silly boy. Doc said his name should be Cujo.

On Thursday, we received a wonderful donation of towels, quilted pillow shams, and cat treats from Upper Rio Grande Animal Shelter (URGAS, also known as Conour). The shams are a favorite amongst our cats! Thank you so much Conour Animal Shelter – Upper Rio Grande Animal Society!!