The Cats Who Came in From the Cold
March 8, 2016 8:11 PM   Subscribe

Tinykittens is a Canadian cat rescue that Livestreams foster kittens (previously). Now playing: Sable and Neelix, a tortie and tabby tuxie respectively, both pregnant, with Sable due any day now. Right now, four feral cats are in residence at TKHQ, all of them from the same colony... and two former ferals waiting on adoption. This is where things get interesting.

The People for Happier Cats page on Facebook has chronicled the work of Shelly, who runs Tinykittens, as well as other volunteers from the Langley Animal Protection Society (LAPS) in British Columbia. They've been attempting to catalog and do TNR on a colony of over 200 cats--a project that has now grown into nursing wounded animals and fostering pregnant females. Volunteers have been going out to feed the cats for some time now, setting up a semi-permanent feeding station.

Conventional wisdom has held that kittens must be socialized early or they'll be feral for life. Over this past winter, Tinykittens played host to a collection of ferals who were considered past the point of no return. You can see just how feral they look now. It all started with Mr. T and Pinecone, two cats from the feeding station who kept hanging around after they were neutered. They got increasingly affectionate with the volunteers, calling to mind the theory that cats domesticated themselves.

After potential adoptions fell through twice, the last two of the Christmas "ferals", Noelle and Elf, are still waiting on a home, but returning them to the colony when they're healthy and tame isn't a solution anyone wants. Even spayed and neutered outdoor cats in rural areas face many risks that indoor cats don't. In September, one of the feeding station regulars who'd started to warm up to people was hit by a car and killed. Aside from cars on the nearby road, cats from the colony have suffered from significant ringworm and upper respiratory infections.

Now, Tinykittens HQ is home to four ferals: Neelix and Sable in one room, Fairy and Savina in the other. Both rooms have been kitted out as comfortably as possible for cats from the Happy Forest: ferns, cat trees, multiple nests, and occasional use of the catios. Neelix and Sable have proven slightly less upset by the inevitable hoomin intrusions to bring food and water and deal with the litter box. And to adjust the numerous cameras set up to try to cover every possible spot one of them might choose to give birth. Sable's due anytime now. Savina, on the other hand, has done very poorly with human contact and is being largely kept off the stream for now. Fairy, the newest arrival, has some injuries to her tail and seems to have a cleft palate. There's no guarantee that everything will go well; Shelly can't intervene with ferals in the case of an emergency the way she can with the tame cats. This leads to much of what those in chat refer to as "pearl clutching": this and other terms can be found in the glossary section of the official FAQ.

As the number of unfixed cats in the colony dwindles, the volunteers are working on long-term transition plans for those cats who can't be homed. This is a lot of resource expenditure for a bunch of feral cats, but the hope is that the lessons learned from this TNR project will make things easier for the next. For World Spay Day on February 23, Shelly posted this sobering reminder:
Based on the data we've collected on the cats in this colony, Neelix produced a whopping 30 kittens and grandkittens in 2015.

Of the 30, only 8 survived. 22 died before six months of age from disease, predators or injury.
Okay, that's a sad place to end. Better to close with some pictures of the colony cats forgetting to put away their little pink tongues. Soon enough, Tinykittens HQ will be swimming in kittens again. In the meantime, you can join the rest of chat in trying to guess whether every random sigh of a tortie-colored melon might possibly constitute a contraction.
posted by Sequence (62 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Visible right now: two fuzzy purr-lumps, most likely in donut configuration.
posted by Artw at 8:27 PM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

posted by mudpuppie at 9:10 PM on March 8, 2016 [20 favorites]

Now, Tinykittens HQ is home to four ferals: Neelix and Sable in one room

thus marking the first time anyone ever has rooted for Neelix to live
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:17 PM on March 8, 2016 [20 favorites]

This is a great post! I've been following them on Facebook ever since the post about Eve here on the Blue. Shelley and team are doing amazing work. It's really stunning how many so-called ferals understand the deal very quickly. Even ferals can has cheezburger.
posted by bleep at 9:44 PM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Former feral kittens also enjoy watching the cam.
posted by pemberkins at 10:33 PM on March 8, 2016

I have a cat that came inside at roughly the transition between permanent feral and tame able, and then got insufficient socialization for his next 18 months. It's been rewarding, and seven years on he's probably adoptable to the extent that any shy nine year old cat is adoptable (not that I'm giving him up), but it's been a hard path for all of us.
posted by wotsac at 10:35 PM on March 8, 2016

There were always feral cats around the business complex where my mom had her office in the 80's and 90's. Around 1990 new building management came in and were going to start trapping and getting rid of these cats. My mom comes home on a Friday night, "hey, when it's dark I want you to go up there and release anything that's in the trap and make the trap disappear." EASY ENOUGH MISSION for a 17 year old to handle. So, I go up there. Something is in the trap. TWO KITTENS. So, I took the kittens and trap home. They were about 7 or 8 weeks old. A few days later I skip school and stop by mom's office. On the way in I notice another kitten. Ended up trapping that one using a can of cat food and a Wile E Coyote copy paper box trap. For the first year we had those cats we never really knew where they were in the house - they were eating so we knew they were there. I would occasionally see one if I came in late. At 19, I get my first apartment. I take my friendly cat with me. I decide I will trap one of the ferals since I can have two cats. I manage to trap the one I've seen the most. First night in my new studio apartment this feral cat sees that I'm going to bed and effing gets in bed with me and wants me to pet her. That cat moved all over the country with me. She never liked other people but she decided I was A+.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 11:06 PM on March 8, 2016 [21 favorites]

At TinyKittens HQ, vulnerable cats get a few moments to be safe and just breathe. There are few things more relaxing than watching a sleeping cat breathe.
posted by bibliotropic at 11:20 PM on March 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

The black-faced cat can't settle and won't stop mewing! I can't bear watching when I'm not able to pet her and tell her it will all be okay. :(
posted by orrnyereg at 1:59 AM on March 9, 2016

Anyone who helps feral cats is an A-OK #1 human in my book.
posted by Kitteh at 2:58 AM on March 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is such a great educational resource! Watching Shelly interacting with the ferals is helping me reconsider parts of my own (much more modest) TNR neighborhood program.

Bonus: free calm. Eve and her babies got me through a home remodel in a much better state of mind.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 5:04 AM on March 9, 2016

Another Tinykittens page of note is TinyTuxies, chronicling Shelly's own three cats (Bunny, Pantsaroo and Bartlett) and the progress of Cassidy the Miracle Kitten. The former are foster fails who frequently interact with Tinykittens litters once they're big enough; the latter is a colony cat who lost his rear paws shortly after birth and was found near-death, but was rescued and nurtured and now has Shelly's trio teaching him how to cat.

(As the videos therein attest, Cassidy has no fear and astounding mobility for his handicap, and undergoes physical therapy regularly. Prosthetics are in his future.)
posted by delfin at 5:11 AM on March 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Detailed notes on the capturing, situating, fostering, weaning, etc. of last year's first feral mother, Sloane, and her kittens. I think this is what really makes this more than a camera on some cute kittens.

Although the kittens will eat your soul. Seriously, don't even look until you set some time parameters for yourself.

Also - a major reason this was set up was to give people a way to let their kids experience "the miracle of life" without having to birth their own kittens. There is actual video of a cat giving birth -- from last year -- and more, apparently, to come. If you miss it live (possibly a good idea if you have actual kids watching, as who knows what will happen), you can see archived video from the site.
posted by amtho at 5:13 AM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

All four of my parents' cats are ferals rescued from Cal State Long Beach, where my mother helps maintain the TNR colony (which has been reduced to half the original number since she started several years ago). The oldest, adopted at age four, was clearly the runt of her litter and self-domesticated herself like this:

1) I want noms.
2) Hey, these weird two-legged things bring noms.
3) If I stick around while the weird two-legged things hand out the noms, I can eat first.
4) Now, if I let the weird two-legged things pet me while I eat, I can get even more.
5) ...Huh, I like this petting stuff.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:16 AM on March 9, 2016 [20 favorites]

Shelley recently visited the NC State Vet School, with Cassidy the kitten in tow (all the way from Canada!). Cassidy might get prosthetics -- that would be much better than the alternatives -- but Shelley is having to do physical therapy with this very active kitten every day in hopes of increasing the flexibility of his leg joints. If the joints don't have enough flexibility, then the prosthetics won't work.

So much work! And now four mother cats due to give birth. I think she visited a school recently?

Seriously, if anyone is near her in Langley, she might need help soon...

Although she really seems to have things under control generally.
posted by amtho at 5:19 AM on March 9, 2016 is such a great site. Coworker yells at you--watch some tiny kittens! Can't get your code to work? Take a break with some tinykittens! Fell like setting yourself on fire is a viable option? Head right on over to tinykittens!
posted by pywacket at 8:43 AM on March 9, 2016 [7 favorites]

Count me in as another watcher since Eve and the Palindromes. Is it safe to assume that little Cassidy found his forever home with Shelly and the teens?
posted by kimberussell at 9:31 AM on March 9, 2016

Best kitten therapy video I have ever seen:

TinyKittens Kitten Therapy Purr-a-thon - almost 7 minutes of kittens being happy and sleepy and petted.
posted by amtho at 10:06 AM on March 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Faerie (the spelling of her name seemed to be in flux for a bit) turns out not to be pregnant, which is great news for treating her injuries and for Shelly's stress levels.

I'm pretty sure Shelly never officially announced that she was keeping Cassidy, but I might be wrong; it's been the general assumption since he moved from TKHQ to her house, though. Especially since he gets on well with the teens.
posted by Sequence at 10:41 AM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best kitten therapy video I have ever seen:

Oh that was one of my favorite litters. Believe it or not they were found in a TRASH CAN. They'd been there a couple of days and had mild burns on their little feet from urine. What kind of awful person puts kittens in a trash can? I like to think of myself as warm and understanding but I could definitely commit fury and great vengeance on whoever did that.
posted by JanetLand at 11:07 AM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think it's likely that they were born in there, based only on my experience finding a litter of kittens inside a tall narrow cardboard box inside a storage shed. I can imagine it seems very safe to a mom cat. Not so great for cleanliness, though, for sure.
posted by amtho at 11:19 AM on March 9, 2016

One of my foster cats was semi-feral (pulled from a TNR colony) and past the age where they often expect cats to adjust. Tiny black and white tux cat. She lived under my couch for two months straight, then crept around the edges of the room if I sat still for a very long time (thanks, metafilter). And then out of the blue one day she jumped in my lap, flipped over on her back, and demanded tummy rubs. It was incredible — a complete personality shift. It was like she suddenly figured something out, and turned into a big cuddlebug (and boy was she soft).

When she got adopted, I warned her new parents to be super patient with her while she adjusted, but within a few days I was getting photos of her cuddling with their current cat and sleeping with them in bed. She really had changed her whole perspective on humanity, not just gotten more used to me. I felt like my baby was off to college.

That sort of situation really makes you appreciate foster organizations, because a cat like that would never make it out of a shelter.
posted by you're a kitty! at 11:29 AM on March 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

Good gog, this might make me join facebook
posted by janey47 at 11:43 AM on March 9, 2016

I think it's likely that they were born in there

Alas, no.
posted by JanetLand at 11:52 AM on March 9, 2016

Good gog, this might make me join facebook

Literally the only reason I use Facebook any more. I just follow cat pages. I have a cat feed. For cats.
posted by pemberkins at 12:04 PM on March 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

I don't actually use Facebook anymore, but it does result in a lot of really annoying nag screens when visiting Tinykittens-related pages. I'm thinking about a fake account just for that. I really wish they did other things--Shelly's very competent at doing her own web stuff, but it's just not the best use of her time.
posted by Sequence at 12:06 PM on March 9, 2016



The Blue also got me addicted to Tiny Kittens. I've kind of had the winter off since there were no new litters (and partially because I realised I did have an addiction), but I watched WAY TOO MUCH of Tinykittens since I found out about it.
posted by urbanlenny at 1:12 PM on March 9, 2016

Oh and my parents live near Shelley and I have kind of low-keyed tried to get them to adopt a pair (they're adopted out in pairs by preference) of the tinykittens. No success so far though!
posted by urbanlenny at 1:13 PM on March 9, 2016

This site is hazardous. You know those con artists who tell people that if they just think about money and look adoringly at money enough there will be money? It doesn't work with money. It works with cats. You watch tinykittens too much and cats will just appear. Neighborhood cats wander straight into your house and announce that they live *here* now.

I had one cat when I started watching tinykittens. Within four months, I had three. Now I don't watch tinykittens any more.
posted by dilettante at 1:41 PM on March 9, 2016 [7 favorites]

I love Tiny Kittens. I am on the livestream every day. I saw this post and immediately realized that I have already visited almost every single link. I have liked every Tiny Kitten facebook page since Dorothy and the Kittens of Oz, and I feel a real connection to these cats.

I adopted a neighbor cat a couple of years ago. Well, she adopted me. I am vastly allergic to her. I make it work through the magic of pharmaceuticals.

Mefites who I am friends with on FB will vouch for the fact that I have been sinking every so quickly into Cat Ladydom. I post pictures of my cat daily. I have more than one shirt with cats on it. I dressed up as a cat for Halloween. People buy me cat things. The most recent was "How to Talk to Your Cat About Abstinence" (I work in sexual and reproductive health).

Tiny Kittens is magical.
posted by Stewriffic at 1:59 PM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

And Shelly just made a FB page called "Tiny Tapeworms" for the more gruesome medical pictures.
posted by Stewriffic at 2:09 PM on March 9, 2016

It's been a while since we had any Tiny Tapeworms! Delightful.

I think I will maybe follow that page but not add it to the list of Happy Kitten Pictures pages.
posted by pemberkins at 2:12 PM on March 9, 2016

We just spent the last 6 months or so socializing an adult semi-feral female tux. She spent two months hiding. It's slow work indeed and easily set back if you push too fast.

She's still a wierdo who bugs out for indecipherable reasons but she's well on the way to being a sweetie.
posted by spitbull at 6:46 PM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just checked the cam and it looks like Sable (the short hair tortie girl) is going to birth kittens shortly.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 11:27 PM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Right now the cats appear to be invisible, which is my general experience of feral kittens.
posted by Artw at 11:32 PM on March 9, 2016

Wait! Now there is a cat!
posted by Artw at 11:33 PM on March 9, 2016

She keeps waddling in and out. There was mucus plug activity early and contraction stuff a bit ago. Could be up to 24 hours but as much as she's licking and moving around I'm hoping it's within a couple hours.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 11:35 PM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

She has been super super super vocal - Shelly turned off the cat noise and switched over to music.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 11:36 PM on March 9, 2016

Sable has reported to the nest. Kittens soon, possibly?
posted by pemberkins at 12:07 AM on March 10, 2016

Kitten action!
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 12:55 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Kitten #1 has arrived! I shouldn't still be awake! But kittens!
posted by pemberkins at 1:05 AM on March 10, 2016

Kitten #2!
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 1:09 AM on March 10, 2016

Good luck, Sable! We're all counting on you!
posted by orrnyereg at 2:09 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Kitten #3! (And I'm going to bed now.)
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 2:12 AM on March 10, 2016

Kitten #4!
posted by Stewriffic at 3:14 AM on March 10, 2016

I'm dealing with infertility right now such that I have trouble looking at baby photos and even seeing a pregnant woman makes me incandescent with rage (all in my head, I know). But these cats? I can watch them forever. They're like a balm for my soul.

I love the little gingers, but little kitty #2 who is sitting under mama just kills me with squee!
posted by prettypretty at 3:16 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Are those kittens unusually large for newborns? Maybe moving around a lot too?
posted by amtho at 6:25 AM on March 10, 2016


I should have stayed up later.
posted by Artw at 6:53 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

O I missed the births! Fortunately: youtube. (Goodbye, productive day formerly planned.)
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 7:08 AM on March 10, 2016

Well, looks like power might be out. They had high winds there. And the cute is just insane. Yes, they do look large.
posted by Stewriffic at 7:28 AM on March 10, 2016

I'm glad I didn't stay up later or I would have been useless today, and this is much less stressful. They do look pretty big--I'm given to believe that Sable's a small cat, but. Definitely good that none of them look like they're going to be like, say, Eep, who was so tiny and needed some watching. All very good signs, really: nobody looks half-baked, everybody seems to be getting milkbar, we won't need collars to tell them apart. It was really difficult to keep the collars on Sisko's kittens.
posted by Sequence at 7:33 AM on March 10, 2016

Currently offline: "Power is out due to massive wind storm and all battery backups have been used. The feed will be down until power is restored. Terrible timing, but last I could check all was well! I will keep you posted. :)" <---Shelly
posted by Stewriffic at 7:41 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Big congratulations to me (43 years old) for forgetting I had to be up early to take my dad to the eye doctor. Staying up to watch kitten birthing even though I've seen it in person many times...A+ decision.

Also, I'd forgotten how gooey kitten birthing is.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 8:27 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

KITTENS! Hooray for Sable and Shelly!

(also, I don't like to pick favorites, but little Eep was my favorite kitty)
posted by kimberussell at 9:06 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


PSA: Kittens are as follows: #1 is a girl (Ginger Tabby) 125 g , #2 is a girl (Torbie) 107 g, #3 is a girl (Tortie) 128g, #4 is a boy (ginger spotted Tabby) 122g. #2 may have contracted tendons.

Shelly has taken the #2, the torbie, out of the nest to bottle feed due to her curled up feets. She was unable to stay latched on to the mama nipple because she couldn't push off for leverage.
posted by Stewriffic at 4:38 PM on March 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

We were watching the livestream yesterday. My orange boy Ratchet was briefly interested, poking his head around the tv to see where the cat might be, and then lost focus, but my white girl Kit ran out of the room with her tail puffed. But I went to bed and my husband stayed up really late and watched the birth, and apparently Kit sat on the coffee table and watched along with him.

This site is dangerous. Mr. Killian watched for a big part of the day and now we're here sitting in the living room still watching. All productivity has been lost. (I'm lying, there was no productivity to begin with.)
posted by PussKillian at 5:52 PM on March 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Firstborn, ginger, large, female: Mayzie McGrew

Thirdborn, tortoisehell, female: Trudie (Gertrude) McFuzz.

Cindy Lou Mew is the Torbie. She is not thriving, and went to the vet today. They x-rayed, didn't see anything odd, but she makes a clicking noise when she breathes. She's being very closely watched, fed hourly, in Shelly's care.

The orange boy doesn't have a name yet.
posted by Stewriffic at 3:40 PM on March 11, 2016

AND the last kitten, the only boy, a ginger tabby is.....

Bartholomew Mercury Geisel!
posted by Stewriffic at 6:17 AM on March 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh my gosh, Cindy's tiny little claws and that lil face!
posted by bleep at 2:49 PM on March 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Soooo, Cindy Lou Mew is (in my opinion) probably going to die. The vet said CLM's prognosis is not good. Tinykittens update here. I need to step away from the livestream until that happens, cause the point of a kitten cam is warm fuzzies, not weeping.
posted by Stewriffic at 3:56 PM on March 13, 2016

Poor lil Cindy.
posted by bleep at 9:44 PM on March 13, 2016

Yah, she died.

"With many tears, we said goodbye to Cindy Lou Mew at 9:52pm Sunday night. Dr. Ferguson very kindly invited us into her home, confirmed it was time, and ensured Cindy Lou's passing was peaceful and painless. "
posted by Stewriffic at 3:16 AM on March 14, 2016

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