Thursday, July 12, 2012

Raccoon in Cat Trap

I had set up a humane cat trap right outside the cat flap on the second floor deck of my house.  I figured that since Chai had left through this cat flap, which I am keeping closed and locked to force all my other cats to be strictly indoor cats, if she decided to return home, she would come back to this area.  So the cat trap has been set for over two month with a small bowl of dry kibbles in it.  I covered it up with a green tarp to disguise the trap as well as to keep the animal calm once it is trapped inside.  I check it almost every day to see if anything has been caught.  For two months, nothing came in.  Absolutely nothing.

Then last night, I was having dinner with Tammy, one of my colleagues and friend from Pennsylvania.  We normally have dinner on Wednesday nights every other week when she is in town.  I got a call from my husband (John) that there is a live raccoon in the trap.  It wasn't dark yet, so I think the raccoon got trapped sometime in the middle of the previous night.  I did not realize there was something in the trap yesterday morning.

John said there was raccoon poop everywhere, and that the raccoon had somehow managed to pull a portion of the tarp inside the trap and shredded it.  John could not get the tarp moved away so that he could open the release door to let the raccoon out.  He had to cut through the tarp, use a long screw driver to keep the raccoon at bay so that it would not bite or scratch him while he opens the release gate.  He finally managed to get the raccoon out.  Since I was not there to witness this event, I could not take a photo to upload to my blog.

When I got home, it was a disaster on the deck.  Poop everywhere!  Worse than the poop is the smell of the raccoon itself.  It smelled a lot like a dirty wet dog that had not been bathed for months, but a lot worse.  It almost made me have a dry heave.  I decided that I will let the poop dry out so that it would be easier to just sweep it up later.  I will need to disinfect the trap.  The smell was still lingering this morning.  The raccoons are very stinky creatures.  I hate them even more now...

I thought I heard Chai meow early this morning, right around dawn.  I went out to the deck to see if she was out there, but there was no sign of her.  I think it may have been my next-door neighbor's cat as my bedroom faces the neighbor's side yard and my windows were open last night.  It was a very warm night.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

PAAS Aby was NOT Chai

I went to check out the female Abyssinian at the Palo Alto Animal Services (PAAS) this morning as soon as they opened.  When I saw her in person, she did not look like Chai at all.  Also, she was not microchipped or spayed.  But she was definitely an Abyssinian.  I wonder who lost this cat.  I wonder how long she's been gone until someone brought her into the shelter.  She's been there since June 16.  One week and no one came to claim her.  Poor thing.  While I am trying almost everything I can to find Chai, there is an Aby at a shelter that no one is claiming as their own.  It just does not seem right.

In any case, I filled out a lost-cat form to leave at PAAS.  You never know if Chai got picked up by someone, or Chai might have traveled a long distance.  I heard that recently a HomeAgain microchipped cat lost from California 7 years ago was just found in Florida.  So miracles do happen.  I have to keep my hope alive.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Another Lost Abyssinian?

Today, I received an email from Suzanne who has lost her cat in Menlo Park.  She scours the Craigslist and everyday to see if there is any report of her cat being found.  She told me that there is an Abyssinian in Palo Alto Animal Services (PAAS) that looks a lot like Chai.  I went to PetHarbor and saw a picture of the Abyssinian.  A red/ruddy female.  Definitely a ruddy Abyssinian.  Unless Chai lost weight while she has been in the "wild", this cat may not be Chai.  The one at PAAS had a more angular face, and the outer edges of the letter "M" on the forehead looked more vertical where as Chai's M outer edges are slanted with the bottom points farther out to the side than the tips of M pointing more to the center.(Abyssinians are tabbies and all tabbies have an "M" marking on their forehead, right above their eyes).  Also, the PAAS Abyssinian seems to have greener eyes than Chai.  But at this angle, Chai may also have a greenish tinge to her more amber eyes.

PAAS was closed today, so I could not call or visit.  I will call tomorrow and pay a visit.  I have to see in person to know for sure.  Another reason against this cat being my Chai is that I should have got a call if they scanned her for a microchip and found the information.  Either she does not have a microchip, in which case, the case, the cat is not Chai, or she was acting too wild for anyone to scan her safely.  Or, Chai's microchip may have become defective or have moved to another location in her body rather than staying around the shoulder blades.  I never had her microchip tested, so I would never know...

Here is the picture of the cat at PAAS.  See for yourself if she is Chai or not.  I am not going to have my hopes up to have it dashed and have me fight another round of depression.  I am just going to go to PAAS, with a matter-of-fact emotion, and check her out.  Palo Alto is about 20 miles from my house.  Unless Chai was picked up by someone and abandoned in the lower Peninsula, I cannot fathom Chai traveling this distance...

A Ruddy Abyssinian at PAAS

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Should I feel Guilty?

I needed to take a break from actively looking for Chai.  I was burning out and feeling really down.  Besides, I really needed to focus on my deadlines at work as a major release is scheduled for end of July and I also need to get all of the test equipment budgeted, reviewed, negotiated with the vendors, and purchased in the next several weeks.  It is a crazy hectic time at work.  I also have a major release coming up.  Weeks leading up to the release is quite a nightmare.

However, that does not mean that I have given up on Chai.  I still call out to her almost every day in the evening, hoping that she is somewhere nearby and hearing my voice.  Hoping that she would eventually come home on her own.  The cat trap has been set but nothing has triggered it for the last couple of weeks, up on the deck, right outside the cat flap that she used to go out and never come home on that fateful March 21 of this year.  I think she is still out there, surviving somehow.  I feel it.

I just need to take some time off from active postering, handing out flyers, setting up feeding stations, etc.  I need to recharge and renew my energy for more active searching to come later on.  Looking at the videos from the feeding stations, not seeing any glimpses of Chai on video was really making me feel depressed.  The pain of losing her somewhere out there, the constant anxiety over not knowing what has become of her, whether she is dead, alive, injured, etc. has taken a toll on me.  Emotionally, I feel battered, bedraggled.  Physically, I am exhausted.  My heart is always racing.

I need to find the balance between actively searching for Chai (and researching ways to promote the awareness in my community that Chai is still missing and that I need their help locating her) and being a responsible mother of two young boys, wife, home maker, gardener, and the breadwinner.  If I let the fact that Chai is missing eat me alive, it will destroy the fabric that holds my life together.  Not just my life, but my entire family's life.  I need to strike that balance without losing hope for Chai's safe return...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Darn Raccoons and More Sighting!

I thought I had the feeding platform raccoon-proof by building walls and a roof over it.  However, a raccoon has found a way to get onto the platform by walking on the tree branch that is touching the right wall:

A fatter raccoon tried that method, but I think he was too heavy to get on the platform.  The tree branch got too low because of his weight for it to have a firm grip on the platform to climb up. However, the smaller one feasted, and afterwards, he used the tree branch to get down as well:

I am really getting sick and tired of these raccoons.  I will need to chop down that tree branch on the right side of the feeding platform.  Hopefully, this minimal cutting would do the trick.  Otherwise, I will have to cut one branch at a time until they find no other means to get onto the platform.

On a different note, I removed the trail camera from Jane's pool side.  For two weeks, only the thinner gray-and-white cat and the usual raccoons came by.  Besides, her grandchildren would be visiting soon, so I was advised to remove the camera.  I am very appreciative of her kindness to let me have the camera at her property for 3 weeks.  Although there was no image of Chai on video, it also meant that Chai is not visiting her property so I can eliminate that area as a possible Chai hang-out.

Calls of Chai sightings have become fewer and farther apart now.  I get maybe one call every other week on average.  On Saturday, KathyH called to let me know that her daughter saw a cat that matches Chai's coloring and wearing a red collar in Burlingame, at the corner of Cabrillo and Carmellita.  I drove there to talk to a neighbor who may also have seen this cat in her property.  When I showed her Chai's pictures, she said the cat that is coming by frequently is fatter and has smaller ears, and does not look like the pictures at all.  I gave her one of my door-hanger flyers since she said she will keep her eye out to see if Chai comes around her area.  It was a bit too far, in my opinion, but at almost 3-months of Chai being out in the "wild", you never know how far she would have traveled.

Deep in my heart, I feel that she is still alive and will return to me on her own.  I try to keep the faith, but it's getting more and more difficult as the days turn into weeks and into months now.  Just in case she returns, I set the humane cat trap by the cat door entrance on the deck.  I covered it with a tarp so that it looks more like a shelter than a cage and put some dry cat food in it.  It's been out there for a week now, but nothing has come inside to set off the trap.  It's a loooooooong waiting game.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

More Door-to-Door Lost-Cat Flyers

Since my order for the professionally made door-hanger flyers has arrived, I've been placing them on neighbors' front door knobs/pulls as I walk from door to door.  In Hillsborough, I would say about 20% of the people have their front gates locked, so unless the occupants buzz you in, it would not be possible to walk up to the front door to place these flyers on their door knobs.  This is where the door-hanger flyers come in handy.  I can hook them up on the front gate, so they are visible from anyone looking outside to gate.  It should also be wind-resistant and won't fly away so easily.

I covered several miles on foot doing this:
Lost-Cat Flyer Distribution to Date - Covered Areas in BLUE
I still have many more houses to cover, and will do so one street at a time, every spare daylight hours I get.

As you can see from this map, if she is anywhere near home, Chai is staying out of sight.  Otherwise, one of the neighbors who have received my flyer would have called me.  With Hillsborough properties with large yards that are densely landscaped with trees and shrubs, even if she is near by, unless someone is constantly looking into his/her yard, Chai would be hard to spot.  She also has the coloring of wood bark / redwood mulch, so she would camouflage so well into anyone's landscape.  Or she may be farther out, which means that I will need to distribute the flyers to even more residents in farther places.  With my left foot in pain for over a year now for no obvious reasons (x-ray revealed nothing; next is MRI), limping around distributing flyers from one house to next is not an easy feat.  Having a severe tendonitis (tennis elbow) on my left elbow does not help either.  :(

I got to meet my neighbors this way.  Many with pets of their own were very sympathetic.  Several commented on what a great campaign/marketing I am doing, that they have noticed my flyers on utility poles, post cards, door-hanger flyers, and even seen my car around town with the florescent posters plastered on my car windows.  But no matter how great the campaign to get my lost Chai back is, it has not resulted in getting my Chai back at all.  I am not even sure she is still alive, but I keep hoping and trying to find her.  During the door-to-door searches, I heard stories of coyotes, raccoons, even mountain lions.  A mountain lion that dragged the hind quarters of a deer up a tree.  But that was almost 30 years ago.  I don't think there are mountain lions that are freely roaming around my neighborhood without being spotted in the recent years.  Hillsborough Police would send out an alert, otherwise.

I think Chai is still in the upper/hilly areas of Hillsborough rather than the lower, flatter areas.  However, Chai has been missing for more than 11 weeks.  If she is still alive, and has not been taken in by another family, she could be anywhere in Hillsborough at this point, may have even ventured into Burlingame or San Mateo.  I wish I could narrow down where she is hiding out...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Raccoon-Proofing the Cat Feeding Platform

Ever since Tux had been captured in the humane cat trap, he is no longer visiting the feeding station.  I let the trap be open again.  If he gets hungry enough, he will show up, eventually.  I am hoping that if Chai is hanging out with Tux wherever he stays during the daylight hours, she may one day follow him to the feeding platform.  I wish I could see her again, even for a second, even for a second on my video surveillance, so I know she is alive and safe.  That would keep my hopes alive and energize me in my search.

But to safe-guard the cat food from the raccoons, I have decided to build walls around the shelf so that the walls would deter the raccoons from setting their paws onto the shelf.  I bought two 0.25"x2'x4' boards to place as side walls and one 0.25"x3'x4' as the backdrop to make the back wall go up higher than the fence.  I even bought a buck saw to carve out a 2"x4" slot so that the side boards can slide over the 2"x4" holding the fence on the top side of the fence.  I bought several brackets and screws to hold these boards in place.  It took me a couple of hours to assemble them and put them into place to create walls around the feeding platform shelf
Feeding Platform with Walls
However, the raccoons have discovered that they can still climb down over the back wall!
Raccoons Climbing Down over the Back Wall
Ugh.  So now I bought another 0.25"x3'x4' plywood board to use as the roof over the top, having it longer than the depth of the shelf so that they can't try to climb down onto the platform from the rooftop.  With no one to help me put the roof over the feeding platform, it took me 45 minutes to do this by myself, and it was placed askew, but still OK for a makeshift feeding platform that I want to be raccoon-proof.

First night nothing came by to eat, which made me worry that maybe I made the platform not only raccoon-proof, but also cat-proof.  But then, during the next day, the pregnant/lactating motley female cat came to chow down.  I think she jumped up to the platform, like I was hoping all cats would.  Her initial pose looked liked she had just jumped up and tripped the motion sensor on the camera for it to start recording:

After she was done eating, the cat jumped down from the platform:
Female Cat about to Jump Down
 The roof is not visible on the video or the photo, but it's there and so far so good:  no raccoons.