It’s been a busy time for our hardworking New Jersey team! In the span of a few days in October, three different litters of 17 kittens in total needed immediate attention in Atlantic County—each situation with its own challenges (think a kitten 30 feet high, 4 a.m. alarms, and night-vision goggles).
Thankfully, we at Alley Cat Allies have experience navigating some pretty tricky scenarios to save lives. Now each and every kitten is getting the care they need, and will soon be in forever homes.
Here are their stories.
The Tree Kittens
As the name suggests, Alley Cat Allies rescued kittens from a tree this month! Sure, it’s mostly seen as a cliché nowadays, but when you’re a small kitten, sometimes what goes up has to come a long and scary way back down.
Lisa, a good Samaritan, was on a bike path in Absecon, New Jersey, when she heard a litter of kittens meowing. She made her way over to investigate and found two of the kittens in a bush. For the rest, she had to look up.
Five kittens had made their way into the thin branches of a tall tree—and one of the adventurous souls had climbed high up the trunk. While tiny claws make it easy to scale trees, getting down isn’t so easy, especially when a growing crowd of onlookers is at the bottom. It was a recipe for very anxious kittens.
Fearing for the kittens’ safety and unsure how to proceed, Lisa called the local veterinary office. Since Alley Cat Allies is deeply connected with the Atlantic County community through our Boardwalk Cats Project®, the veterinarian promptly referred Lisa to us.
Lisa had also contacted a police officer from the Absecon Police Department as well as the Public Works department for assistance. But though enlisting the community IS the right instinct to help cats, some guidance from the experts is needed.
Chris Space, a trusted member of our New Jersey team, rushed to the site to provide that expertise (he was off the clock at the time, but lifesaving duty calls). Though five of the kittens had been rescued from the branches by the time Chris arrived, the kitten furthest up was still crying for help from above. Rattled by attempts to get her down, she’d scrambled a whopping 30 feet up the tree.
That’s taller than the average two-story house!
Backing a fire truck into the space wasn’t an option; the bike path was too narrow. Instead, Chris spoke with bystanders until he found someone who could bring in a tall ladder to set against the tree. Chris ensured a blanket “safety net” was ready and waiting, and then directed community members on how to approach the kitten calmly to avoid frightening her further.
Eventually, with careful monitoring and steady work, they coaxed the kitten down to 20 feet, and then all the way into the waiting blanket. She was taken to a veterinary clinic for examination, and then finally reunited with her siblings.
The Tree Kittens—Elmer, Maple, Aspen, Spruce, Hickory, and the high-climbing Oakley—received a clean bill of health. And, it turns out, they’re all very sweet and social! The little family will be cared for until they’re spayed or neutered and ready for their adoptive homes.
The Prison Kittens
Right around the same time as the Tree Kitten rescue, another litter of kittens needed urgent attention.
For years, Alley Cat Allies has been working with two New Jersey Correctional Facilities to provide Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) for cats living on their grounds. Our goal is to spay and neuter every single cat, which means moving fast when we learn new kittens have appeared on the premises.
So when we received a call about a new litter born in one of the prison compounds, we started planning right away.
First, we asked the prison staff to Leave Them BeTM with the mother cat until they were old enough to be weaned. Generally, for mother cats who like to keep their babies hidden away, you know the wait is almost over when you see the kittens roaming on their own.
Sure enough, when they were 2 months old, the siblings—five tabbies, one tortie, and all girls!—were spotted out and about. Our New Jersey team immediately headed over with humane traps in hand. In our first effort, we managed to trap all but one of the kittens. We plan to continue working until we’ve helped the entire litter.
The kittens—Dolly, Patsy, June, Emmylou, Wynonna, and Reba—were taken to a veterinary clinic for a checkup and vaccines and fostered by a member of our team until they could be transferred to Maryland.
As the litter is still young and we have allies with the time and resources to socialize, the shy and wary kittens will be raised in good hands until they have their spay and neuter surgery. Then they will go to forever homes of their own.
The Church Kittens
It took days of 4 a.m. alarms, a trail camera, and even night-vision goggles for our New Jersey team to finally trap little orange tabby Noah, a kitten born in an overgrown churchyard. Even with all our TNR experience, some kittens are just extra savvy!
It all began when the Atlantic City mayor’s office referred to us a call about a colony of cats living behind an abandoned old church.
When our New Jersey team first stepped into the churchyard to assess the situation, they noticed five kittens emerging from under tangled vines and thorn bushes to search for food. They decided the first focus should be on helping those kittens and set to work.
Trapping the first four kittens— Luke, Mark, Mary, and Moses—was a breeze. But there’s a good reason trapping every cat you plan to help in a single session is the best practice for TNR. When little Noah saw his siblings enter our traps and get carried off (to the veterinarian for a look over), he wasn’t eager to follow their lead.
A trap-shy cat is always a challenge—and Noah, it seemed, had up and disappeared—but persistence and patience is key. After a few days of high-tech attempts, including tracking Noah’s movements with a trail camera and seeking him out in early morning darkness with night-vision goggles, the little tabby finally took a 6 a.m. stroll into a trap. It turned out an adult member of his colony had been looking out for him all that time.
Now the Church Kittens, who run the gamut from calm and sweet to rowdy and curious, are all reunited in a foster home. Alley Cat Allies has since trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped every cat living around the old church.
A Model Program in New Jersey
Thanks to our decades of community-involved work in New Jersey through our Boardwalk Cats Project, Alley Cat Allies is a key player in protecting Atlantic County cats.
For these community cats—and especially for kittens stuck in trees—our immediate response makes all the difference.