Songpa TNR Experience, May 2009 - By Yuni Print

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On May 9th, 2009, the long awaited TNR was implemented on stray cats in two locations of Seoul’s Songpa District; one in Seokchun-dong and the other at Sumjeon-dong by two cat caretakers, Jinkyung and me, Yuni.

Jinkyung has been a champion of the rights of stray cats in her neighbourhood for years and works tirelessly to persuade government officials to humanely control the cat population.

She has influenced people into feeding stray cats in their neighborhoods and I am one of them. I started one day when a mother cat stood near my doorway, looked straight at me and meowed for food, and once she was sure that she would be provided with food without any problems, she brought along five of her kittens.

Unfortunately, one kitten was poisoned to death by someone. Another one was run down by a car. The car’s tire hit one side of its head and one of its eyes popped out of its small head and some brain parts fell to the ground. It jumped up and down in severe pain from a few seconds to a minute or so, then dropped dead.

I witnessed that and asked the driver that hit it to help take the cat to the animal clinic. It was later cremated. The surviving three kittens witnessed this horrific incident too, and so did the mother cat. After that, the mother cat disappeared and didn't reappear until a few weeks later. She rarely came back to feed, but her kittens did. And now, they have grown and are free to come and go as they please, knowing that as long as I am there, I will have food for them.

Two brother cats and a stranger, a tabby cat, were trapped to be neutered the same day as the other cats I will mention below. They were released the following day without any visible complications but on a rainy day. And when they also did not show up for two days, I became worried. Now they come regularly to eat the food laid out for them.

Among the other cats that came and went from my neighbourhood there was a young dark green cat that I used to leave food for down the street. One evening, it came to feed alongside the kittens that eat at my place. I found that to be odd, so told it to go to his area where I usually left food for it. I now realize that it must have sensed danger in that area for it came back twice to eat after that and then disappeared completely. Perhaps it was killed. Looking back, I mourn for his loss.

* * *

Then a few weeks later, a gentle grey and white striped cat showed up. This was the friendliest cat I had ever seen. He must have lived in a home with humans at one time before he was let out. He is such a friendly cat that all I needed to do was to pick him up and take him to the vets to check if he was neutered, and he was. So, all that was needed for him was an eartipping, which is what vets do to signify that a stray has been neutered.

When he was at the vets, the effects of the anesthesia he was given made him vomit and poo because he ate something before that. After he was anesthesized, one ear was tipped. Then, he was taken to Jinkyung’s place to rest and recuperate. When he woke up, Jinkyung gave him some food, which he readily ate. He then proceeded to groom himself and meowing to be released. Upon close observation, Jinkyung decided that he would be the first cat to be released.

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So I took him to the exact spot where he was captured and released him. He ran out of the cage, never looking back and went into seclusion for two straight days. Needless to say, I was worried sick over his welfare, but on the third day, I saw him and he ate some food I gave him. His newly tipped ear must have been uncomfortable, since he twitched his ears from side to side, slightly shaking his head. I felt sorry for him. But now, I am happy to say, he is his jolly old self again.

Another cat taken to the vets was a six month old nursing mother cat whom Jinkyung and I were able to trap first and bring in to the veterinary clinic. The doctor said she had to be sedated to check her gender, and afterwards to get spayed. The hysterectomy that female cats go through is more complicated and the recovery period can be at the earliest, three days to five days.

When it was clear that the six month old mother cat was nursing kittens by the look of her slightly swollen nipples, which when pressed gently would express milk, Jinkyung adamantly refused to have the mother cat spayed. She took into consideration that the mother cat still needed to nurse her kittens or else they would die. If the mother cat were to be spayed and released the same day, as the vet had suggested, she would not have had the strength to take care of herself, much less her kittens. Therefore, everyone agreed to call it off.

I was very proud of Jinkyung’s wise decision. No matter how tempting it was to spay her, the mother cat’s welfare and those of her kittens was of more importance for the time being.

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After being released from the animal clinic, the young mother cat was taken to Jinkyung’s to rest and recuperate. It was evident that it took a long time for the sedative to wear off. When she woke up, the mother cat had difficulty moving her lower back extremities even after nearly four hours. She was shaking her head from left to right, pulling her weight with her two front legs, and basically having a hard time. It was painful to watch her go through that.

At 6 am the next morning, after Jinkyung checked to see if the mother cat was alert and moving around the cage on all four paws, and that she was healthy enough to be released, she was set free at the very spot she was captured. She sprung out of her cage and ran for her freedom to be with her kittens. I don’t know where her kittens are. She has them so well hidden. These days, she comes to eat the food I lay out for her from time to time.

* * *

There some points I want to make about my TNR experience. First, I want to emphasize that it was a group effort. Jinkyung made it easy for the doctor by getting the traps ready and helped with advice. Another KARA member, Mr. B.K. Zang helped take the cats to the vets and lift the heavy cages in and out of his car.

Also, luckily for me the three cats that regularly come to my place to eat are very mild tempered and gentle. That is, except for one orange tabby that was caught and neutered. He was a real wild one. He would hiss and try to bite my hand through the cage when I was about to release it. I could see that he must have had a tough life. These days, he sits and waits at the site I released him for food.

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It is my belief that Korea should follow the example set forth in Japan. I heard every neighbourhood there pitches in some money to buy food for cats and after the cats eat at their regular spots, they go off on their own and never pester or bother people. Therefore, cat colony caretakers are of utmost importance for the stray cats.

The mindset of some people in Korea to beat and kill cats and other animals must change. And that change can come with information, education in all sectors of the nation on compassion, warnings, and that animals too have rights to life and happiness.

I felt a pang of guilt that invasive surgery had to be done to control the cat population in this age of high technology and medical development. If only there was an easier way; like a one-shot birth control method that would last a lifetime for all animals. I really wish that, after decades or even centuries of conducting painful and cruel lab animal tests, a safe birth control method had been devised.

 

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