“I think that cat has a sense of humour - it’s laughing at you,” said my husband when I returned home late one night, empty-handed after checking our feral cat traps yet again.
I was starting to agree with him as one particular feral cat was proving super elusive – a black cat nicknamed Bobby, who had become a bit of an obsession for me.
Photo: Bobby the feral cat
In our first Trap Neuter Vaccinate Return (TNVR) season, we are targeting for neutering those feral cats that live nearest to the remaining wildcats to help protect them from disease and cross-breeding as soon as possible. In my area this means a lot of remote forest locations and farmland edges, not easy-to-get-to places like villages or gardens. I have spent most of the winter trudging up and down forest tracks, through gorse thickets and across fields in snow, gales and often in pitch darkness! Some feral cats are relatively easy to catch and others, well, Bobby is one of those others!
Photo: Bobby appears regularly on trail cameras
Bobby the cat was first seen on our survey cameras last winter by volunteers Robert and Karin, and we knew this feral cat lived within a mile or two of wildcats so she was high on the priority list for TNVR. We set up cameras in her territory this autumn and collected fresh images of Bobby so decided to set a cage trap to catch her in early January, so we could take her to the vet to be neutered and vaccinated.
However, Bobby had other ideas - visiting the site and often taking the food bait, without ever entering or triggering the trap. Bobby even showed her disdain for the trap by walking all over it and scent-marking on it. Yes, even female cats will do this.
Photo: Bobby marks the trap with her scent
We trap cats from Sunday to Thursday nights each week and lock the traps open over the weekend. Somehow, this cat knew it could enter the traps on weekends to take food, but avoided going in on week nights!
I check every trap twice a day (early morning and night) to ensure any cats are not kept confined for too long. Somehow Bobby managed to visit the trap either just before or just after me almost every time. Sometimes we were only 10 minutes apart but I never saw her!
After a full five weeks of this (during which time Bobby had to be putting on weight from all the pheasant, fish and cat food she’d been eating at our trap) I was starting to despair of ever catching this cat!
So on my usual early morning walk of about half a mile to the forest trap location , with light snow starting to fall, I didn’t have my hopes up and yet miraculously the trap door was closed and there finally was Bobby. I was face-to-face with her at last! A quick phone call to the vet and transfer into a carrier, and Bob was finally off to have her neutering surgery and vaccination, playing her part in protecting local wildcats.
Photo: Bobby backs out of the carrier when released, after recovering from her operation.
Scottish Wildcat Action is the first national project to save the highly endangered Scottish wildcat from extinction. It is a partnership involving over 20 organisations, including, Scottish Natural Heritage, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), Cairngorms National Park Authority, Forestry Commission Scotland, National Museums Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. It is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and Scottish Government, as well as its partners.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or visit our website at www.scottishwildcataction.org