It all started on a cold winter’s day in January of 1947. That was the day Marcia Perkins, my mother, was born. She came into the world deserving of joy, care, love, and empathy. But, her parents did not have the tools to give her those things. Mom never talks about it, and I won’t get into it too much here, but she did not have the childhood that she deserved.
There was one thing, though, that she did have. Something that gave her love and something that needed love as well: animals.
I have several pictures of my mama from when she was a little girl. In many of them, she looks sad. But, there are a few pictures where she is beaming from ear to ear while holding, petting, or playing with an animal. For my mom, the love she needed and the love she yearned to give came via pets. Without that love, she would have been lost.
As she grew, married, and had kids of her own, she continued to take in animals in need. Most of her pets growing up were dogs, but once she was on her own, she began caring for cats too. In every home I lived in as a child, I remember stray, feral, and even neighborhood cats coming to see my mama. She would always have a plate of food (all warmed up, even!) ready for them.
Over the years I watched as my mom provided winter shelters for feral cats, drove to the grocery store in the middle of the night to get kitten formula, paid countless vet bills for random injured cats, and earned the trust of even the most distrustful, feral feline.
To neighborhood cats, my mama was their savior.
Now, decades later, her love for cats is still going strong. And, she has passed that love on to me.
About three years ago, I moved to Belding, Michigan to live with my mom. Her husband Art had a stroke and things were going from bad to worse.
Marcia and Art
At the same time, things were falling apart in my own life. Under doctor’s orders, I was advised to leave my 23-year teaching career due to the impact of chronic stress. Losing my career hit me hard. Teaching was my passion, my life’s work, and I was good at it. It gave me purpose. Each night driving home, I knew that I had made a difference in my little corner of the world. And that impact was important to me.
Ms. V. with her students
Moving in with mom was a solid financial decision, one we both benefitted from. For both of us, we were able to breathe easier knowing we didn’t have to tackle all of the bills alone. I was able to help mom with all of the chores and household tasks that Art could no longer do. Mom was able to help me recover from illness and get back on my feet emotionally.
But, the first years together weren’t all rosy. I was struggling and still grieving the loss of my career. Mom was adjusting to living with a man she no longer recognized, a man struggling with dementia and all of its side effects. One thing in the midst of all of this that gave both of us joy? Cats.
And, they were everywhere.
I quickly realized that my small town of Belding had a cat over-population problem. Within a few months, I was recognizing the same cats wandering the streets of my neighborhood, roaming near the grocery store, and foraging behind restaurants. I started to think, “Someone has to do something about this.”
And so I decided to start in my own backyard.
Grey-Baby and Mama Cat were two ferals that had been coming to my mom’s door for years. They came so much that my mom fashioned a shelter for them to crawl into during the winter months. When I moved in, I was greeted at the door by them along with a beautiful little Siamese cat. Her name was Pretty, and she was their daughter.
One day, while walking into the garage, I heard a high-pitched meow. It was Pretty’s sister, (we named her Sissy,) and she was nursing 3 newborn kittens. Somehow, she ran into the garage one day and found a box in which to deliver her litter.
At the same time, Mama-Cat’s belly was expanding. We wondered if she was pregnant again. Sure enough, several months later, here she came with her daughter Pretty and three healthy new boy kittens in tow.
It was at this moment I knew we had a real problem- a sweet, fluffy, overwhelmingly cute problem.
Mom and I headed to the local Tractor Supply store and picked up a few live traps. And, over the next several months we began to trap in earnest. We first trapped Pretty, Greyson, Tigger, and Champ- Mama’s kids. Each was brought in, vaccinated, spayed and neutered, and brought back home. The three boys stayed in our garage for months as they grew. We thought that they were young enough to be adopted and were right. We were thrilled when a man called saying that he wanted to take all three bonded brothers and to give them a home.
Pretty was not adoptable. She had lived too long as a feral. We released her knowing that she would no longer breed. We also knew she would no longer be at high risk for injury from fighting. Because she wouldn’t be fighting, her risk of injury and risk of catching diseases like FIV, FELV, also greatly decreased.
Next, we set our sites on Mama-Cat and Grey-Baby. Both were too smart to fall for the trap at first. As we continued trying, however, we had success with countless other neighborhood feral cats. We trapped Amelie, Sadie, Sylvia, Mia, T.T., Finnegan, and more.
We realized over time, “Hey, this isn’t so hard. And it feels good to stop the cycle!” Word began to spread about what we were doing.
One day, our favorite library worker contacted us about a little kitten crying in the bushes near their front steps. We grabbed our traps and headed over. After a few hours chasing the poor little fella (in the pouring rain and freezing cold) we got him! We named him Stuart Little and he lived with us for a few months while awaiting a neutering appointment. Stuart was later adopted into a lovely family of three dogs, two cats, and some wonderful humans.
But, we still were not able to catch Mama and Grey-Baby. One day, Mama-Cat came prancing up with yet another litter of kittens. She escorted them underneath a neighbor’s porch, meowed at me, and sat down in the driveway. She was asking me for help. One by one, I went over and grabbed a kitten from under the steps. Mama-Cat sat and watched. Back and forth I went. She didn’t move or act concerned. She just watched. (By this point, we figured this was her third or fourth litter of kittens.) After every kitten was removed into the garage, Mama-Cat walked away. She had had enough and she was letting me know.
I didn’t miss Mama-Cat’s message. She didn’t want any more babies. So, the traps came back out. We tried, tried, and tried again. Finally, after weeks, we were able to trap both Mama and Grey-Baby, her mate. We got them fixed and vaccinated. And, wow, what a difference!
Grey-Baby used to get into fights weekly. He used to roam all over the neighborhood, spraying his scent, growling, and hissing at us when we got too near to him. Neutering him changed his personality completely. In fact, after almost a decade, we are now able to touch and pet him. Now when he sees us he flippy-flops, purrs, rubs on our legs, and meows with gratitude. He no longer gets into fights and rarely roams the neighborhood anymore. Both cats stick close to our porch- cozy, warm, and well-fed.
Soon, we were rescuing cats not just from our backyard, but from all of the greater Belding area. There was Meerah & Dale, Pumpkin, Sam, Pip, Gracie, Sprite, Liam, Raven, Friendly, Murphy, Frankie, Newman, Penny, Greta, Thomas O’Malley, Max, Robert, Willie, the list goes on and on and on.
This past summer, after hitting the benchmark of 50 cats TNR’d (Trapped, Neutered, Returned, or Rehomed,) we decided it was time to make our mission official. I applied for Non-Profit status and, after months of waiting, we were granted the designation.
Thus, Cat Trap Fever was born. The mission that had started decades earlier was now officially recognized. I got to work making a website for cattrapfever.org, starting a Facebook page, an Instagram, and a TikTok. I put together a wishlist on Amazon Prime, set up a checking account, arranged a PO Box (#216 in Belding, MI at 48809), and contacted a graphic designer to create our logo.
Just like that, we were official. The story that started in 1946 had come full circle. Rescuing cats has given me a new mission and focus in life. It has reignited my passion for creating positive and impactful change. It has given my mom an outlet for all the love she has to give and an escape from the stress of being a full-time caretaker. In saving cats, we also saved ourselves.
It is our hope that you will join us in our mission to trap, neuter, and rehome or return Belding’s abandoned and unwanted cats.
Taking cats from feral to family is our mission. We can’t do it without you.