The Kitten Whisperer
Sixty-five? Seventy? It’s hard to say. David looks a little like an outlaw biker: pale yellow bandana, folded neatly and tied into a narrow headband; metallic wraparound sunglasses. He also looks a bit like Santa Claus: long white hair with a matching shaggy beard. Underneath the shades is a friendly pair of blue eyes.
He worked as a grocery store manager and landscaper in California before he moved to New Mexico twenty-odd years ago. These days he spends most of his time rescuing kittens in Santa Fe.
Over a cup of coffee he told me about a family of cats that he had recently taken in. The three kittens, all with eye infections were easy enough to capture, but the mother had to be lured into a trap. He doctored their eyes, fed them, and, most importantly, introduced them to the voice and hands of a kind human being. Soon they were purring when he held them and gobbling up their mom’s canned food. Once they were weaned and comfortable with people, the rescue group David works with put them in a foster home and posted their pictures and story on a pet adoption board.
Two of the kittens, Macky and Marco, had Siamese markings and found homes quickly, but it took longer for the third one. Maez, named by David for the street where he and his brothers were discovered, had a fluffy black coat. Shortly before we talked, the half-grown cat was finally adopted by a family that included two little girls. They renamed the gangly feline with big green eyes Shadow Maez.
David looked at his digital watch, time to go. He had set traps earlier in the day behind the Salvation Army and needed to check them.
I followed him over to the deserted, weedy parking lot. No luck. The towel-wrapped traps were empty, the food untouched. We saw the tail end of a cat; it paused briefly to glance over its shoulder at us before it slipped away. A woman from the dilapidated apartment complex next door came to the chain link fence, concerned about the kittens. David assured her they were fine. He would keep setting and monitoring the traps until he caught them all.
We walked back to our cars and David opened the side door of his white van. Wire racks were filled with the tools of his trade: cans of cat food, bags of kibble, a stack of clean, folded towels. He pulled one of the long, rectangular-shaped wire traps out to show me his invention—a piece of Masonite with a small hole, about the size of my fist, cut in it. He uses the baffle, slipped in front of the trap door, to ensure that he catches the kittens first, leaving the mother free to care for her offspring until all of them can be captured.
Before we said goodbye David pointed out his new personalized license plate. It reads: CATRESQ.
I wrote this story about David a couple of years ago when I was working with Felines and Friends. I caught up with him earlier this month at Petco where he was doing Santa pet photos. During a lull he filled me in on the details of his most recent rescue kittens—Sheldon, Selver, and Saleena. The three, tired out from playing, were snuggled down together in a fleece bed in the nearby adoption room. By now I hope each one has found the perfect forever home, just in time for Christmas!