As our name implies, Richmond Animal Protection Society is focused on the needs of the animals in our own municipality, and grew out of the need to get control over the feral cat population that existed here some twenty years ago. Currently, we’re feeling good about the feral situation; many of the cats that are trapped here are escaped or dumped pets rather than “career ferals” and our expert trappers are quick to act when a stray cat is reported. Occasionally, we will cooperate with other shelters in giving homes to cats that cannot be homed elsewhere – the FeLV cats come particularly to mind, because not every shelter can deal with the level of care needed for leukemia cats. But occasionally cats arrive on our doorstep by different routes.
In the late summer of last year, one of our staff took a holiday in the Interior, and just before returning, was landed with two young feral kittens. Once a rescuer, always a rescuer – Beetle and Cricket got packed into the car with the rest of the bags, and brought to the Sanctuary. Normally kittens go to a foster home where they can be handled and habituated to human touch. But these two were about three months old – just feral enough for the fear of humans to be well implanted, and unlikely to tame enough to be ready for adoption. They took up residence in the wing of the Moore House (usually known as GeriCatrics) that gives it the alternate name of The Kitten Trailer.
For a while they have resisted human contact. But steady work by the Kitty Comforters and the cat-whisperers on staff have produced a more relaxed attitude, in tabby Cricket at least. Beetle is still somewhat spooked by any movement, and his wariness is reinforced by another black kitten, Frisky, who looks almost identical, but is even warier.
As with Pebble and Sandy, these guys are approaching the stage when they will be released into the general population – and the question will be whether it will be a general release or whether they will join the older pair in one of the feral pens at the back. Pebble and Sandy resisted all attempts to make contact, but in the last six months or so, volunteers have been reporting regular friendly contact with Pebble, who comes forward to investigate the human intruder, and is willing to accept petting and head-rubs.
So visits by staff and volunteers to these youngsters are encouraged, in the hope that we can overcome the fear instinct and get them to accept regular handling. We’re careful about washing before visiting, so as not to transfer germs from other areas, and currently, we’re saying no Sunday visitors, for their protection. Both are easily coaxed with Temptations, though Beetle at least prefers not to have the hand giving them out too close. But at some stage they will have to face the bigger Sanctuary world, and we hope they can do it more easily, knowing that humans are their friends.