One of my favourite jobs around the Sanctuary is taking new Sunday visitors around and introducing them to some of my favourite cats. Frankly, I’m sometimes better with cat names than I am with people names, but I often hear comments about “how do you remember all those cats?”. A big part of it for me was this blog – Claire began volunteering at the Sanctuary shortly before I did, and she made a project of blogging about three cats a week. I was a regular Neko blog reader, and an increasingly frequent volunteer, and the two habits introduced me to many feline friends.
But one thing that people find surprising is the ability to identify the many black cats. There is a thing called “black dog syndrome” which describes the way big black dogs are often passed over for adoption at shelters. To some extent that’s also true for black cats – people don’t see past the black fur to the personality; and then there’s the superstition angle (though in some cultures, black cats are actually lucky!). But it certainly explains why we have a fair number of black cats around the Sanctuary.
To a certain extent, where the cat is may tell you who it is. Big furry Bear lives in the small Leukemia area, and he’s the only black cat there, so it’s easy to pick him out. Belinda (photo above) is a regular member of the dryer cuddle-puddle in the Single-Wide.
Mikey is our only blind cat; he came to us with some degree of sight, but an infection left him without vision. He has taken the med-cage as his sanctuary, but regularly makes his way out into the back pens where he can curl up and ignore the other cats.
Deety can hardly be missed by visitors to the double-wide; he has his own place on the shelf next to the refrigerator. For some years he rarely moved from it, but threatening arthritis made Catherine start him on an exercise program (taking him to the far end of the Sanctuary and making him walk back), and he can now be found out and about quite often (though he still needs to be lifted back to his perch.
It’s in the back courtyard that our biggest concentration of black cats tends to gather, and one has to be observant of quirks in facial structure or fur quality to be able to tell them apart. Skinny Skouch is an easy cat to ID, and so is tubby Sid, trundling between visits to his friend Pancake on the double-wide deck and life in the open air. Sweet Kilmer, with his somewhat bewildered air, is identifiable as our black Manx; Kenya has recovered from vestibular disease, but has a permanent head-tilt.
But there are several cats who take careful examination to make sure you have the right name. Colin, Luigi, Mistletoe, CIL (named for the paint facility where he was found), Poosie, Ninja – all look fairly similar at first sight, and need careful checking. But once you’ve identified the cat, all the little quirks of behaviour start showing themselves, and the personalities blossom.
Colin is a feeding-time boy, a leg-rubber and a prancer when cans are being opened. Look for the lynx-tips on his ears. Friendly CIL has the same broad face as wary Mistletoe, but you can feel the difference in their coats.
Luigi sports one white whisker, and a little coloured marking in his right iris. Poosie has amazing dark pupils to her eyes, rather like Deety – and an intense dislike of other cats. Sweet Ninja is also a cat who walks by himself, but in a nice way; he has the softest coat and the most luxuriant tail for a short-haired cat – and true to his name, he loves rapid movement and can sometimes be found sprinting up the back courtyard to the tree.