When visitors are taken round on Sunday afternoons, they are usually introduced to the DoubleWide trailer as “operation central”. This is where much of the laundry is done, this is where many of the cats that need medical care are caged, this is where the medics have their own cage, where they can keep all the tasty food needed to coax cranky cats into taking their meds safely away from healthy (and hungry) feline appetites. It’s a busy place. Many of the DW cats wander in and out at will; several have learned to open the door from both directions, and don’t have to wait for a helpful human. There’s usually a cuddle-puddle on the couch, and an active population on the cage-tops.
But a move on through the building to the back deck sees us in a very different space. The deck is a quiet haven for the shyer cats. This is where Brighton and Hillie hang out, gradually getting used to human attention. Ringo spends all his daytime hours as high in the corner as he can get, safely out of reach. In the colder weather the heat lamps are on, and there’s a happy crowd of toasty cats on the mattress. At food time, some of them venture down, though others hang back until the waiter service is safely back in the main building.
Dazzle was, until recently, one of the latter. She would hover hopefully till dinner was delivered, but not get closer until the volunteer had left the deck – or she would hide under the shelf and glare. But in the last month or two, she’s not only been out more, she’s also been venturing into the main building, obviously flirting with the thought of attention from humans, tail quivering madly, but staying just out of reach.
I contacted Kati, who had cared for Dazzle when she first came into RAPS care as a pregnant mamma. Kati is one of our wonderful foster-parents, who will see new moms through birthing and early kitten-care. Sometimes an orphan can be added to a litter; sometimes, Kati is tied to the kitten room by the need for frequent bottle-feeds; sometimes in spite of everything she can do, the little one is too weak to survive. Kittens do much better in home-care where they will be handled and socialized, and then transferred to the Shelter for adoption.
Handling and socializing, of course, is a little difficult when you are dealing with an angry adult cat – and that was Dazzle. Kati tells me that she picked up three kittens – two back and one orange – from the Shelter in May a year ago; they were only 3 weeks old. Dazzle was brought in a couple of days later, and they were never quite sure whether she was the mom. Initially she cared for the kittens, but then she turned on them and Kati had to remove them to safety. Kati shed much blood in the process of handling Dazzle until it was decided that she needed to be spayed and brought to the Sanctuary, where she continued her feud against humans, shedding more volunteer blood, given any opportunity.
So it’s most satisfactory to see this new step in the relationship with this feisty little tortie. A hand held out to her will sometimes elicit a decided smack – but now it’s usually a smack without claws. Last week she came over to me and rubbed against my ankles repeatedly; I was able to reach down and give her a full-bodied stroke a couple of times before she backed off and hissed at me. Other volunteers are reporting that she’s accepting head-rubs when the mood suits her, and this week I watched as she accepted full-body, two-handed stroking from Claire.
There is much excitement when former ferals turn the corner and show that our patience and love is paying off. Dazzle obviously has her share of “tortietude”, and this won’t be a quick process, but it’s wonderful that she feels safe enough to relax her former wariness around us.