Cat Sanctuary

Feline Daddies

We have our share of Mom-cats who arrived into our care with kittens on board or already born, and who have remained in the Sanctuary because they’re too feral or too shy, while their kittens go on to being socialized and finding their own homes. It’s harder to ID the Dad-cats when fatherhood for most cats is a moment’s urge and not accompanied by any real bonding with the female in question – in fact, a fertile female cat can be impregnated by more than one tomcat, and her litter of kittens may have multiple sires. So celebrating Father’s Day at the Sanctuary is not as easy as celebrating Mother’s Day! Having said that, there are a few instances where we’re pretty sure about both parents – and the certainty comes down to genetics.

Domino still has a tom-cat attitude; he’s probably sired his share of kittens! (BH)

Simon & Biggie having a private son-and-father moment (JS)

Most of the cats in both New AIDS and the Val Jones are male, and most of them have come to us as unneutered tomcats – that, of course, being the reason they carry the FIV virus, which is conveyed in blood from bites. These boys lived their pre-Sanctuary lives fending for themselves, struggling to establish their territory, their food sources, and their potential mates – and, still ramped up with testosterone as they were, that inevitably involved fighting. It’s likely that many of them have sired litters of kittens before they came to us, but typically, cats are deadbeat dads, and have no concern for their offspring. The first thing that happens when they come into our care is that crucial vet appointment when they’re neutered – which means no more kittens, as well as reducing their urge to fight with each other.

We’re pretty sure that Biggie, in the New AIDS pen, is the father of Simon and Smalls. The three of them, with female Marble, came to us last year from the Island. We think Marble is the mother of Simon and Smalls;  Biggie is older than the two boys, and likely sired them, but it’s possible that he may be both Marble’s son and her baby-daddy – cat colonies being what they are, there is often a lot of in-breeding. The orange colouring is a strong genetic marker, and Smalls’ black colouring is the most common alternative to a dominant orange gene.

Zeus (MD) and Pax (LBF) both now adopted.

When in 2019 we brought in a large colony of cats created by someone who was feeding ferals, it was obviously a multi-generational affair – pregnant moms, kittens, teenagers, and a couple of older males who had clearly sired most of the younger ones. These two males proved to be FIV+, but both were friendly and handleable; probably strays rather than ferals;  Pax and Zeus settled in easily to the Val Jones area, and both ended up being adopted to their forever homes.

So like their dads! – Nyx & Juno (LBF)

Tamale enjoying the heat lamp (AM)

Their genes can clearly be seen in some of the cats still living in Pen 1 – Nyx, Juno, Atlas and Mercury have a real resemblance to their sires, though all four, having grown up feral, have remained wary with people. And it’s quite likely that both Kenji and Allan, in the front courtyard, have the same genetics – though not gathered up at the same time, they came from close by.

More recently, our trappers were involved in rescuing a colony from Shell Road. Most of these cats were tuxedos or blacks – and not from the same genetic pool as the earlier group, whose more pointed faces are a clear contrast to the broader heads and bodies of the newcomers. One of them proved to be FIV+ and is now living in New AIDS – he was introduced in an earlier blog as Boston. Two other males are in the front courtyard; Tamale is clearly related to Boston – father? brother? son? – and Chicharron (Cheech) has the same stocky build, though he’s tailless and all black. Staff and fosters were able to socialize many of the younger cats trapped at that site, and they were adopted, so we have no clear families to identify.

Percival Snugglebutt is the other cat that we know for sure has fathered kittens. He was one of the colony of cats who came from the Kootenays in 2022, and the two little lynxpoint girls, Curious and SweetPea, both arrived pregnant. Rather than coming directly to us, they went into fosterage, where their kittens were born. Both litters had some tail-less kittens, a clear genetic link to Percival. All the kittens were adopted out, and SweetPea also found a home; Curious is still with us because she’s not as friendly as her sister.

Majestic (and shy) Basil (KN)

The rest of the colony has a much more Himalayan look, though in a variety of colours; it’s likely that either shy Basil or friendly Owen (now adopted) was responsible for the younger cats. Percival is sometimes known as Big Daddy, though he has largely detached himself from the rest of the colony, and has moved on to socialize with the floofy Kamloops cats, and especially his buddy Thorne.

Percival with his best friend, Thorne (JS)

The sentiment that powers the concepts of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day celebrations falters when it comes to felines. For the majority of male cats, “love ‘em and leave ‘em!” is the primary urge – not necessarily something we want to celebrate! Whatever their paternal shortcomings, though, we love having them at the Sanctuary.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Featured image: Biggie is happy to snooze his days away by Karen Nicholson
Photos by Lisa Brill-Friesen, Melanie Draper, Brielle Hutchinson, Anne Marchetti, Karen Nicholson. Justin Saint