One of the important differences between RAPS and many other shelters across the country is that we have the Sanctuary, and are able to walk the talk about being a no-kill organization. Most shelters are set up to take in stray animals and to try to adopt them out – and many do an excellent job of it. But when it comes to cats, and especially cats born in the wild, it’s very difficult for the average shelter to find homes for them. In a rural setting, it may be possible to create cat colonies on a farm, to help with rodent control, and there are an increasing number of municipal experiments on the same principle, where feral cats are being used in warehouse facilities to restrict a rat problem. But it’s a sad fact that there are still many shelters where they look at a feral cat, name it untameable, and euthanize it.
When feral cats come to RAPS, we are able to find them a home at the Sanctuary. They may end up being incorporated into one of the feral pens, or they may be allowed to find their way into the general population, and hide or not, as they please. Their initial period spent in a cage gives our Kitty Comforters a chance to see if any progress can be made, but we know that you can’t force-tame a cat, and some will never become comfortable around humans.
That being said, we have had our share of successes. Pretty Autumn, in the front courtyard, has made the transition all by herself – even if it has taken her six years to do so.
Cricket’s transition was faster – she came in as a half-grown kitten, just past the usual tamable window. We worked very hard with her, and her brother Beetle, and she resisted all our efforts. But when released into the front courtyard, she made a quick about-turn, and has become one of the friendliest cats in the place (though Beetle is still very shy).
Orange Horatio spent a year being untouchable, and then decided that he was in love with the med staff. Bossanova, Gilbert and many others are now irrepressible cuddle-bugs.
Two arrivals within the last couple of years came from the same source; one of the places our trappers have kept an eye on for some time was a composting facility. A clowder of cats made their home there – some obviously feral, some possibly dumped. The group we call the “cow cats” came from there, and the black and white markings were common to many of them. Hillie and Yma look very similar, but actually came to us some two years apart. The most recent arrival was a little tabby who looked nothing like the other cow-cats; his name is Merran, and he was put into the SingleWide.
For some time he was a ghost cat – mostly spending time out on the deck. Working there, you would become aware, at the edge of your vision, of a little cat watching every move but reluctant to come much closer. Gradually and with much patience, with grooming and toys (and not with treats!), Merran discovered that humans weren’t so scary.
Merran has now become an established member of the SingleWide family. He still loves his original tamer best, but he will accept play and petting quite happily from other volunteers.
Hillie has been a familiar figure in the back courtyard for the last couple of years, but wary of contact. She is frequently found lurking in the flower-beds, or in one of the open pens; she’s not quite such an enthusiastic tree-climber as is Yma.
One of our volunteers has been watching her for some time and encouraging her with play. Quite suddenly something in Hillie’s brain clicked, and she became very enthusiastic about touch, rolling and flirting and generally making it clear that she thought this was a Good Idea!
Other staff and volunteers are now reporting that Hillie is coming to them looking for attention.
Now who’s the next cat to decide to forsake the feral way?