Every Sunday afternoon visitors arrive at the Sanctuary, and many of them bring gifts. Often, they’re very practical and welcome gifts – a new cat-bed, a couple of bags of dry cat-food, a bag of Fancy Feast cans. More often they are intended for immediate use – the inevitable bags of cat-treats!
It’s inevitable, I suppose. We want these cats to want to be with us, and for many food-motivated cats, treats are a way of attracting them. When sweet Gilbert first came to us he was an untouchable feral. Many Temptations later, he has learned that humans carry good stuff, and are no longer to be feared.
But it’s sometimes hard to get our visitors to see that handing around cat-treats is like having many boxes of cookies open at a children’s party. One or two treats – no problem. But a handful of them from each of a dozen visitors, and cats are so full of goodies that they no longer want to interact. Lori brings fish and chicken – good food for obligate carnivores – and many of the cats are already sated.
I usually try to get visitors to restrict treats to just one at a time – just as you would only offer a child one cookie. What I find it’s often more important to teach is that cats love attention from their visitors as much as they love goodies – though what form that attention takes may vary.
Some cats are fascinated by bubbles – quietly watching them, or leaping to bat them and watch them disappear.
I rejoice in the Sunday visitors – many of them regulars – who “get it”. Some come almost every week, and make a point of sitting quietly with the cats who need a quiet lap and no action. Timmy, Tigger, Leland and several others have all benefited from this gentle approach.
Catnip is a favourite for many cats – though there are some that couldn’t care less. Feline opinion is divided over a preference for drooling over a catnip bag vs. the privilege of claiming the fresh green stuff.
Almost as much appreciated is the cat-grass that some of our volunteers grow at home and bring into the Sanctuary. The back courtyard cats have access to grass in most of the pens, but for the indoor cats and the caged cats, a nibble of greenery is much enjoyed.
Scott and Mel go from area to area, calling in with favourites all over the Sanctuary. They encourage play – they always bring fishing-pole toys, and many of “their” cats have a wonderfully energetic session with them, leaping and chasing feathers (and not fingers).
But they are also able to be quiet and patient when needed; they groom and pet, and sit patiently waiting for the shyer cats to approach. Mel has been doing some wonderful work with timid grey Mischa in the back courtyard.
This, of course, is the basis on which our Kitty Comforters are selected – noticing the people who are able to be quiet and patient with nervous cats; to groom, or play, or treat on occasion, and never to force interaction if the cat is not yet ready for it. Many of our former ferals will never be ready for adoption, and it’s one of the blessings of the Sanctuary that we are able to allow that, and know that feral or friendly, the cats have a safe home with us for the duration of their lives.