Cat Sanctuary

Hillie – and Yma


Hillie was featured in a blog a couple of years ago, but her circumstances have changed, and I decided it was worth reintroducing her, since she’s now a very familiar figure to those of us working in the back courtyard.


Hillie shows her heritage clearly – she is one of the “cow cats”, rescued from a perilous life as a feral hanging round a nearby composting facility.  She is probably related to Mya  and Kirstie, in the SingleWide, and to relative newcomer Yma in the Double.

“Cow cats” – Mya, Kirstie, Hillie & Yma

For some time Hillie lived mainly in the DoubleWide deck area – an area popular with our shyer cats, like Ringo, Dazzle and several others. She and her buddy Brighton, also from the same source, hung out together, though Brighton became more social and enjoyed human interaction, whereas Hillie remained reserved, disdaining petting, though she allowed some interactive play. Sadly, we lost Brighton suddenly, to a stroke. Hillie made her way out of the DoubleWide, and has taken the whole back courtyard as her terrain.



She’s still not keen on much in the way of contact with humans, but she is more relaxed as she encounters us in her travels; she will sit in her characteristic tail-over-the-toes pose and listen to you talk, though she doesn’t really care to be petted.  She also doesn’t appear to interact much with other cats, although there’s no aggression there – she just prefers to be alone.


Yma is one of the last cats we trapped from that same facility. She was named to belong to a “Y” litter before we knew just how unadoptable she would be. It’s likely she was sired by Pavarotti, the older male we never managed to trap, and the only “Y” singer I could think of was the extraordinary 1950s soprano Yma Sumac. Feline Yma came to us just over two years ago, and quickly joined the ferals on the DW deck – spending most of her time inside the big armchair, which is the preferred hiding place for scared cats.  Occasionally she would venture across the room to survey the area from under the shelf covering the cat-litter storage; perching on the jugs could hardly be comfortable, but she felt safer out of sight.



In appearance she is very like Hillie – slender, white, with black markings – so much so that you have to check markings (particularly the black nose) to see who you’re looking at.  She’s much less relaxed around us than Hillie, though, and most of the photos taken of her have to be done very surreptitiously.  At least while she’s this wary, she’s unlikely to make her way through the rest of the DW to the main door, and out into the courtyard; she’d rather stay in the area where she feels safe.


An adult feral cat, born and brought up in the wild, is unlikely to become truly tame. We have a number of cats we refer to as “former ferals”, but in fact, there’s sometimes no way of knowing if you’re dealing with a feral or a stray. But cats like Autumn or Jamie, who have finally allowed themselves to be handled, are unlikely to relax to petting in the way that is possible for cats like Dell, who lives in a feral pen, but was in all likelihood a stray.  Both Hillie and Yma are a long way from allowing that contact. But at least they both have a place of safety to live, and time to decide if they might eventually allow humans into their lives.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Melanie Draper, Phaedra Hardman, Karen Nicholson, 
Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright
July 1 update: In just the last week Yma has discovered the back courtyard, and has joined Hillie in explorations. Her latest hiding place: up the tree!