Cat Sanctuary


Another feral turns a corner…

First time for petting – LR

Last spring Horatio arrived in the Sanctuary parking lot – from where, we don’t know. Occasionally we have visiting cats investigating the Sanctuary perimeter – perhaps wondering what all these other cats are doing, seemingly happy behind mesh barriers.  Sited on the edge of blueberry fields as we are, there is probably good hunting of small mammals, and because we leave some crunchies out for the skunks and raccoons (so that they don’t try to come inside the pens), a visiting cat will quickly discover that there is food available if you get there in time.

Ears back! – PH

These cats will sometimes turn out to be wandering residents of neighbouring homes; occasionally they are tame cats that may have been dumped (though we try to encourage people to do formal surrenders at the Shelter on 5 Road). But often they are ferals, probably born on a farm, and used to a hard life to survive.
For several weeks staff and volunteers had noted this ginger cat sneaking around – most often seen early in the morning, or with eyes reflecting the comings and goings of the evening shift. Med staff Leslie got the traps out. They can’t just be set and left; they need to be monitored fairly frequently so that when a cat is trapped, it doesn’t have to wait long.

Top: first warning reaction in the cage
Bottom: Oh no – my bluff’s been called! – PH

Finally this orange boy ventured into the trap and was brought inside the Sanctuary. As is traditional with the cats that find their way to us, he was named for a TV detective (Horatio Caine, CSI Miami). He was put into a cage in the DoubleWide, where he could be checked; he was vet-checked and neutered, and we hoped that would help calm him. But he was scared – he spent all his time cowering behind his drape, and when he was finally released into the general population, he vanished into the back deck area. I use the word vanished deliberately. Other ferals in that area are content to put themselves out of reach where they can watch us with suspicious eyes (Jolene, Yma, Ringo). Horatio made a bee-line for a comfy armchair and hid under it. And soon, under was not enough, and he managed to make his way inside the chair where he could be totally out of sight.

he three back deck “don’t touch me” cats: Jolene, Yma, Ringo – BC

For a long time, it was anyone’s guess whether he was still under there, or if he’d managed a jail-break in some way. Evening med staff would occasionally catch a glimpse of orange fur. Leslie, who had trapped him, was most consistently aware of him watching her suspiciously. Through the summer, with open doors, he made his way out into the gardens; cleaning back pens on Fridays, I would occasionally notice a cat that looked a bit like Albi, but smaller. When disturbed in his flowerbed, he would stare with horrified eyes, and then dash away. He took up residence with some of the other ferals at the far end of the gardens, but seemed to be more willing to wander and explore. He obviously recognized Leslie’s voice, because he would occasionally be in the breezeway to check her arrival. I remember walking in one evening to find this talkative little orange cat telling me firmly that I was NOT the right person.

Ready to vanish into his chair – BC

In the colder weather, Horatio returned to his hidey on the back deck, but started being more ready to explore the DoubleWide when there are fewer people around. For the last couple of months he has been following Leslie around, and she has been working with him as often as she can, feeding him little bits of chicken, and getting little touches in from time to time (and her share of swats in return!)  Recently, she had breakthrough – the touches were getting easier, and he lowered his head and asked for head-rubs. Louise was on hand when he finally decided that real petting was going to be OK.

Now he’s starting to share his rubs and wiggles with other people.  He has moved into the DoubleWide, to a bottom shelf where he can watch for Leslie but still be mostly hidden. He is ready to be petted by Kitty Comforters and other volunteers, and he will occasionally venture out for a bit of ankle-rubbing.

Enjoying headrubs – CP

Just like Dazzle, he’s not ready for a lap or for being picked up, but with love and patience from everyone he encounters, he has made enormous progress from the terrified feral who first came into our hands.

A newly confident Horatio!

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman, Chris Peters, Louise Rupp
Update: February 2018.  Horatio has now decided that he is a lap-cat, with a little encouragement from Leslie and Louise.  Doesn’t he look pleased with himself?