Licorice came to us more than a year ago, having been picked up as a stray street cat in Richmond.
He arrived about the same time as Digby, though the two were not trapped in the same area. Licorice and Digby are part of the reason that RAPS still needs to operate animal control in the city. We may no longer have a serious feral cat problem, as we did when Richmond Homeless Cats was created, but we still have a problem with cat owners who choose not to spay or neuter their pets, and allow them to roam, creating the next generation of ferals. Unfortunately, it’s the cats that pay the price – living feral is a risky business, between dealing with coyotes and raccoons, dodging (or failing to dodge) traffic, scrounging for food – and coping with those many perils usually make an outdoor cat’s life a shorter one.
Both Licorice and Digby were unaltered males when they came to us, with the characteristic blocky muscular build of feral toms. After neutering they were kept caged for a while to allow some of the smells of a tomcat to dissipate, as well as to get used to the smells of other cats around them. Both emerged from their cages still full of tomcat-in-charge attitude, and many of the other cats learned to stay out of their way. In the ensuing months, Digby has relaxed into his surroundings. He’s not exactly sociable with other cats, but he enjoys finding places to relax, and he likes human attention.
Licorice, on the other hand, is a troublemaker. He continues to be something of a loner, both around cats and humans, and the proximity of other cats easily gets him stirred up. Many cats have learned to avoid him, and scuttle past, giving him a wide berth. Disabled Terry is sometimes a victim – probably because of his incontinence and therefore his pee aroma. There is usually a spray bottle or two of water around the Double-Wide, ready for cat-fight control, and sometimes the nearest waterbowl has to be emptied over the fighters.
This week, Licorice picked a fight with sweet Ollie, who just happened to be in the wrong place. Ollie is a big guy, but he’s a pussycat in all senses. He extricated himself and fled to the top of the can-storage cupboard, but by that time Licorice was all stirred up and looking for someone else to beat up. Just as in a schoolyard fight, the other cats are drawn to the sound of a disturbance, and onlookers can quickly become victims. The beginnings of a battle with Leo were swiftly quashed with a couple of bowls of water, and Licorice disappeared into hiding. Med-staff Leslie shut up the Newcomers area, and popped him into a cage for time-out and cooling down. We already have several crabby girls living in the Office area, and another couple of battlers (Jasper and Spades) sequestered in the room off the Moore House; it’s difficult to know what’s going to be best for Licorice and for the other cats. He really needs to be an only cat in a home; at the very least, he needs to be part of a barn-cat program, living somewhere where he is able to roam and hunt, but where he will be checked on and supervised to some degree.
In the meantime, we’ll be watching him carefully, and keeping a spare cage handy for when life (and the presence of other cats) just gets a bit too much for poor Licorice.
Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Michele Wright