Many of our volunteers come arrive faithfully each week to do a shift – often in the same area each time. And in the course of those regular shifts, they get to know some cats really well. A few of us enjoy the opportunity to dive into different areas off-schedule and get to know less familiar cats, or ones we’ve not seen for a while.
Last week I covered a shift in the Old Aids area with the leukemia cats. Old Aids is like coming home for me; I have fond memories of time there with Bella and Bubba, Panther and Jasper – cats who were dearly loved, and have now passed. I remember when the main room was pretty battered, the floor not in great condition, so that the cat-pee smells were impossible to eradicate totally. After one of Doug’s miracle refurbishing sessions, it became much easier to keep it clean, and you will often find volunteers cuddled up in the comfy armchair with a lapful of cats.
When you visit an area on a regular basis, you get a different view of it than the one you perceive with less frequent visits. I was given a very vocal greeting at the door, as usual, by Dexter – letting me know in no uncertain terms that dinner was overdue and he was starving! The first surprise of the evening was Frodo, though – also anxiously waiting, but as soon as I sat down, he wanted up in my lap. Frodo has been one of the shadow cats for so long – usually hovering on a cage-top or out in the open area. More recently he’s been known to make quick escapes through the door and into the porch area, and he quite enjoys human company. But this is the first time I’ve known him demand cuddles in that way.
Much to Dexter’s annoyance, cuddle time came first. Happy was already in the chair, and shifted so I could sit with her. For so long she’s been a very wary little feral, but as she ages, contact with humans is less feared. Eva came up to join us, sitting behind me on the arm of the chair and offering kisses. Her worried face belies a cat that has settled well with us; she’s not really keen on the other cats, but she tolerates them, and loves petting from volunteers.
been a friendly boy and willing to snuggle with his pals; it’s a little worrying to see that he’s a bit more unsteady on his feet now. Merlin perched on the other chair arm and head-butted, wanting attention.
The Dexter-demands were getting louder, so I warmed the cans, scooped the boxes and doled out food – with Dexter helping himself from every plate. A quick visit next door to the Val Jones cats for the essentials, a few treats and a check that all was well, and then I returned to the main room for some more quality-time. Shadow/Chateaux appeared for a quick feed, but he’s still very wary around people, though he has his feline cuddle-buddies. I checked the outside area to find Martini and Ooly in their usual hiding places; Martini just looks down with disdain and rarely responds; Ooly was cosily established under the heat lamp, but later came into the main room for some food and company. She’s interested in humans, but doesn’t really want contact.
More armchair time, more cuddles, and chicken tidbits on offer. Bibi is quick to emerge when there’s chicken; she can usually be found high up on a shelf or hiding behind the armchair, but treats take priority and she loses all wariness, ready to put her paws up on a knee to get the best bits. Not a lap-cat yet, but who knows…
It’s very easy, faced with the number of cats in other areas, to forget about some of these closed-off cats. They are kept separate partly for their own sakes – their immune systems are compromised, which is why it’s so important that we wash before entering their area – and partly for the other cats – feline leukemia is easily transmitted in saliva. But they are a lovely group, and appreciate visitors who offer attention and cuddling – the favourite thing for so many cats.